Sonic Mania Plus Review: A Superb Encore

by David Sanchez July 31, 2018 @ 9:35 pm

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

Sonic Mania is one of the greatest Sonic the Hedgehog games of all time. That is, without a doubt, a fact. When the game launched last year, it brought a lot of positive attention back to the titular blue hedgehog. Now the game’s received a few noteworthy updates. Title Sonic Mania Plus, this enhanced edition is available as both a physical edition that includes a neat artbook and as a $5 DLC upgrade if you already own the original version.

Is this Plus edition of Sonic Mania worth it? That question has two different answers. If you haven’t played the original, then yes, you should shell out the cash for this enhanced re-release. And if you have played the original, well, yes, you should shell out the cash for the updated content. It’s more Sonic Mania — there’s really no reason not to be stoked about it.

For the unfamiliar, Sonic Mania is the result of Sega employing the talents of a couple folks who were notorious for creating Sonic fan games and doing unofficial remasters of existing Sonic titles. As a result, the game manages to feel both fresh and authentic. Not only does Sonic Mania stay true to the formula that made the series so popular to begin with — it also delivers just the right amount of newness to the franchise.

Throughout the course of the four-to-six-hour adventure, you’ll visit locations new and old. Thankfully, the remastered versions of old school Sonic levels aren’t just one-to-one remakes — they’re remixed significantly, so you’ll notice some cool new features, paths, and secrets. The real standouts, however, are the entirely original stages. I’ll always get a kick out of revisiting Green Hill Zone, but being able to dash through new Sonic worlds in 2018 is great. Namely, the wholly original Studiopolis and Press Garden Zones are some of the most exhilarating stages in the game, both in terms of gameplay and visual splendor.

It’s worth noting that despite the remixed nature of the older Sonic stages included here, they can sometimes feel a bit same-y. I’ll always be a fan of Chemical Plant Zone, but I don’t need it in every 2D Sonic game. Sure, those levels are fun, and they’re great throwbacks, but at times, I couldn’t help but feel that they took the place of potential new levels. In addition, I don’t think a lot of people were clamoring for the subpar Oil Ocean Zone.

Even though it’s not perfect, the main mode, re-titled Mania Mode for Sonic Mania Plus, is a stellar, high-speed platforming adventure. But what’s new in this enhanced edition of last year’s game? Quite a few things, actually, and they’re all pretty rad!

First is Encore Mode, which is like a reissue of Mania Mode with slightly revamped stages and visuals. Here, you play as an entire cast of characters aside from Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Making a return from the obscure Japanese arcade title SegaSonic the Hedgehog, Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel join the crew. Now, don’t worry, these guys don’t suck like so many other misfits in the Sonic gang. In fact, they’re easily two of the best characters to join the roster thanks in large part to their special abilities.

Mighty can perform a sweet ground pound that’s both defensive and offensive, granting him brief invincibility and taking out nearby enemies. It’s also a great move to break down hidden barriers and uncover secret spots. Ray brings something different altogether, performing a slick aerial glide that allows you to reach high areas. While Knuckles can glide, too, Ray’s technique is vastly different, allowing you to stay in the air instead of just pivoting downward.

Rather than utilizing the traditional lives system of Mania Mode, Encore Mode gives you one life per character in your roster. So if you’re playing as Knuckles and that dude bites the dust, the next character in the queue will tag in. Once you’re out of characters, it’s Game Over. It’s not as grim as it sounds, though, because you can still retrieve your fallen buddies by finding specific power-ups.

In addition to Encore Mode, Sonic Mania Plus includes a four-player Competition Mode, which isn’t exactly the most amazing thing ever but still adds a bit of multiplayer fun to the mix. Oh, and regarding Mighty and Ray, you’ll be glad to know that the two characters aren’t relegated to Encore Mode — so if you want to play the standard Mania Mode as one of the new characters, you can certainly do so.

Sonic Mania Plus plays, looks, and sounds like the Sonic of old. Given how drastically the series’ quality has fluctuated over the years, it’s nice to see it return to its roots. Most of the levels are a blast — with the exception of any stage that has you doing careful platforming versus crazy, off-the-rails dashing — but it’s the new stages that are most impressive. It would be great to see these developers return and create a game with all-new levels from the ground up as been-there-done-that vibes do creep up when playing Green Hill Zone for the umpteenth time.

Sonic and co.’s latest is a fun ride from start to finish. If you already own Sonic Mania, the updates in this expansion are more than enough reason to return to the game. And if you’ve missed out on the game up until now, there’s no better time to jump in. Sonic Mania Plus is a wonderful expansion of an already awesome game, and it’ll remind you exactly why Sonic was cool in the first place.

Score: 8 out of 10

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