The Sonic series is undoubtedly one of the greatest in gaming history, and yet most of its games over the last decade or more have not been worthy of the franchise. 3D titles especially have been troublesome, but even the old standard of 2D Sonic has failed on more than one occasion. So it was with the usual mixture of excitement and trepidation that fans approached Sonic Mania, an officially sanctioned effort to help fans remix and recreate the magic of the original Sonic games. It succeeded in almost every way imaginable with the final product offering fans a true glimpse into what made this series so excellent. Now Sega is back with Sonic Mania Plus, an expanded and enhanced experience that will be even better for new buyers, and is worth a look as DLC for old.
Sonic Mania Plus is releasing as both a wholly new release and DLC for those who already own the original Sonic Mania. If you didn’t already buy Sonic Mania, then this Plus re-release is the way to go. It offers everything the base game did, along with some new playable characters, a new Encore Mode, and an expanded competitive multiplayer mode. These changes and additions are certainly nice, but when it comes down to it the base game was already good enough to warrant the attention of any Sonic fan, no matter how long it’s been since you last ran across the Green Hill Zone.
Featuring 13 different “Zones” with each consisting of two Acts and a boss fight, Sonic Mania was already chock full of 2D platforming goodness. Now these levels have been revamped once again in the Encore Mode. The changes can be either major or minor, with players likely struggling to pinpoint exactly what’s different for some of the stages. Still, with the many paths through each Act, you can replay the entire game in either the main mode or Encore and find yourself enjoying the experience, whether you take note of what’s different this time or not.
Sonic Mania Plus is definitive version of Sega’s excellent revival
Of course, a good amount of the fun in Sonic Mania is digging into the nitty gritty details. The game was clearly made with love, as Sega brought fans in to help design elements of the experience. Sonic Mania is a game made by Sonic fans, for Sonic fans, and that showed through the entire original experience and is only enhanced in this Plus release. This extends from the Encore Mode through every piece of the game, including the new physical release that comes with a lovely art book for collectors.
One part that worried me about Plus and its Encore Mode was the inclusion of two new playable characters. Let’s just say that Sonic hasn’t had a great track record with different characters, but they are handled perfectly here. Returning from the series’ past are Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel, each with their own special ability. At the beginning of the mode you choose one, with the other revealing himself to be the villain for the rest of the game. Mighty has a ground pound maneuver, while Ray is able to glide through the air. Aside from this they act just like Sonic, simply adding to the selections of Tails and Knuckles without too much impact.
The new characters fit seamlessly into Sonic Mania Plus, with the Encore Mode allowing you to switch between all the main characters at points throughout the game. No matter who you’re playing as though, the game retains its fast pace and enjoyable platforming. Their addition then simply opens levels up, with some paths only accessible via their unique abilities, without detracting in any significant way, or adding complexity to the simplistic perfection at the core of Sonic’s 2D adventures.
Outside of these changes Sonic Mania Plus doesn’t really expand things too much. This isn’t a sequel or totally new experience, it is a re-release with DLC baked in. If you bought the first game, you should probably stick with it, unless you’re a major Sonic collector and just have to have the new physical copy. Otherwise you should probably grab the DLC and enjoy playing through the original levels with some minor added twists, new characters, and updated boss fights.
One other thing to note for this specific review is that I played exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. While PS4, Xbox One, and PC might offer more power, the game doesn’t really utilize it since it’s strictly 2D (or old-school 3D for special zones and effects). The Switch handles it just fine and the added bonus of portability was fantastic. This is a perfect fit on the Switch, and if you have the choice it’s the platform that I would recommend.
What Sonic Mania Plus boils down to is, do you like classic Sonic and did you miss out on the first release? If so, you should buy this one immediately. It almost perfectly encapsulates what made the original Sega Genesis and CD games so much fun while updating the style so that it feels fresh and new. Sonic Mania Plus adds to what the original did, making it the definitive version of Sega’s excellent revival. If you do already own the original release then it’s just a $5 download, which should feel like a bargain for fans. Just don’t buy the full release expecting something totally new and you’re all set
Sonic Mania Plus
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
- Published By: Sega
- Developed By: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games, Hyperkinetic Studios
- Genre: Platformer
- US Release Date: July 17th, 2018
- Reviewed On: Switch
- Quote: "Sonic Mania Plus almost perfectly encapsulates what made the original Sega Genesis and CD games so much fun while updating the style so that it feels fresh and new."