On part of this website that fascinates me is the ability to go back over older games, play them with a fresh pair of eyes and then post a review on them. This week my son threw down a gauntlet that he could complete Sonic Mania Plus before myself, with him being 75% through the game and me having not started it as I purchased it for shelf eye-candy.
The challenge was accepted and I began, begrudgingly, the journey of chaos that lay before me in Sonic Mania Plus.
He’s not an Italian plumber
Sonic the Hedgehog was always a game that seemed worlds apart for me when growing up. The games were so dissimilar to Nintendo titles, and obviously for good reason. I played all the classics, and even some of the newer games that were released, after the franchise started going downhill somewhat. Sonic Mania Plus seems to capture the retro-feel of the originals perfectly. From the music, the 16-bit styled graphics and level designs – everything is as an original Sonic game would look back in the 80’s and 90’s.
The levels have been meticulously constructed with elements from all the original games, extra length and some genius creativity that makes them longer, more challenging and absolutely huge in size compared to a standard platform game.
Each zone has two levels instead of the more common three, and you will find boss fights at the end of each stage too. The bosses are extremely different on each stage. Some of them were also tricky to work out what you need to do. Some of the bosses are much harder than others due to the lack of coins and sometimes that fact that you cannot hit some bosses without getting hit yourself.
The levels have been designed in huge layouts, which in one play through would be near impossible to map in your mind. This means there are various ways to get to the end of a stage. It also means that there are plenty of secrets to be found. In true Sonic fashion though, there are plenty of level elements that mean that you don’t really control the character as he whizzes round ramps and loops in disregard to what the player is doing with the controller.
Sometimes this lack of control and incredibly fast speed to the game mean that you will bump into enemies and spikes without the ability to stop yourself.
Sonic Mania Plus took me around 5 hours to complete Mania mode. This is a very short game for a (currently) £24.99 price-tag. From a personal perspective I was relieved that I had completed the game due to the frustration of feeling out of control.
There is an interesting feature in the game for a multiplayer mode where 1-4 players can ultimately race each stage to see who finishes first. Personally I found this level of originality lacking.
The Plus element of this game gives two new characters, Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo, as well as Encore Mode which remixes the level designs and adds pinball.
The final spin
I played the game with an open mind, and I can see the appeal to fans of the original Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy of games. The graphical style, music and gameplay have been fantastically imitated onto a newer generation of console.
As a standalone game I would personally find the title lacking in a few areas. These included gameplay mechanics, the unoriginality of the game modes featured on the cartridge, and the length of the game itself. I feel that for many players there may not be a huge sense of longevity within the title, and that the price-tag would be better if it was priced as a standard downloadable mid-range indie title.
I would also like to add – I won my sons challenge, but he is seven years old after all.