Sonic Mania has finally made what various arms of Sega, including the official Sonic Team staff, haven’t pulled off for decades: a great old-school Sonic game. That’s a monumental thing in and of itself, considering how long Sonic has struggled as a series—and how many times his major contemporary rival Mario has lapped him, in both modern and retro flavors.
With that hindsight in mind, it’s tempting to overlook some of Sonic Mania‘s shortcomings. This is a lean game, weighing in at around 3-4 hours for a first playthrough—which, to be fair, is comparable to how much you’ll find in a Genesis or Mega Drive Sega game. A few peculiar design decisions (and, at launch, bugs) can hinder the fun you’ll have in your first playthrough. And this game has no interest in holding your hand, so don’t expect a relaxing reintroduction to the blue bomber.
But having a good Sonic game again means having a platformer that emphasizes the word “speed” and all it implies—including level density, tucked-away secrets, pitch-perfect controls, and satisfying run-and-jump pathing. Many games have tried to recapture Sonic’s magic over the years (including Sega itself, with 2002’s Sonic Advance 2 worth a shout-out). But this week’s Mania combines the familiar and the new to declare that maybe, just maybe, only Sonic can do it best.