Sonic seems to be back on top of his game.
There are certain elements in any given game that make it fun. And though these elements are often subjective, successful games are often the call of the masses that believe what has been accomplished is in fact fun. Smaller games sometimes have these elements as well, though other restrictions, such as advertising, publicity, or several other factors could affect its success in many different ways from appealing to larger groups. Take Sonic the Hedgehog, for example (albeit, this is a preview of Sonic Mania). The original Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy was filled with great elements that charmed the video game audience that was quickly growing up from the Super Mario era and gave them appealing themes that filled their aging ideals. From speed, to amazing level designs, viscous looking enemies and great boss fights, the Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy was a true empire of power for its time.
However, Sega’s release of their mascot into the wild proved unfit as later on, when 3D gaming became the next big thing, the little blue hedgehog just didn’t fit into the world more fit for Super Mario once again. There were fun 2D platformers that went well with Sonic along the clumsy and rocky road: the Sonic Advance series. But when Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) rolled off the presses, it was apparent that Sega was no longer in touch with their lead franchise.
"Sonic Mania derives it’s entire lineage on several Sonic games that allows this version to not only be a fresh take on the levels in the classic 2D format, but also a callback to the days of Sonic’s past."
Enough about the back history of Sega’s mistakes, it’s time to get up to speed on the newest Sonic game designed for the players of gaming’s past: Sonic Mania, a rich and nostalgic experience that excites with every loop, entices with every jump, and has you begging for more by the time you’ve finished your first run. It’s everything we original Sonic fans could ask for and everything new fans should know what the games used to be about.
We recently had a chance to play the first area in Sonic Mania’s Zone 1 Studiopolis Act 1 at this year’s PlayStation Experience, and what an experience it was. Being a huge fan of the original trilogy, there is a distinctness in the Sonic sprites from Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, and 3. Each Sonic character looks slightly different from the last game in those first three games and I can say without a doubt that Sonic Mania is using the exact sprite from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Its eyes and feet alignment are quite distinguishable, and that version happens to be my favorite of the three.
Sonic Mania derives it’s entire lineage on several Sonic games that allows this version to not only be a fresh take on the levels in the classic 2D format, but also a callback to the days of Sonic’s past.
"Much like the original Sonic games – and nearly every Sonic game from the birth until today — Sonic Mania’s level design is filled with character. From numerous paths, turns, loops and springs that can make each play through uniquely different to the last."
Studiopolis is a twilight zone set with vivid colors and imaginative mechanics. Deep purples, blues, and reds work perfectly to offset the dying light of dark orange, green and red. Capturing the enchanting details of lighting just in the colors really allowed this level to be a beautiful work of art. For those familiar with the classic Sonic games, Studiopolis heavily resembles Night Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but also the Collision Chaos Zone from Sonic CD. The towering structures in the backdrop form a bit of a serious feel for the more zany experience Sonic actually runs through.
Obviously Studiopolis is based around the Hollywood-style studio industry, allowing this level to stretch into new forms of visual based gameplay. From enemies such as the microphone machine (not the actual name), that resembles an old fashioned microphone attached to a wire hanging from the ceiling and swings to attack and release electricity, to other touches such as the satellite trucks that transfer the duo around through sound waves (similar to the tubes in many other Sonic games), and popcorn machines that pop tons of popcorn and send Sonic bouncing high into the air. Flashing TV sets and neon lights along the diverse paths make the atmosphere of Sonic Mania feel like an instant classic.
Much like the original Sonic games – and nearly every Sonic game from the birth until today — Sonic Mania’s level design is filled with character. From numerous paths, turns, loops and springs that can make each play through uniquely different to the last. The interesting take on where springs can lead to and perfectly timed jumps can make all of the difference in a more rewarding run that can lead to a lot of rings. One of the newer features is the use of silhouettes in the game. There are many areas within the first act that send Sonic behind glass walls forcing the player to play as a silhouette of Sonic while running through the path with every object blacked out with the backdrop bright and featureless. There are even moments when Sonic can crash through the glass and reveal everything from within.
"Overall, Sonic Mania is shaping up to be an excellent entry for classic fans and for those who are wondering where the famous blue hedgehog got his start."
Sonic Mania brings back the classic and precise controls of Sonic’s past. The controls are simple as they have ever been. Moving forward simply requires the player to press forward on the D-pad while jump is any of the given buttons. About to fall? Pressing back on the D-pad and jumping will cause Sonic to stop and jump away from the ledge instantly just like in the original games. Precision controls on a game that deals in high speed antics is majorly important, timing jumps with laggy or inaccurate controls could lead Sonic down onto a spike trap or into a bottomless pit, and no one wants that.
Overall, Sonic Mania is shaping up to be an excellent entry for classic fans and for those who are wondering where the famous blue hedgehog got his start.
This game was previewed on the base PlayStation 4.