Sonic Mania lead developer Christian Whitehead recently sat down for an interview, where he talked about how his personal feelings on what Sonic is about helped inform the making of Sonic Mania, and what’s in the future for him. [Thanks, Eurogamer!]
Here are the highlights:
On how Whitehead remembers Sonic the Hedgehog:
Christian Whitehead, lead developer: “It’s interesting with Sonic. There’s a lot of different fans, and they all have different feelings on what Sonic is to them. So I can only use what my own personal feelings are for Sonic, and for me it’s always been… Obviously the character itself has very appealing design, it’s very iconic. For gameplay there are a lot of inspirations from pinball – all these outside elements – almost skateboarding, really, the idea of picking up speed as you roll down slopes. It’s all these physics interactions.
The core premise of the game is really simple – it’s just get to the end of the level and win – but there are so many different ways you can interact with the stages, picking up speed at certain angles, jumping off at certain angles. It’s got a very playground feel. Going fast feels good – and at the time on the Mega Drive that was a very impressive technical feat – but also the freedom of gameplay, it’s what appeals to me as a Sonic fan.”
On how Puyo Puyo got included as a boss battle in Sonic Mania:
Whitehead: “Basically, I came up with the concept for the first mini-boss which was a riff on the original boss in a different way – it’s trying to drop chemicals on Sonic. Having done that, in Act 2 I was like what on earth can we do? Then I was thinking about chemicals and thinking wouldn’t it be funny if we had Puyo Puyo in there.
When I was presenting this I had no idea what Sonic Team would think about it, so we just put it in the design document and thought let’s see what happens. And to our surprise, they were like ‘this sounds funny – let’s look into it!’ Even though it’s just a boss, we did a lot of research to properly understand Puyo Puyo. There was a lot of work to make that happen, but it was worth it. When people play that moment, it knocks them for six.”
On what’s next, and whether they will work on 3D games as well:
Whitehead: “3D interests me as a game developer a lot. It presents a whole different world of design challenges. The retro aesthetic, the reason I started doing it chiefly was that when I was younger – it’s a lot easier to develop 2D stuff, because I only had the computer my family had. But to do a 3D game you need a larger team, though personally I’m interested in it. I’m definitely down for it.”
Sonic Mania Plus is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Christian Whitehead also recently did a developer video diary for the game, which you can read about in our previous report here.