The full review and impressions of Sonic Mania on PC! At last!
The moment you start up Sonic Mania you know you’re in for a joyous experience. “SEGA!” combined with the electric, pulsing Sonic Mania logo and that amazing intro sequence, it’s all so sweet, so reverential, and reminds fans just why they love Sonic. And that’s just the title sequence, the rest of the game follows this exactly. Which is astonishing, given that in the 25-odd years of Sonic games there have been far, far more misses than hits – and most of Sonic’s genuinely great hits came in the first five years.
Since then even the best games like Sonic Generations were merely “good enough”, while still getting some fundamental things wrong. Well, Sonic Mania is here to show those games exactly how to get Sonic right. And it’s about time.
It should be noted that we're dealing with the PC version here, and if you're concerned about Denuvo DRM and any performance issues check the Performance section.
I have always maintained that Sonic the Hedgehog in 3D works, it’s just Sonic Team doesn’t know how to make it work or understand what makes Sonic good. Plus they’re utterly incapable of learning from their mistakes since the same problems dog every Sonic game since Sonic Adventure. Imprecise controls, odd movement, boring over-done story, irritating new characters, and taking the focus away from the core gameplay of running and jumping in favour of silly gimmicks like fishing, digging, Tag Teaming, swords, guns, or – ergh – the Werehog. Every Sonic game post-Genesis/MegaDrive era has these problems, even 2D games like Sonic Generations and Sonic 4.
Sonic Mania finally, finally gets these things right. And all SEGA had to do was take the franchise away from Sonic Team and put it in the hands of people who actually understand what makes a good Sonic game. It plays exactly like the Genesis/MegaDrive titles, by which I mean: perfectly. Sonic controls and moves just right. The story is told is told in a few short non-verbal cutscenes which last a matter of seconds, Sonic 3-style. Aside from some robots there are no new characters, the good guys are relegated to Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, and even though the game references Sonic CD irritating series regular Amy Rose doesn’t feature (well, mostly). And aside from a few cute moments Sonic Mania is all about the running and jumping, and only that.
There are 12 Zones that have two Acts each, making this also one of the largest 2D Sonic games (most have only 6 Zones, making Mania on par with the combined Sonic 3 & Knuckles). The catch is, and the reason why this isn’t getting a higher score, only 4 of these 12 are new Zones. The remaining 8 are “remixed” versions of classic Sonic Zones such as Chemical Plant, Metallic Madness and the classic Green Hill, which are still excellent and barring their look and ideas are mostly new, but it’s still hard not to feel some disappointment heading into Lava Reef straight after doing Oil Ocean.
It’s especially hard when the new Zones are so frickin’ good. They’re wildly imaginative and delightful all the way, particularly the amazing Studiopolis with its popcorn machines, radio transmitters, silhouette windows and, er, Weather Reporting Robot Chicken (don’t ask). They’re well designed too – in Sonic Team’s games they’d frequently unfairly throw enemies in your way while running that you had no chance of avoiding, which you hit at full speed. That never happens here. That’s how well these guys understand Sonic.
And that’s to say nothing of the bosses, which are some of the best in any platformer ever, let alone Sonic. Some are clever reinventions or even inversions of classic bosses, others are just straight-up clever. And then you have Oil Ocean, which can go suck a ****. Seriously, towards the end of the game the difficulty level spikes hard (like a hedgehog’s back), and unless you’ve been stocking Lives all game you might not enjoy the final boss. Losing all your Lives and getting sent back from the final boss to the beginning of that Zone’s Act 1 is horrible, and it’d been even worse if you started the Zone with only a few Lives.
Performance & Graphics
OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 10
Processor: Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX 9.0c compliant video card 256MB
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Storage: 400 MB available space
Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c Compatible
Here's the reason why this review is late: we wanted to make sure that the Denuvo DRM didn't have any impact on the PC version of Sonic Mania. We could've published the review on PC launch day or even earlier based on the PS4 version but we wanted to get the PC version, especially with all the concerns players have had regarding performance and how Denovo treats their systems.
Fortunately after a thorough week's testing, we are happy to say we had no issues with Sonic Mania on PC. At all. We can't claim that Denuvo isn't sneaking unhealthy things into our PCs, but we can at least say that we have had no performance problems, hiccups, or any other conceivable issue running Sonic Mania on PC. If you are deeply concerned about DRM don't get it, but if you're prepared to put up with it and are just concerned about Sonic Mania on PC, don't be - it runs perfectly. And yes, that 400MB storage requirement is accurate!
Of particular delight to this old, jaded Sonic fan were the many, many references Christian Whitehead and the fan-only team have crammed in. From nods to a Japan only Sonic Popcorn machine, wanted posters for Fang The Sniper and Bean The Dynamite, and references to catchy SEGA slogans from the 90s, Sonic Mania is a love letter to Sonic in every way it is possible to be – and that includes being a great Sonic game that pretends the period 1995-2016 didn’t happen.
Before I sum up we can’t go without a salute to the music. With very few exceptions, such as Sonic 4 Episode II, the soundtracks in Sonic games have always been uniformly excellent. Mania acts as both a celebration of this audio history and an excellent soundtrack in its own right. The opening themes by Hyper Potions are delightful, but the level music by Tee Lopes and excellent remixes of classic Zone themes are so good I tracked down the soundtrack immediately. I’m listening to Studiopolis right now.
SONIC MANIA VERDICT
In the nearly 20 years since Sonic Adventure, it turns out all Sonic needed was a developer who actually understood what made a good Sonic game. Mania is a joyous non-stop celebration of everything you ever loved about Sonic The Hedgehog, with perfectly designed levels, and controls that feel just right.. Yes far too many of the Zones are remixes of classics rather than brand new, with a sharp difficulty spike at the end, but Sonic Mania remains fun all the way.
Sonic Mania boasts a level of polish, care, and attention to detail the franchise hasn’t seen since Sonic and Knuckles. The developers clearly love Sonic and Mania glows as a result. And while it still comes tethered to Denuvo DRM, the game at least is not affected by this.
The best Sonic The Hedgehog game ever made? It could well be. The ball’s in your court now, Sonic Forces, you’ve now actually got expectations. Good luck!
TOP GAME MOMENT
The boss battle in Chemical Plant Zone Act 2. You’ll know why when you get to it.
The team gets Sonic and understands completely what makes a great Sonic game
Levels are beautifully designed with no cheap, unfair deaths
Superb in-depth references to every part of Sonic’s history, a real love letter for fans
The music is utterly amazing
Difficulty spikes massively towards the end, and having Lives is classic but a long-outdated idea
8 of the 12 Zones are just “remixed” versions of old levels, which is a little high. If it’d been 50/50 we wouldn’t be complaining. Oh, and Denuvo DRM.
About Chris J Capel
Chris joined us in 2011 and loves Star Wars, comics and bad videogame movies.