Sonic the Hedgehog games, for the most part, have been a shadow of their former glory in the 1990’s. However, after new installments of the franchise, one game in the series would shine over almost every installment in recent memory. Released in 2017, Sonic Mania would prove that the best formula for a new Sonic game would be a throwback to its origins. Does a new DLC update titled “Encore”, as well as its first physical release titled Sonic Mania Plus, bring new life to the title?
Sonic Mania Plus
Developer: Headcannon, PagodaWest Games
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 17th, 2018
Price: $29.99 (Physical), $4.99 (DLC)
Due to the nature of the release of the physical version of Sonic Mania Plus and the Encore DLC, I will be focusing on the new aspects that have been added in the game and reviewing based on the added elements. In case you missed it, our previous review still remains relevant for the overall game.
Sonic Mania Plus takes place after the base game, where Sonic is taken back to Angel Island by the Phantom Ruby. In pursuit, he finds Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel trapped, and quickly frees them.
You unfortunately find out one of them is the Hard Boiled Heavies Magician in disguise. With the Heavy Magician now in possession of the Phantom Ruby, he reverts the events that happened previously, and Sonic now has to set out again on the same path he traversed before.
The new Encore mode addition brings a lot more to the replayability of the game that both new players and returning fans can enjoy. Remixing the older levels and adding new pathways that play on each of the characters abilities is a great addition to the overall experience.
The expansions seen in levels bring not only new pathways to complete the levels, but new secrets and in some cases added difficulty. This new complexity provides a fresh new challenge that I enjoyed in quite a few cases, moreso than the original release.
Encore mode also adds new mechanics to the table as well. However, extra lives are removed in this mode. Instead, players will have to swap between two characters on the fly in order complete levels. Once a character dies, the player has to rescue them to keep the game going.
Rescuing them can be done in two ways, one of which is through standard item boxes or the new pinball mini game, which you access from checkpoint sign posts. Compared to the original game, I found it interesting these additions forced me to fine tune my playstyle overall, adding to my enjoyment.
All to often, Sonic games add in new characters or have old ones return to the series and distract from the main hero in questionable ways. Most of them fall to obscurity or are avoided by the public out of pure annoyance.
Sonic Mania Plus, however, is a case when it’s done right. Returning from the 1993 arcade game SegaSonic the Hedgehog are playable characters Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel – only they add new gameplay mechanics.
As with the original trio of characters, Mighty and Ray each have their own abilities that add a bit more flavor to game. Mighty sports an ability where he can jump and pound onto the ground, ultimately bypassing some enemies’ defenses or destroying obstacles blocking alternate paths your goal.
In addition, Mighty also can avoid damage from spikes. Ray, on the other hand, has the ability to glide through long distances of the level by utilizing something akin to Super Mario World’s cape power up.
Beyond encore mode are a few tweaks and added extras. For instance, new transitions between some stages have been added. Likewise, a couple of game modes change some aspects, such as having different special abilities at the cost of not being able to save your game, as well as including a no time limit mode. The boss centered around Metal Sonic has also been redesigned.
With the added characters, this enables the expansion of the local multiplayer aspect of the game. While not as expensive as most of the encore additions, it is nice that it now supports up to four players over the original two.
The gameplay still remains fast and runs smooth, even with the two additional players. While I never really have played any multiplayer in almost any Sonic game that allowed it, it’s still a thoughtful addition that single player is not the only area of the release that got new additions.
The surprise that came with the visual style and remixed music were gone. During my initial playthrough of the 2017 release, the initial freshness added a lot more to my excitement with my initial playthrough.
While it does not affect the game and I enjoyed it immensely, I still had a feeling that something was missing with the flair I felt the original had. This, aided with the lack of additional stages at some points, I felt that it was mostly the same game I played before.
On a personal note, as a game collector who did get the digital version of the game, I am excited that the decision to have physical release has been made. While it does not affect my enjoyment playing the game, I do love the feeling of ownership and having something to show off on my shelf. All too often, a lot of games are released as digital-only titles, with a potential limited physical release.
Overall Sonic Mania Plus or even just the Encore DLC are great additions to an already fantastic game. You can squeeze out just enough new content to nearly double your play time, which to me is a particularly great feat.
Still, even my gripe of not having new areas to explore couldn’t take away from the enjoyment I had. Whether you have not played Sonic Mania or are just looking to add on more time with the game, Sonic Mania Plus is definitely worth checking out. With this release, I hope that Sonic Mania 2 is possibly in our future.
Sonic Mania Plus was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 using a review copy received from Sega. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 9
- Adds more gameplay to an already fantastic game.
- Proves that Sonic is still better in his classic style.
- Few tweaks to flesh things out even if they really were not needed but are welcome.
- Additional characters brought in as gameplay elements don’t feel questionable like in other Sonic games.
- Nothing new is really added in terms of levels.
- Can’t shake the feeling like I did all this before at some points in Encore Mode.