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Sonic Mania Plus Review

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Sonic Forces is probably one of the worst games I played in 2017. It almost made me give up on my favourite blue hedgehog after spending years of my childhood playing the Sonic games. What could SEGA possibly do to bring the mascot back into the gaming world without completely ruining everything we love about him? Well, the answer has been sitting under their noses the whole time. SEGA is clearly better at staying with what they know and Sonic Mania is just that. I never got around to playing the game last year and the Sonic Mania Plus is a complete collection of both Sonic Mania and Sonic Mania Encore. It takes you back to the roots of the series and from the opening screen right through to every stage and to the end of the game, it serves a healthy platter of nostalgia.

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If you have not guessed it by now, Sonic Mania is a 2D platforming reimagining of the classic SEGA Saturn series. The way it looks, sounds and plays is a true tribute to the era and it truly pays tribute to the older days by successfully checking all the boxes you expect from an old-school "modern" release. The game takes place after the events of Sonic and Knuckles and sees Sonic, Tails and Knuckles go up against the infamous Dr Eggman. The dastardly villain has enlisted the help of some Eggman-like robot clones to help him take over the world or whatever he is up to. Like all past Sonic games, the story is not the focal point and I could not care less about what I am doing and why. 

The opening zones take place in the classic Green Hill and from the moment the game loaded I knew I was in for a fantastic ride. The classic soundtrack kicked off and the environment looks so familiar that all I needed was a SEGA Genesis controller in my hand and it would be like I was living in the early nineties all over again. 

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Everything oozes nostalgia and I could not help but stop and stare at the small details that have been created to make the game look as classic as possible. There is clearly a higher standard of sprites used to bring the game to life and use more resources than SEGA did back in the day. Stages are massive with multiple pathways and hidden chambers to find. Enemies vary from the classics to new deadly foes and of course, the parkour has managed to see a big revamp with new ways to get around like a floating bubble, airship even funnel-like pipes that see you quickly pressing the right direction to make sure you go the right way. 

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You would have to play each level a few times to see where each path takes you and to really get the most out of the level design. Of course, while you are going about the experience the awesome soundtrack and great animations come to life in all its nostalgia. This is all then backed by a classic movement system that also feels as if you are controlling Sonic from back in the day. Sonic is stiff and the movement is hard to master. Something that brought back all the memories of my raging as a kid.  Everything is also delivered in a gorgeous widescreen aspect ratio with a smooth framerate. 

Tails and Knuckles can also be controlled in the levels too and they offer new ways to play and explore each stage thanks to their unique abilities. Tails can fly like he always did in the past games and Knuckles can climb making them a considerable option in the stages. Not to mention that all the classic bonus stages are also back too. One that sees Sonic run around a sphere collecting blue balls and avoiding red ones and another that sees him race across a 3D track to chase down a chaos gem before the timer runs out. All these bonus stages play true to the classic Sonic games and are just another way the game delivers the promise of the classic reimagining. 

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The level variety in Sonic Mania is what kept me going even after dying a couple of times in the same place. From the Green Hill Zone to Chemical Plant Zone to even the awesome Casino Zone. Sonic Mania brings it all to life while making it feel like an old-school game. Each level also ends with a boss fight that all vary in experience and style. One saw me trying to bash a giant spider-like crab machine into spike while climbing up a tower and the other saw me trying to suck Eggman up through a water vacuum while trying to avoid his bombs. Most of these fights are quite easy but they do sometimes test your patience as the fast-paced chases could see you lose all your rings in an instant with no way to get them back. 

As I played through Sonic Mania I unlocked more modes to experience for just enjoying the game. Competition and Time Attack offer new ways to experience each zone and after getting all the Chaos Emeralds you can experience the true ending of the game. 

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Sonic Mania Plus may have the original Sonic Mania included which is everything mentioned above but it also has a complete standalone experience called "Encore" included in the package too. This game sees you play as Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel through a series of stages. Both characters have their own unique abilities like Mighty's ground pound and Ray's glide ability. The levels have been designed specifically around these character's skills and it works well considering these two characters are new to the series. It almost feels like they have belonged in the series the whole time and their character style and direction stays true to the Sonic recipe. 

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Encore mode takes you through alternate versions of the older stages and as you go about each stage you will unlock new playable characters. The only downside is that once you die with that character you will swap to another one. This feature replaces the lives system from the main game and the fact that you can play all five characters in one stage if you are careful is pretty cool. There is very little to say about this other than the change of pace is welcomed especially after you spend 3-4 hours playing the main game. 

Sonic Manis Plus is a fantastic package. If you haven't played it yet then this is the edition you want to pick up. It comes with both Sonic Mania and the Encore mode which totals a good 5-6 hours of gameplay. You then have those darn Chaos Emeralds to try and track down and the unlocked modes to check out so the value goes above and beyond the asking price here.

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This review was conducted based on a review copy sent to us by SEGA

Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch| Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 17 July 2018 | RRP: R319

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