When I reviewed 2017’s Sonic Mania, I praised it as being the best 2D Sonic game in decades. Now, a year later, SEGA is releasing a new version of the game dubbed Sonic Mania Plus. This definitive edition answers fan demand for a physical release while adding gameplay tweaks, expanded multiplayer, a new mode and two additional playable characters. Typically a reviewer would take this moment to pose the question: “So does Sonic Mania stand up one year later and are the new additions worthy of a double dip or DLC download?”, but I’ll just let you know right now that the answers are “yes” and “yes”. Sonic Mania Plus is everything that made the original Sonic Mania great, and more.
If you’d like to read our initial review, click here. Everything said there applies here. After the break, read about the new additions and enhancements, as well as the contents of the physical release.
Encore Mode is the star addition to Sonic Mania Plus. As the name implies, the mode takes you through an encore performance of Sonic Mania with some distinct differences. Encore kicks off with Sonic seemingly returning from the end of Mania mode with the story starting all over again. This time, however, players are treated to a brief Angel Island stage and the return of Mighty and Ray. Mighty and Ray have their own distinct abilities, with Mighty having a supercharged equivalent of the bubble shield attack and invulnerability to spikes. Ray plays similarly to Cape Mario from the Super Mario series and has a bit of a learning curve to his wingsuit-like ability. Zones have new color palettes, harder to reach special stage rings and more difficult special stages, but what really sets Encore Mode apart is how lives are handled.
Rather than earning lives the old fashioned way, players begin with Sonic and Mighty or Ray and have the ability to swap between the two characters on the fly as long as both are on screen and are standing on the ground. Additional characters are added to the lineup through item boxes and a pinball machine mini-game accessible from the signposts. You’ll see the lead characters as their face icons, and “benched” characters as circles with their first initial. Item boxes will swap in-play characters with benched characters or add characters to the lineup, while the pinball machine rescues characters not on your lineup from a combi catcher prize prison not unlike the one seen in Knuckles’ Chaotix. Getting hit with zero rings, or drowning or getting crushed, will lose the selected character and send you back to the last checkpoint with the next character in line. Losing the last character will result in a game over and being sent to the continue screen.
This new system is exciting, as it allows players to try every character and ability throughout one play through and rather than racking up lives your focus is keeping a large line of characters in your queue. I didn’t expect such a simple change to result in an entirely new experience, and the result is a repeat play through that feels fresh and challenging. Other new additions, found in both Mania Mode and Encore Mode, include expanded bosses with new attacks, additional transitions between zones, graphical tweaks and some new sprite animations and an all around more solid gameplay experience.
Another expansion is the competition mode, through unfortunately I was unable to test it as I only own one PlayStation 4 controller. However, I know that our sister site Sonic Retro has a review that covers this mode further and you can read their thoughts here. Based on what I’ve seen and read the expanded roster of characters and new split-screen options look great and the mode looks better than before.
The main reason for Sonic Mania Plus existing is that SEGA has finally given the digital title a physical release. Like other recent SEGA of America releases, a lot of love and attention has gone into the packaging of the game. Included is a lovely holographic slipcover, an art book filled with concept sketches, alternate logos and promotional artwork for the game and a reversible cover featuring 16-bit era box art. Depending on your region you’ll get Genesis, PAL Mega Drive or Japanese Mega Drive inspired art – which is sure to lead collector’s to obtaining all regions. For the price, $29.99, you’re getting a great game and some really cool collectibles that is only $4.99 more than the digital only version plus the Encore DLC pack.
Sonic Mania Plus is a 2D Sonic game as you truly imagined it. Nearly every ingredient that makes the perfect Sonic game is presented with the love and attention it deserves to make a final game that is up there with some of the series best titles. SEGA should be applauded for giving an all-star development team of fans a shot at their flagship franchise, and I hope to see future 2D Sonic games as good as or better than Mania in the future.
- Up there with the classics
- Insane fan service
- New and returning stages are a delight
- Physical release is created with love and attention to detail
- Encore Mode introduces a whole new way to play