I didn't quite understand what Sonic Mania (opens in new tab) was when it was announced. At first, I thought it was just a remix of old Sonic levels that used old assets to make new-ish, familiar levels to sprint through. But I was wrong. So incredibly wrong.
Sonic Mania is a completely new game in every way. Every art asset, every song, and all the programmed machinery beneath it all is brand new, made by some of the biggest fans of the series around. Sega is handing over the reigns to independent developers, a few of which have are known for making well-received Sonic fan games in the past. After chatting with Lola, the producer, I got the impression that they're the right people for the job. Check out the interview above to see why, and the gameplay footage below to decide for yourself.
The first level is an obvious recreation of Green Hill Zone that culminates with a simple boss fight, but with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. The second level is a sprawling neon city, a dense network of secret paths, funny easter eggs, and lovely animated art that felt better each time I played it. It's some of the best level design the series has ever seen.
They also added a new move, the Drop Dash, which charges Sonic's dash in mid air which lets you build and maintain speed between leaps. It's a perfect addition to the game, one that speedrunners are likely to fall in love with and super satisfying to pull off. I never thought I'd feel this way again, but for the first time since Sonic CD, I desperately want to go fast.