Sonic Mania, being a massive nod to the early years of the Sega's mascot, is filled to the brim with obscure references hiding in plain sight. But not all of these are shying away from players looking to be found.
Creator Christian Whitehead, recently revealed how the more obvious Easter eggs made it into the game during an interview with IGN.
One of the stand-out easter egggs happens to reference both the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and one of Sega's classic puzzlers - Puyo Puyo. Though the colourful 'match' puzzle game may have only really found its Western spotlight following the release of Puyo Puyo Tetris on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch earlier this year, it's been around for decades, with obscure spin-off title Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine being Puyo with a Sonic-style skin.
This little mini-game makes an appearance in Sonic Mania as a pivotal boss mechanic in the classic Chemical Plant zone. Made from scratch, it was programmer Hunter Bridges whose AI work allowed the mini-game to work well with the engine. Whitehead didn't expect the Sega bosses to approve of the idea, but they apparently "thought the idea was funny" and even helped figure out how to make it feel right within the Chemical Plant Zone, solidifying the idea that "those colored chemicals were being used to make Mean Beans."
And then there's Knuckles. Obviously. A bug originally showed 3 copies of the guy escaping the closing moments of the game. This eventually led to the inclusion of the 'and Knuckles' meme, which was implemented as a mode that gave you a Knuckles sidekick when you could already play as the stubborn echidna - leading to what essentially became the Knuckles & Knuckles mode.
Whitehead reveals a couple more interesting ideas in the full IGN interview. If you think players are done with that game, that doesn't seem to be the case.