Sonic Mania Plus Review: A Blast From the Past

The Best Sonic Game to Date with an Encore!

I’m a huge Sonic fan, and despite SEGA’s various attempts to innovate gameplay, Sonic remains my childhood hero and favorite game franchise. However, my faith took a hit with Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. I longed for consistency and improvement in the franchise.

My hope was rekindled when I first saw the Sonic Mania trailer. Cautious optimism turned into genuine excitement as it became clear that Sonic Mania was more than just a return to form. I got the game upon release and now, with Sonic Mania Plus, a DLC pack, the game is relevant again. Without giving too much away, I can confidently say that Sonic Mania Plus is a must-play experience.

In this review, I’ll delve into Sonic Mania Plus, covering its core game modes (Mania and Encore) and the included characters. A dedicated section will focus on Encore Mode, with a closer look at the characters and their impact on the game’s mechanics.

With all that said, let’s get started with this review.

Mania

The Classic Mania Returns!

Sonic Mania Plus excels in delivering a classic Sonic experience with a blend of nostalgia and fresh elements. The game revisits iconic zones like Chemical Plant and Green Hill, offering revamped stages that maintain familiarity while introducing new challenges.

What sets Sonic Mania Plus apart is its storytelling, interconnecting these familiar places with charm and creativity. The game features fourteen zones, including five debut stages and nine remixed ones, such as Green Hill Zone (Sonic The Hedgehog) and Chemical Plant Zone (Sonic 2). The remixed stages cleverly incorporate elements from other Sonic games, adding a delightful touch.

The new zones, like Studiopolis and Press Garden, bring unique layouts, detailed environments, and catchy music. The game follows a structure reminiscent of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, seamlessly continuing from one act to the next. Each stage includes simple yet pattern-based boss fights, providing a challenge for players.

Sonic Mania Plus caters to both new and old players. While newcomers experience iconic Sonic stages, seasoned gamers enjoy remixes of their favorites alongside entirely new zones. Though some may prefer a better balance between entirely new and remixed stages, this remains a minor gripe in an otherwise engaging Sonic adventure.

The Modern Works of the Past

The new stages are packed with aesthetic choices reminiscent of a Classic Sonic game. Studiopolis Zone has Sonic dashing through a TV studio, teleporting via satellite dishes, and a boss fight creatively using TV forecast tropes.

Press Garden features excellent level design and transforms into a snowy wonderland after defeating the sub-boss, accompanied by a mesmerizing music theme.

Mirage Saloon’s Western aesthetic is amusing, with giant guns shooting Sonic across the stage and piano tiles adding charm. Act 2 introduces characters like Bean the Dynamite, Bark the Polar Bear, and Fang the Sniper.

Titanic Monarch, resembling Sonic Unleashed’s Crimson Carnival, is a vast stage in a high-tech metropolis with skyscrapers. It culminates in an epic boss fight against Doctor Eggman.

These stages, along with Egg Reverie, showcase the seamless blend of new and classic Sonic elements, featuring visual flares, references to old Sonic properties, and even advertising Lock-On Technology, notably in Studiopolis.

Gameplay and Mechanics that Never needed a fix.

For newcomers, Sonic Mania is a fast-paced 2D platformer focused on speed. The goal is to clear stages swiftly from point A to B.

I control various characters like Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Mighty, and Ray, each offering unique ways to speed through stages, enhancing replay value.

Sonic’s Drop Dash lets me quickly recover speed mid-air. Tails can fly temporarily, but tires quickly. Knuckles can climb walls and glide, great for exploration.

Mighty, from Knuckles Chaotix, brings the Hammer Drop, smashing obstacles and revealing hidden items. Ray, the Flying Squirrel, glides faster, with flexible height control.

Speed can outrun the camera, posing a challenge, yet exploration is rewarded with hidden treasures.

Collectibles include Rings; 100 grant an extra life. Getting hit loses all held Rings. Power-ups like Elemental shields protect Rings. Flame shields resist fire hazards, Thunder shields enable distant Ring collection and double jumps, and Aqua shields prevent drowning.

Speed Up and Invincibility power-ups are self-explanatory with short timers, enhancing gameplay dynamics.

While initially overwhelming, a playthrough reveals the game’s adaptability and encourages experimentation across multiple runs.

Special Stages and Chaos Emeralds: The Frustrating Bunch

Curiosity drives me to explore consecutive stages for new routes and essential Chaos Emeralds.

To find the Emeralds, I access special stages through hidden giant rings, like the one I found in Chemical Plant Act 1.

The game rewards me with special stages, where I chase a UFO holding the Chaos Emerald. The ring count is a timer, extended by collecting rings and gaining speed with Blue Spheres. Movement is simple—left, right, and jump.

Completing a special stage grants one of the 7 Chaos Emeralds, unlocking a super form with enhanced abilities. Collecting 50 rings and pressing a button activates the super form, depending on rings as a timer.

Don’t worry if you can’t get all 7 emeralds at first; the game allows retries, but touched giant rings can’t be used again.

Blue Sphere stages don’t offer Chaos Emeralds but unlock Sonic Mania Plus features. The character moves automatically, collecting Blue Spheres while avoiding Red Spheres. Completing the stage grants a Silver Medallion, and getting all rewards a Golden Medallion. Medallions unlock features for future replays of Sonic Mania Plus.

Sonic Mania’s Charming Presentation

Sonic Mania Plus excels in presentation, notably in its outstanding music. Every remix, from Chemical Plant Act 2 to Flying Battery Zone Act 2, has become a personal favorite, even the MENU SONG – a rare connection I’ve not felt with other game scores.

The seamless composition of the soundtrack stands out, with songs flowing naturally into one another. Sonic games are known for their excellent music choices, and Mania Plus is no exception. Favorites include Chemical Plant Act 2, Press Garden Act 2, and the Main Theme by Hyper Potions.

The stages are a treasure trove of callbacks and references, showcasing the developers’ deep love for Sonic and SEGA. Visual nods like the Daytona USA High-Class Hornet truck, Studiopolis’ “Genesis Does…” callback, and Sonic CD Time Travel transitions add layers of nostalgia.

Even the bosses pay homage to Sonic and SEGA, with the Chemical Plant Zone Act 2 boss resembling Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Studiopolis Zone Act 2 referencing the Sonic 25th-anniversary livestream audio hiccup.

The game’s animations are a visual delight, with characters moving fluidly and showcasing charming gestures during idle moments. Details like Knuckles pondering before approaching the Master Emerald and Sonic shaking off a drop of water, reminiscent of Sonic Spinball, highlight the attention to detail that elevates Sonic Mania’s experience.

Beyond visuals and music, the game’s achievements are packed with references, spanning not only SEGA games but also nods to Pokémon and even a Charles Dickens book. The sheer charm and the plethora of Easter Eggs make Sonic Mania Plus a joy to explore.

While the abundance of references might alienate those unfamiliar with Sonic, I believe they add an extra layer of enjoyment for those who stumble upon them. The game’s timeless charm overshadows any concerns about potential datedness, making it a standout in the Sonic series.

Tweaks that need some Work within Sonic Mania Plus

I want to believe Sonic Mania Plus is perfect, but there are issues. Some say Boss fights are too hard; I find them too easy and gimmicky at times. For example, Metal Sonic in Stardust Speedway Zone Act 2 requires waiting for mini-Sonic robot clones to spin dash into him. Simple concept, but execution fails due to random launch angles.

While I praised the Eggman Boss Battle in Chemical Plant Zone Act 2, it’s a Puyo Puyo puzzle, confusing those expecting a traditional platformer boss. Some zones have inconsistent or slow pacing; Oil Ocean Zone Act 1’s return was a letdown, but the remixed version fixed issues.

During my first playthrough of Flying Battery Zone Act 1, I got lost, though subsequent plays clarified the stage structure. Despite these gripes, Sonic Mania Plus is a great classic formula throwback. No framerate or controller compatibility issues. The precision requirement makes mistakes feel my fault, not the game’s. Even with DENUVO Malware, the game’s charm persists, though the use of such software isn’t forgiven.

The Encore Package: A Great Cake without Icing.

Let’s talk Encore Package. Mighty and Ray lack unique stories in Mania Mode, unlike Knuckles. Encore Mode is the main attraction—a post-Mania and Sonic Forces experience. Angel Island Zone kicks it off, rescuing Mighty or Ray from a capsule. Stage layouts change, offering new paths and tougher bosses. Special Stages are reversed and more challenging, with a new Bonus Stage.

Encore Mode ditches Lives for a Party System. Sonic and Ray/Mighty start, with hidden monitors adding Tails, Knuckles, and the unchosen character. Losing characters doesn’t end the game; you swap in standby characters. Despite potential difficulty, ample chances to recover make it manageable. By the end, I had five Continues.

However, the effort for the alternate Chaos Emerald ending feels disproportionate to the lackluster conclusion. Spoiler-free, it’s underwhelming. Despite this, the $5 USD price tag makes Encore Mode a worthwhile DLC, offering more than two characters. I wish Mighty and Ray had more emphasis, maybe even their own stages. Solid with a new mode, but a bit more could’ve made it exceptional.

Sonic Mania Plus: The best Classic Sonic Game to Date.

The fact that Sonic Mania Plus is a game that was created by fans of the series just tells how much love and dedication went into it. The work in the level design and the attention to detail are just parts of the big love letter to Classic Sonic fans. And honestly, it couldn’t have been done better.

Sonic Mania has some faults to its name, however. These don’t deter from the experience like before, in fact, it only makes me appreciate the amount of great things the game does even more than before. While I may have my gripes with the Encore Package or the game in general, it’s still a fantastic game all around.

It just seems like a sin to give Sonic games a positive score despite how much love and work is put into it. It especially seems to be the case with some critics in the industry (Along with that circlejerk of YouTubers who keep saying there are no good Sonic Games at all).

However, I believe that Sonic Mania Plus has an incredibly fair price tag of $25 USD for what should be considered a Premium AAA title, not only that but the DLC only adds more to the experience and brings a valid excuse to dust off the copy of the game you have and play it again. With that said, Welcome to the Next Level!

Sonic Mania Plus Rating – 4.5/5

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Moiz Banoori is the brains behind eXputer. Having worked at various Video Game sites, with 8 years of Content Writing Experience and a Journalism Degree at hand, he presently monitors teams, creates strategies, and publishes qualified pieces through his aptitude at eXputer. Feel free to get in touch with him through his gaming profile on Steam and PSN.

Experience: 8+ Years || Manages Teams, Creates Strategies, and Publishes Guides on eXputer || Education: Bachelors in Journalism.

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