You know Sega just wouldn’t be Sega without their Sonic the Hedgehog games, so naturally, when they realised they had a win on their hands with Sonic Mania, it must have only made sense to squeeze every last bit of life they could out of the title. Thankfully, Sonic Mania had more than enough to give, and now Sonic Mania Plus is here to give a little more. Tweaking the first release with a few gameplay changes, characters and modes, Sonic Mania Plus provides just enough to warrant a re-release.
First things first, if you’re unfamiliar with Sonic Mania, you’re not going to get a full breakdown of it here. Having just emerged from whatever rock you were living under, I’d like to direct you to our review of the first release of the game, which you can read here. Without needing to retread the same ground, let’s just look at what Sonic Mania Plus brings to the table. As a re-release of the game so soon after it’s first outing, there was very little that the developers had to offer to justify this version, so to their credit, they went and made a bunch of new stuff before pushing it out the door.
Most obvious are the two new characters, Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel, who were absent from the original version. Boasting new abilities different from the usual faces, Mighty has a powerful slam he can perform, and as a spiky creature, is immune to spikes while he is rolled up into a ball. Ray, on the other hand, can’t exactly fly as his name would indicate, but he can maintain a steady glide without losing altitude. Though I’m not entirely familiar with the game they come from in the complicated universe of Sonic games and series, these characters are a fun new addition to the roster, and it was cool working out how they function compared to the characters I’ve become used to playing.
On to the next big change, we have an entirely new game style to try out called Encore Mode, available to play after the story is completed at least once. Set aside from the normal story, Encore Mode shifts up the location of enemies and challenges in the original levels, even changing the colours and designs of the levels, while also ramping up the difficulty and encouraging players to run through them in different ways. Bonus levels also get a little trickier, while also including a new one based on Sonic Pinball which didn’t make it into the original game. There is even another zone to try out, Angel Island Zone, which is exclusive to Encore Mode.
Encore Mode starts you out with the titular hedgehog, but as you progress through the familiar levels, you unlock various abilities to help you through and recruit your buddies to swap over to whenever you choose. Losing lives will lose you whichever character you’re currently playing as, and losing them all ends the level. A fun challenge presents itself in knowing when and how to use each one to get the most out of their abilities and progress further in the mode. Using the two new characters even reveals parts of the levels previously unseen, so be sure to give them a try when you’re discovering interesting new ways to speed through these remixed courses as Sonic and his pals.
After all the major changes and additions, there is a host of minor tweaks all over the place. I’m not going to mention them all here, because they’re more like bug fixes or oversights than actual changes. The most notable would probably be the inclusion of a few mission cutscene transitions between levels, the tweaked Metal Sonic fight, as well as expanding the multiplayer competition mode up to four players in split-screen. There are probably a few more things that eagle-eyed players will spot, but even with all the hours I put into this re-release, I didn’t spot anything else that really stood out as a major change. As all this content is available to people who purchased the original game as downloadable content and comes fully loaded in all Plus releases of the game, we now have the best version of the game we’re going to get until the inevitable re-re-release, next-gen console ports and anniversary re-re-re-releases.
Sonic has had more than enough runs to store shelves, but Sonic Mania was probably one of the few titles in his series that I’ve been genuinely happy to see. Sonic Mania was a beautiful return to form for the series, and it’s great to see what is undoubtedly the best title in decades get a little more love. The Plus additions add a nice variety of new modes and characters, and it was refreshing to see how they helped change up a game I’d already spent many hours playing. If you’ve never had a chance to play Sonic Mania, this is definitely the best time to pick it up and start running!