When Sonic Mania launched last year, it gave the Sonic the Hedgehog series the speed boost it needed. Following several underwhelming or outright bad titles, Sonic Mania ended up becoming one of, if not the best game in the series as it was crafted by loving fans-turned-developers and channeled the best parts of classic Sonic games. DualShockers also loved it in our original review, awarding it a 9.0 out of 10.
Almost a year after release, SEGA is following the game up with Sonic Mania Plus, a physical version that packs in new improvements and content, including an Encore mode that remixes the base game, and two new playable characters that haven’t been seen in years. This package and its new features only bolster an already fantastic experience, and warrants players to finally pick the game up if they have not done so yet.
Sonic Mania Plus still features all of the content of the original, which still holds up a year after release. The labyrinthine (but always easy to navigate) levels are all designed well, and stage designers know when it’s best to speed things up or slow things down. The primary campaign should last players more than 5 to 6 hours and offers a ton of replayability with the hidden chaos emeralds, different paths in levels, and multiple playable characters.
The brand new characters and Encore mode Sonic Mania Plus introduces allow the game to become even more of an addiction to SEGA/Sonic junkies. As someone well-versed in the series’ history, I can’t help but have a smile on my face seeing Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel in action again for the first time since Knuckles’ Chaotix and SegaSonic the Hedgehog respectively. They each have special abilities too. Mighty has a strong downward thrusting attack and can get an extra hit before losing rings, and Ray can glide across levels.
It took a while for me to get the hang of Ray’s gliding ability, but mastering it can be very exhilarating can give players an even faster way to traverse levels. Personally, Mighty the Armadillo has become my new favorite character, while he lacks Sonic’s or Knuckles’ ability to climb on walls, the added offensive and defensive power makes him a reliable and sturdy character in the game’s trickier sections or boss battles.
Sonic Mania Plus’ Encore Mode is similar to the base game at its core but makes a few small tweaks to keep things feeling fresh. Instead of having a set number of lives, players build up a party of the five playable characters, with two being on the field at any given time. These characters can be switched by either hitting specific boxes or at the press of a button (for the two on the field), which helps give the player more freedom in choosing how they want to tackle any given level.
While this system does function well for the most part, I do have a few little grievances with it. Both characters have to be at a complete standstill to switch between them, which can mess with the pacing in some parts. Also, “game overs” are a bit more intrusive, as you have to build up fifty coins to go to the special stages to get those characters back. That being said, these are very small nitpicks, and barely take away from the whole experience.
Special stages have been overhauled, and are now pinball sections calling back to titles like Sonic Spinball. As a fan of pinball, I found these to be a welcome and fun distraction and way to earn back characters, even if characters’ 3D models could occasionally get stuck in corners for a couple seconds. It also made me more conscious of the number of coins I was carrying at any given time, as you have to be holding 50 to access this.
Encore Mode also recolors even stage and adds new stage transitions were there weren’t any before. This, in addition to the new gameplay elements, makes this mode feels unique and worth playing on its own, even if the level design hasn’t changed that much from the base game.
The other smaller tweaks in Sonic Mania Plus, like reworked split-screen in Competition mode and being able to skip cutscenes improve the overall quality-of-life feeling of the game, and make Sonic Mania feel more polished than ever. Many of these updates are being implemented for free via an update into the digital version as well, so no players should be losing out on the welcome enhancements.
When it comes to the physical release, Sonic Mania Plus also comes with an art book and reversible cover. The reversible cover hearkens back to SEGA Genesis box art and is my preferred look for this physical release. The art book is also entertaining. While it doesn’t offer a ton of insight into the game’s actual development, it does showcase some neat concept art and early designs of the characters and stages featured in Sonic Mania.
While these physical items aren’t revolutionary inclusions, they are neat bonuses for those who loved the game and want to support the developers more — or those who just waited for a physical release. Having all of the new content on the Sonic Mania Plus disc or cartridge also serves as a more hassle-free alternative for those who don’t have a great Internet connection or just want a more streamlined way of playing at its most content-rich and best.
Sonic Mania was already a fantastic title, and Sonic Mania Plus only makes things look and feel better. While I do have a couple nitpicks, they aren’t anything super intrusive and didn’t take much away from the experience for me. Encore mode and new characters make the game feel just as fresh and exciting as it did at launch last year.
If you haven’t tried Sonic Mania yet, now is a better time than ever to jump in — whether you opt to pick up Sonic Mania Plus and all the extra things it brings, or just download the Encore DLC and free updates.