It's been a long while since Sonic the Hedgehog could hold his blue spiked head high, but the retro throwback "Sonic Mania" manages to move the hero forward by taking a giant leap back in time.
Paying loving tribute to the Blue Blur's most beloved adventures in the Sega Genesis era, the game captures Sonic's sense of speed, applying it gracefully to creative, precisely calibrated levels that allow you to let the hero rip through with minimal guidance or precise maneuvers.
3D bonus levels maintain Sonic's sense of speed, setting you loose amid a frantic free-for-all. Unlockables and hidden bonuses abound, giving you reason to come back and replay levels to master their intricacies.
Couch co-op adds a dimension to the fun, with rubber-banding that places priority on the faster of the two players, making it easy for an experienced player to carry along someone who is just along for the ride.
Despite the emphasis on old school charms, "Sonic Mania" does just enough to move the franchise forward. It's easy to envision this as the launch of a new direction for the series. Now that Sonic has finally gotten out of his own way, the pathway to glory is as free and clear as the wide-open fields of Green Hill Zone.
Publisher provided review code.