I’m going to tell you a tale and like all good tales it begins in a mysterious time known as the 90’s when movies were watched on VHS’, women got their hair did like Rachel from friends and anthropomorphic characters with attitude were all the rage. It was during this time that a young Zombie would take karate lessons two nights because his dream job was (and still is) to be a Power Ranger. One night after said lessons he came home to find a strange black box called a Master System II waiting for him that one could put cartridges in and play games. Not only was there this brand new thing called a console set up in his home it came with 3 games 2 of which were based on movies he utterly loved; Ghostbusters and Back to the Future which confused and disorientated him but luckily for him there was still one more cartridge he had to try. The last case contained a simple image of a blue hedgehog against the classic black and white grid-like background with big red letter reading Sonic and the rest as they say is history. Zombie grew into a man (child) but he always had a soft spot for the blue ball of attitude sticking by him when others wouldn’t, playing tennis with Sonic, teaming up with others to be Heroes and yes even when there was weird that weird human hedgehog romance. Now in 2018 Sega has released Sonic Mania Plus but does it take Sonic back to his glory days or is it just another addition to Sonic’s neckerchief pile.
Sonic Mania was originally released as a digital download in August of 2017 to commemorate The Blue Blurs 25th anniversary and received critical and commercial success leading to fans and Sega Representitives wanting an unplanned physical release. Almost a year later their wish was granted with the release of Sonic Mania Plus which released with a spiffy reversible Mega Drive cover, an art book detailing some of the design process, along with new characters, levels and game modes. The new character introductions meant that the developers had to go and recreate the levels to allow these characters to be used to their fullest with Mighty the Armadillo being able to break through certain textures and Ray the Flying Squirrel well er, gliding.
Upon starting the game you are granted with a very simple cut scene depending on your chosen character they will be doing whatever they do best like Sonic running or Knuckles just lazing about in the forest like a boss only to be disturbed by Eggman who is drilling to uncover a brand new Chaos Emerald. That is your set up, no convoluted story about a werehog or way to set up various characters from different eras meeting up it’s good old fashioned simple Sonic. From there you are transported to Green Hill Zone and sent on your merry way.
Your goal is to get to the end of the act and defeat the boss that is lying in wait for you. Along the way you will be able to access bonus stages to collect blue spheres or jump into giant hidden rings which transport you to a bonus stage to collect the Chaos Emeralds by racing a UFO. These bonus stages also give you a chance to gain medallions which will allow you to unlock a plethora of bonus content.
As for the actual stages themselves, pure bliss, well for the most part. Each Zone is beautifully made and such a joy to traverse with each stage having multiple paths, screen transitions and gimmicks that all feel like they belong. Each act has a handful of new enemies to encounter reflecting the theme of the Zone some with unique ways to deal with or avoid. Other times you can run into enemies you have been facing for the last however many odd years but never did it feel stale as Sonic Mania is simply a fresh coat of paint but a breath of fresh air.
The music for each level, while not the rocking tunes of Crush 40, feels like they were left over Michael Jackson tracks from the days of Sonic 3. Each Zone’s theme again reflected perfectly in the music which is not only really good but really re memorable.
However the game does have some slight blemishes here and there. At times everything can be a bit too fast leaving you to miss things you didn’t want to like items, rings or paths. Other times you will be zipping back and forth so quickly that you can lose all momentum during a switch in direction leaving you to fall off whatever platform you happen to be on. Hit boxes can also be awkward at times both with Sonic’s crew and the enemies to the point that some bosses can hit you in ways that can block you off from being able to collect your rings before they disappear. Smaller enemies blend into the environment just a little too much at times, with everything being so colourful it can get hard keep tracking of what everything on stage is.
Have any of these things hampered my joy while playing through Sonic Mania Plus? Absolutely not! Sonic Mania is a blast, the game is beautiful to look at, to play and to listen to. The goal of a game by fans for fans has paid off for Sega who have managed to deliver a title that surpasses the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia but smashes them to stand on its own two feet. If you didn't pick up the digital version then I highly recommend picking up Sonic Mania Plus on either the Playstation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch.
Zombie reviewed a retail copy of Sonic Mania Plus for the Playstation 4.