What is Sonic Mania?
A real blast from the past, Sonic Mania is a retro styled 2D platformer that channels the spirit of the early Mega Drive Sonic games. Packing in a total of 12 "zones" (or worlds), each consisting of two stages, you'll be playing through a mixture of brand new levels, and remixes of classic stages, with the originals often having been given a pretty major overhaul, now packed full of new routes, secrets, and power ups.
How do you play Sonic Mania?
Letting you play as either Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, each of the characters here has their own unique approach. Sonic gets through the levels thanks to his speed, zipping round loops and clearing huge jumps; Tails can fly to reach areas that are out of reach; while Knuckles is a lot slower, and can also scale vertical walls, making him one of the better characters for sniffing out the secret areas. You can also choose to play as both Sonic and Tails together, with either the computer taking control of Tails, or a second player joining in the fun - although with no way of keeping Tails on the same screen, it can be a trickier than it sounds.
With multiple routes through each level, there's plenty of potential for replay value here - especially as there's a number of bonus stages hidden in each level. Reaching a checkpoint with more than 25 rings will let you access a bonus level that's been lifted from Sonic 3, as you navigate a hazard strewn grid in an attempt to collect blue balls, while finding the giant gold ring hidden in each level puts you in a pseudo-3D chase after a UFO. Grab it, and you'll earn an elusive Chaos Emerald - but you'll need to earn them all to access the game's true ending.
How easy is Sonic Mania to pick up and play?
In general, Sonic Mania probably sits somewhere in the middle in terms of accessibility. While 2D platformers sometimes have a bit of a reputation for being hard to get into, Sonic Mania's levels are mostly well designed, and at least fairly forgiving, with enough power ups (like shields) on offer to mean you shouldn't find yourself running out of lives too regularly. Any platforms you need to leap on are usually fairly wide, and defeating enemies is a question of timing more than anything else, as you try to make sure you'll connect with them when their shields are down.
That said, you do have a limited number of lives in Sonic Mania, and while you can earn new lives by collecting over 100 coins at any one time, losing all of your lives will reset you back to the start of the "zone". As each zone only consists of two levels, you won't lose too much progress, but it does mean you may find yourself having to replay two full levels to get to that last tricky boss. Similarly, you also have a time limit on each stage - take more than 10 minutes, including the boss fight, and you'll lose a life. Boss fights, too, can provide a real challenge, as the game never telegraphs what you have to do - you'll need to figure out for yourself how you're actually meant to damage the boss, which sometimes requires more experimentation than you might expect.
With nothing in the way of bad language, sexual content or violence, Sonic Mania is free of any mature content.
Format Reviewed: PC