TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic Mania Mod Roundup

Sonic Mania… mania wasn’t as pronounced this year as it was previous years, but that hasn’t stopped many fans from bending this engine in cool, entertaining ways. The contest and expo have a handful of entries this year using the Mania base, and here’s how they stack up.

Mystic Cave Zone Mania-fied

Submitted by campbellsonic
Mod Download Page

Mania as a game wasn’t merely about bringing back Classic Sonic. It felt fresh, surprising, and hard to match without a good eye for detail and willingness to add to the experience. Mystic Cave Zone achieves feeling like an actual Mania stage ripped from some fictional director’s cut, and it does so as a reskin of Press Garden.

MCZ Mania-fied captures the claustrophobic, winding, and threatening feel of the Sonic 2 original while speeding it up with some remixed sections and more opportunities to play with ramps and curves. The stage uses the classic icons of the level such as the lever doors, the spinning boxes, narrow moving platforms, and plenty of spikes, but reinterprets a few Mania elements in novel ways.

The best example of this is in Act 2. Where Press Garden has sprayers that freeze Sonic & company, MCZ Mania-fied has minecart dispensers that take you for a ride until you hit a wall or forcibly break it. Splats, the bouncing rubber stamp that emerge from inkwells, are now burrowbot spawning locations complete with warning sign. Finally, the boss at the end pits you against a giant burrowbot (graphically remixed from Eggman’s octopus robot from Oil Ocean) but with falling stalactite hazard above in place of the sinking floor below.

As a thorough reskin, MCZ Mania-fied is a fantastic remix on the source material and captures the Mania spirit. If you’ve got nostalgia for those purple and green depths, be sure to check it out. Also, hey, it has an Encore version too!

Sonic the Hedgehog: Lost Island Demo

Submitted by CartoonsAnimate22
Mod Download Page

Lost Island builds an original game on top of the Mania framework, fully reskinning levels and characters. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles have modified spritework, while Ray and Mighty have been fully replaced with Sonic X-treme’s Tiara (outfitted with Sonic 2 GG’s hang glider) and an original character, Millie, who resembles a Minnie Mouse take on Tails (if I’m wrong and this is some sort of established character I’m not familiar with, I’m sure the comments will correct me). The demo spans 7 zones, with 10 acts total among them.

The visuals and level design spark inspiration from a number of other Sonic games, though the strongest point of comparison is probably Sonic 1 for Master System/Game Gear. It even directly pulls the 8-bit exclusive Sky Base into its roster. The level reskins have a basic but still attractive aesthetic. Simple patterns make it feel a bit more flat than you’d expect from a 16-bit game. Not bad, but also not especially iconic or embellished.

I found Lost Island to be a cute but light experience. It trades Mania’s branching, frenetic action for an experience that’s very straightforward. I have a specific nostalgia for the sort of B-tier platformers that dotted the early 90’s landscape, stuff like Bonk and Cool Spot. Lost Island seems to scratch that itch: platforming that is pleasant, even if it’s not fancy or exciting.

Sonic 2 Mania

Submitted by AChickMcNuggie
Mod Download Page

Sometimes a mod is just straightforward enough that you don’t have to explain much. Sonic 2 Mania is simply an attempt at recreating Sonic 2 within the Sonic Mania framework, and in that goal, it’s pretty faithful with a handful of additional visual flourishes, and only a couple places where you can see the seams of how X was reskinned to be Y.

The demo features both acts of Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, Aquatic Ruin, Hill Top, and in interpretation of the beta Wood Zone, Secret Woods. However, this demo does not include any bosses (new or old). Certain elements could not be fully reproduced, such as the growing pillars in Aquatic Ruin, but in the very few places it falters, it makes up in added background animations and remixed music. And you can play as Mania-perfect Mighty and Ray!

Sonic Vintage

Submitted by ZachmanAwesomeness
Mod Download Page

Each year it gets harder and harder to stand out as a project whose aim is to reproduce classic Sonic’s preview and beta build elements. Sonic Vintage takes inspiration from other ROM hacks and attempts to bring some of these obscure beta elements to the Mania engine, offering a slightly different take on Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Flying Battery, and Stardust Speedway.

…Sort of. Of the four Mania mods I played this year, this is the only one that gave me technical trouble, and I was only able to play two of the four listed zones without issue. Flying Battery Act 1 would only load if I went to Act 2 (where my character died immediately after the stage loaded), and Stardust Speedway would cause Flying Battery Act 2 to load. I don’t know if this issue is unique to me, but I attempted a number of times in a number of ways, and was unable to access Stardust Speedway at all.

The mod has a couple of neat touches. Most notably, the level design of Chemical Plant was expanded. However, this isn’t a project about immediate noticeable changes. If you’re deep into research on Sonic pre-release builds, this might strike your fancy as a chimera of demos, prototypes, and Nick Arcade variants. But between the technical issues and generally subtle changes, it might be worth waiting another year to see how this develops.

Published by

GX

A podcaster since 2008, GX originally founded The Spindash podcast, until joining Sonic Stadium's monthly Sonic Talk. He currently co-hosts the show and runs weekly streams on Stadium's Twitch channel at https://www.twitch.tv/sonicstadium

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