A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sonic Mania is a downloadable arcade-style action game. Players can take on the role of Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails the Fox, and Knuckles the Echidna, three mainstay characters from the long-running Sonic series. Although you play as animals, you spend most of your time running around to hit machinery and robots. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content.
What's it about?
SONIC MANIA doesn't have much of a story at all. What can be gleaned from the short, wordless vignettes between stages is that series antagonist Dr. Eggman is unleashing a horde of robot assistants to wreak havoc. You're never really given context or a reason to explain why you're running from level to level, but this is also a standard characteristic for the series. You race from set piece to set piece, collecting rings, beating bosses, and embracing the sheer amount of momentum the levels allow you to harness.
Is it any good?
After nearly two decades of misfires for this storied series, this new entry is both a return to form and an attempt to assert a 21st century identity for a 20th century gaming icon. Sonic Mania can be completed in three or four hours. It starts off conservatively, but as you get deeper in, it reveals some surprising takes on the familiar 16-bit action. It doesn't sound like much, but Sonic Mania's new wrinkles include zip lines, twisting pipes, and sticky platforms. For a series that has always been about moving from left to right as fast as the camera can keep up, these new additions represent a willingness to change up the formula somewhat.
But this title is intended as fan service, so newcomers will likely be more frustrated or unimpressed than anything else. The Sonic games have always been about building up as much speed as possible while avoiding enemies, including prolonged sequences in stages where you have to tap a button at just the right millisecond to keep going and not be hit, killed, or stopped cold in your tracks. Because of how lacking Sonic can be in nuanced controls during platforming sections, and rollercoaster-like parts of levels where the game more or less plays itself, there can be an overall disjointed feeling to the game where neither half is all that satisfying. It also doesn't help that occasionally, there can be game-ending bugs. There's a time-trial mode, and also a limited multiplayer option (a second player can take control of Tails, but the camera will always follow Sonic), but neither adds much in the way of shelf life. However, if you want a modern take on a classic series, Sonic Mania proves to be a serviceable check-in.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about this title being made in cooperation with hardcore stalwart fans. How are works of fiction and art ultimately different when made by people who appreciate a property from afar as opposed to creators who are used to being behind the curtains?
Talk about gameplay. How would the game feel different if the main characters and enemies were humans?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sega of America
- Release date: August 15, 2017
- Genre: Arcade
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Horses and Farm Animals, Ocean Creatures, Robots
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Cartoon Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.