Sonic Mania Plus on Switch
Editor’s note: Sonic Mania Plus is an expanded version of the original game released last summer. We reviewed the original game already, and awarded it a 5 out of 5. We thought it was brilliant, and was everything that a fan of the Genesis classics could possibly ask for. We are evaluating Sonic Mania Plus then on the merits for someone who already owns Sonic Mania, and answering the question of whether it’s worth upgrading to the “Plus” version. If you don’t already own Sonic Mania at all, our review of the original version is still relevant and applicable; Sonic Mania Plus is just an even more complete version of it and yes, if you love the 2D Sonic games it’s a must-play.
Last summer, Sonic Mania was everything this Genesis kid could have dreamed of and more. It was the game that I, and many other 2D Sonic fans were begging Sega for years to deliver. Not that there is anything wrong with Sega continuing to pursue 3D games as well, but a proper return to form for older fans was long overdue.
Sonic Mania Plus is an expanded version of that game. It’s mostly the same game with a few big twists and smaller tweaks. The most obvious addition are the two new characters: Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel of SegaSonic the Hedgehog fame. You can be forgiven if you have no idea who those characters are, as they are quite obscure unless you’re intimately familiar with Team Chaotix and/or arcade games from the early 90s. Personally, I would have preferred to see more familiar faces like Amy or Shadow, but I can’t deny the excellent job Christian Whitehead and PagodaWest Games did with Mighty and Ray.
Both characters fit in very well in Sonic Mania, each with their own ability set, complete with strengths and weaknesses, just like Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Mighty can come quickly crashing down midair on a dime and demolish anything it lands on, including breaking open new paths, and while furled up, is able to bounce off spikes and hazards. Ray is more like Tails. With some speed, he’s able to launch himself into the air, and glide, Super Mario World cape style, across the map provided he doesn’t collide into anything. Visually, the sprites look great and they fit right into the classic aesthetic of the game.
Early on, both characters can feel a bit overpowered, but as the zones get more complex, they both come down to earth a bit in terms of balance. I still feel like an advanced Sonic player with mastery of the stage layouts and drop dash can still be the king of speed, but a skilled Ray might give Sonic a run for his money with his ability to glide his way around forever if nothing gets in his way.
The next big addition is Encore Mode. While the new characters are a home run, Encore Mode is a bit of a mixed bag. The levels in Encore Mode are remixed a bit with some being far more noticeable than others. However, all but the most hardcore fans will probably appreciate or in some zones, even notice the changes aside from the obvious color scheme switch. It’s harmless, as it doesn’t ruin anything, but it rarely feels like it enhances the levels in significant way much either though. It’s just something a little different for the person that has played Mania Mode plenty of times.
Instead, the value of Encore Mode lies more in the ability to play as all five characters at once (sort of). When playing in Encore mode, 1-UPs are replaced with new boxes that will add a character to your bench so to speak. You play with two characters at once that you can switch to at any time by pressing X (Switch), and if someone dies, one of the other characters you have rescued comes off the bench to pick up the slack. If you’re out of characters, it’s game over (continues are back). It’s a neat new way to play through the story of Sonic Mania, but I would have liked it more if it was easier to switch between characters. As it stands, you need to find new boxes that switch up your characters instead of just being able to cycle through all of them whenever you want. Encore Mode also adds a new playable version of Angel Island Zone, but to be frank, it feels like a complete waste as it seems very similar to the original zone, is only one act long, and can be completed very quickly. Again, it’s harmless, I’d rather it exist than not, but it also feels like a wasted opportunity.
There are some other smaller changes too that add to the value of Sonic Mania Plus. Some of the bosses, such as the terrible Stardust Speedway Zone final boss, have been reworked to be far less terrible. New transition scenes between zones were added and are a nice touch. The unlockable No Save options such as being able to pick Sonic’s ability have been extended to the save file versions of Mania Mode which is much appreciated. And, if you’re like me, and are obsessive over getting a perfect speed run for Time Attack, there’s a new replay and playback function for speedrunners to mess around with.
If you’re a hardcore fan of the original, Sonic Mania Plus is an easy buy. It adds on neatly onto your original game (no need to start all over), and will extend your playtime at least another few hours if not more. Also, if you missed Sonic Mania last year, this is now the definitive version of the game. That said, if you just casually picked it up, and only invested a few hours, there isn’t that much here in Sonic Mania Plus to justify spending more money unless you’re a huge fan of Mighty and Ray.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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