Sonic Mania, Sega’s all-new 2D Sonic adventure, is truly looking to bring the series back to where it started and build upon what made Sonic so popular to begin with.
After a demonstration of the series nods, remixed music, and gameplay elements pulled from the franchise’s history that would be present in the game’s new version of Green Hill Zone, Siliconera got to try out the game’s new Studiopolis Zone, letting loose with the speed in a zone filled with winding paths and excuses to give in to the blast processing.
Studiopolis Zone is a mixture of mechanical devices, movie filming equipment, and bright nightclubs, taking players to a place of bright colors and dangerous traps. That’s not to say that the developers intend to trip you up if you go too fast, as the entire stage feels designed to move at high speeds, offering many varied routes to get through that can be reached with a quick jump or change in direction while rushing by.
Put simply, no matter how quickly the player was rushing around, there would be a route available to them. There were very few times when a player might have to stop and make a careful jump to keep moving, as the stage felt like an endless series of paths. If the player went too fast and missed a jump, another route would be waiting wherever they ended up. In this way, it felt like it constantly rewarded going as fast as possible.
The zone is filled with all sorts of gadgets, lights, and mechanisms to play around with, as well. Players could hop on a director’s chair for a quick lift, bounce across some red balls, break windows as they passed by, and interact with the stage in various ways. Players could rush through the game, but it wasn’t just pure running, as there were many fun additions that would ensure the stage felt unique.
If the player could manage to slow down, they would find many nods to Sonic’s history. Not to spoil any of them, but there are many different tiny elements that are hidden or lying around in each stage that have ties to the Sonic games, toys, tv shows, and other aspects of its past. For series fans, it’s a real pleasure to find these nods, as well as learn as where some of the smallest elements in the environments have to do with Sonic’s past.
The developers have also captured that classic Sonic feel – recreating that sense of speed and exploration. Feel can be a nebulous thing to describe, but the game’s jump arcs, movement speed, impacts with enemies, and attacks all feel similar to the series’ Genesis outings. It will immediately feel familiar to those who have played the early games, but with a mixture of the powers and abilities of many of the various Sonic games.
Sonic Mania also ended with an entertaining boss that had to be fought while moving, creating a challenging task. Players would have to manage their speed, shifting back and forth as they rushed the boss, while timing their jumps in time with that speed to land hits. It wasn’t overly hard, but still a point where it was handy to have help from invincible partner Tails (who was also handy for a lift during difficult platforming segments).
The music and pixel artwork, as many have already seen from in-game footage, completes the entire classic Sonic package. The previous Green Hill Zone showed the developers could remix the art and sound, but Studiopolis showed the developers could create their own tracks and visuals while still capturing the feel and sound of the Genesis era. These tracks felt familiar, as did the stages, creating a sense that the game could have released years ago. The game feels like an older Sonic game that was just forgotten, somehow.
It is impossible to ignore all of the fan love that went into this one stage of Sonic Mania. From building stages filled with routes that encouraged the player to go fast, giving them multiple gadgets and interactive moments that made the stage special, recreating that classic Sonic feel, and hiding so much history throughout the game, it feels like a gift for Sonic fans.