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Sonic Mania Plus Review - Encore! Encore!

  • First Released Aug 15, 2017
  • Reviewed Jul 10, 2018
  • PS4
  • XONE
  • PC
  • NS

Take me back in time to another world.

From the opening title's splash screen, Sonic Mania's presentation is intoxicating. Its colorful, retro 2D graphics and vibrant '90s-inspired pop soundtrack is enough to make any Sega Genesis fan squeal in excitement. In this jointly developed game, Sega and members of the Sonic fan-hack community have created a loving homage to the blue hedgehog's glory days. But Sonic's latest outing isn't only concerned with reminding you of his past; though it is decadent in this regard. Sonic Mania exceeds expectations of what a new game in the franchise can look and play like, managing to simultaneously be a charming celebration of the past and a natural progression of the series' classic 2D formula.

Taking place shortly after the events of Sonic & Knuckles, the game's story sees Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles getting involved once again in a battle against Dr. Eggman--this time over a mysterious emerald artifact. However, the conniving scientist isn't alone; enlisting the help of the Hard-Boiled Heavies--a group of customized Eggrobos. But the story takes a backseat as the time honored premise endures: defeat Eggman and his baddies, and collect all the Chaos Emeralds.

Sonic Mania makes a strong first impression thanks to amazing visuals and music. Its presentation replicates the charming aesthetic of Sonic's earliest games with thorough detail. While the pixelated sprites of Sonic and friends are reminiscent of their Sega Genesis' counterparts, they take on a new life with a higher degree of detail and animation quality. The new effects add an extra layer of personality to the iconic characters that's a joy to see in motion.

On the other end of the spectrum, the game sports an assortment of new music tracks and remixes of greatest hits. They channel the New Jack Swing dance music stylings that heavily influenced Sonic's soundtracks in the '90s, remaining just as catchy and well-orchestrated here. Both visuals and music work together in Sonic Mania to build up an aesthetic that's evocative of earlier games, but in a pleasing style that feels contemporary all on its own.

On top of Sonic Mania's fantastic presentation, the game also controls like a classic-style Sonic game. You have the option to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles; you can even work cooperatively with another player as Sonic and Tails a la Sonic 2. From the get go, the movement physics and overall feel of each character are distinct yet familiar, staying faithful to the originals. The gang's unique abilities remain intact, albeit with one exception: Sonic has a new Drop Dash, which allows him to quickly roll forward after a jump. It's a small addition, but it provides a handy new way to pick up speed or avoid incoming danger.

 It can feel exhilarating to pass through a multitude of pathways, especially at top speed.
It can feel exhilarating to pass through a multitude of pathways, especially at top speed.

Level design is at the series' best here, sporting 12 zones that are each meticulously designed with cleverly placed obstacles and varied pathways that keep you guessing. It can feel exhilarating to pass through a multitude of pathways, especially at top speed. No route ahead ever feels incorrect as you sprint through loops or hit springs launching you into different directions, and there are rarely any instances where the action halts without reason. And thanks to the visibility granted by the widescreen aspect ratio and the smooth framerate, your awareness and sense of control running through a zone feels better than Sonic's classic outings ever did.

It also helps that levels are designed around the abilities of each character. While Sonic can blaze a trail through a zone, Knuckles and Tails can find other paths beyond his reach thanks to their respective climbing and flying abilities, which often lead to new ways of experiencing the same stage. It's enjoyable to engage with the subtle ways each character interacts with the world and the conveniences they offer. And you're rewarded for taking the time to do so, as on some occasions, characters even get completely new levels to explore that are designed specifically around their abilities.

We all know where this goes...
We all know where this goes...

Sonic Mania closely follows its forebears, utilizing the exhilarating sense of speed that the 2D games charted their success upon. However, it never incorporates elements from the past purely for the sake of nostalgia; rather, it expands upon the familiar with new ideas of its own. This is most apparent when you play remixed versions of older zones from the first five games. Sonic Mania's version of Sonic 2's Chemical Plant zone introduces a mechanic where you constantly jump on jelly to bounce upwards to new parts of the level. Changes like this liven up the design of well-known levels, offering fresh and gratifying new experiences.

New zones, on top of offering a suite of charming visuals and catchy melodies, deliver plenty of inventive concepts that diversify and build upon the series' fast-paced level design. Whether it's by encouraging you to freeze yourself into an ice block to smash through walls, or challenging you to figure out a maze-like sequence of gates to reach the end of a zone, the ideas the game explores give it a strong sense of identity compared to the originals.

In the same style as Sonic 3, every level culminates in a boss fight--ranging from relatively simple, to demanding set-piece battles where you go head-to-head with Eggman and his minions. However, there are some fights that pay homage not only to past games, but early spin-offs from the Sonic's history, such as Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine and Sonic Fighters. There's also a fair number of more challenging battles that require more advanced tactics to beat. One has you dodging projectiles as you use a series of poles to propel yourself towards a spider robot. Boss fights offer a great balance of difficulty, steadily challenging and entertaining you in numerous ways as you progress.

The past and present seamlessly intermingle in Sonic Mania, answering your nostalgic yearning, while satisfying your thirst for fresh concepts.
The past and present seamlessly intermingle in Sonic Mania, answering your nostalgic yearning, while satisfying your thirst for fresh concepts.
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The more you play Sonic Mania, the more it rewards you with reasons to keep playing. Additional modes like Competition and Time Attack offer other ways to experience its levels. Aside from acquiring all the Chaos Emeralds to obtain the true ending, one of the most compelling reasons to replay zones come from Secrets--Sonic Mania's term for unlocks that give you access to new characters and abilities. For example, you can play through the entire campaign using Sonic's Insta-Shield ability from Sonic 3. You can even unlock "& Knuckles" mode, where a second player can play cooperatively with you as Knuckles instead of Tails.

For years the Sonic series has chased the legacy of its early games, constantly delivering experiences that either came close or failed to recapture the spirit that made them classics. Whether it was by getting wrapped up in story or putting too much emphasis on speed instead of level design, the newer games lost track of what made the originals great. Sonic Mania methodically uses its sentimental appeal to great effect, but in the process, it heals the wounds inflicted by its most disappointing predecessors and surpasses the series' best with its smart and interpretive design. An excellent 2D platformer, Sonic Mania goes beyond expectations, managing to be not only a proper evolution of the series' iconic formula, but the best Sonic game ever made.

Editor's note: Alongside Sonic Mania's physical release is a $5 update (included with the physical) that introduces new features that add even more diversity to the game's high-speed thrills. The most noteworthy addition are classic--albeit lesser-known--characters Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel, who each sport their own unique abilities. Mighty's ground pound makes for a satisfying way to pick up speed and dispatch enemies, and his resistance to spike traps is a nice bonus if you're more a player with an unhealthy desire to accelerate. On the other hand, Ray's momentum-based glide ability takes some getting used to, requiring you to alternate directions on the D-pad after jumping to maintain flight. The thrill of stringing together his high-flying antics with a well-timed jump onto an enemy or platform is well worth the effort to learn. Both Mighty and Ray offer subtle, yet substantial additions to the well-established formula.

Returning players are likely to spend the most time in Encore mode, a new campaign that takes you through remixed versions of the game's stages. But there's a twist: swappable characters replace extra lives. You start as Sonic and slowly accumulate the game's playable cast via item boxes and bonus challenges scattered across the stage. You can control and switch between two characters at a time, but when one dies, that character is lost and switched out with whoever you have left on reserve. Encore Mode is a welcome change-of-pace that makes Sonic Mania's already fantastic levels more tense and exciting. And the ability to play all five characters in a single mode makes the experience all the more varied and joyous.

Beyond these additions and small tweaks, including balancing fixes and the ability to use secret options in any of your save files, Sonic Mania is the same exuberant celebration of Sonic's past. While it was already a fantastic package on the outset, this new update makes it even better than before. If you missed Sonic Mania the first time around, now is the perfect time to catch up.

The original review text and list of good and bad points have been updated to reflect the current version of Sonic Mania. - Matt Espineli, July 10, 6:00 AM PT

Back To Top
The Good
Balances references to the past with new and fresh ideas
Fantastic music and graphical presentation
Characters playstyles stand apart from one another
Top-notch level design and fun unlockables encourage replays
Old and new zones are a joy to play through
The Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Matt was a huge fan of Sonic the Hedgehog growing up, spending countless hours playing the originals with his older brothers and drawing its characters in spiral notebooks. His favorite game in the series used to be Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Random fact: the Sonic R soundtrack holds a special place in his heart. GameSpot was provided with a complimentary copy for the purposes of this review.
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Avatar image for hienyimba

Super mad game. Love this review.

Avatar image for swimbearuk

They obviously missed the cheap boss, which for most players will make them give up after only a few hours. It was a 9 up to that point, but then became a 4. Broken and unplayable. Sega refuse to patch it, so we are stuck with a level that needs to be played for at least a few minutes, to get to a boss that gets in a cheap hit, you lose all your rings in the oil, then can't avoid a second hit. You get a few tries then you have to replay the entire 2 zones again.

I've never seen the rest of the game, or unlocked anything after this, so I'm left with a few levels to replay, which isn't a lot.

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@swimbearuk: So because you can't play well, it's the devs fault, makes sense. Maybe Polygon has a place for you.

Avatar image for rwmgamer85

Did they at least add a Platinum trophy to this version?? If not, might as well not have trophies at all in this game.

Avatar image for wswedin

I laughed painfully at this review. Not because of the game, but the fact the remake for Crash Bandicoot got a 6/10 because the writer was not a fan boy (I hereby dislike Peter Brown for all time for being a biased fool).

Although I am sure this guy is a Sonic fanboy, at least he gave some unbiased points about its construction and how well the game is made. You know the parts that reviews exist for. Now whether or not you like a game series or find it "too hard" back then and now (yes another stab at Peter Brown).

I am just saying, good job Matt Espineli for giving us a REAL review.

Avatar image for tetrapod

@wswedin: Crash is trash, get over it.

Avatar image for Jaxith

@wswedin: You should just let it go. If Crash is something you enjoy, then enjoy it, but bringing it up now is doing more harm to you than anyone else. Peter Brown has his work to stand for him and to be judged in his place. All you have is a vitriolic comment. I don't mean to offend, but bringing it up now after the fact in a completely unrelated review just ends up seeming petty.

I appologize for my candor.

Avatar image for wswedin

@Jaxith: You are absolutely right but I feel a lot better, somewhat guilty, but relaxed.

Avatar image for zyxahn

Never played it. So I would guess I am about to be blown away, with gaming greatness. :)

Avatar image for Keaze_

Totally unrelated but seeing this board being active I will ask:

Did anybody find a boxed copy of Red Faction Guerrilla remarstered?

They're not selling it anywhere in Canada...? How come? It's not listed on best buy, walmart.

Are they selling it boxed in the US?

It's on the PS store though.

Oh wait it's on the EB Games website.

Do they predict that big of a flop?

I've never ever seen big games like these unlisted at best buy or walmart. I mean at least offering Online-only or something. But nope.

If anybody is curious, I wanted to replay it for the trophies. But they didn't get rid of the multiplayer trophies and I'm not about to play 150 hours of dated gameplay.

Might get it when it's 5$.

Wow I just right now saw that PSzone under me is talking about red faction also lol.

Avatar image for playstationzone

So do a review on sonic and you wouldn’t do review on Red FactionG remastered. Because didn’t want Red Faction to sale and ya I saw you play it before came out .

Avatar image for midna

@playstationzone: RF:GR got 69 on metacritic so it did pretty good. Hope they remaster the previous games as well especially the first game. :D

Avatar image for Shinnok789

Gamespot seems to copy Sega's philosophy more and more: why make something new when you can just re-release something old with minor changes and act as if it's new?

That Green Hill zone was re-polished, remade and redone, again and again, at the beginning of so many sonic games... You really can't invent some new levels, Sega? So many gifted people out there, try searching for some, it would make wonders for the Sonic series.

Avatar image for Jaxith

@Shinnok789: First, Green Hill Zone is tradition at this point. It has to be there! Second,this game *did* make new levels. At least half of the game in fact.

Avatar image for csward

The best Sonic game ever? That's a pretty bold statement.

Avatar image for mgespin

@csward: As a Sonic fan, I really love this game. ._. It's fantastic!

Avatar image for horndizz

Ahh no bad points, but still a 9

Avatar image for Jaxith

@horndizz: The bad points don't remove from the score, and neither do good ones add to it. A game with no bad points could be the best game ever made, or the most boringly 'fine' game ever made.

Avatar image for SsangyongKYRON

I am confused. What is the difference between this title and the one released months ago?

Avatar image for Shinnok789

@SsangyongKYRON: the 24 lines of text at the end, entitled "Editor's note", about the release of the "Encore" DLC for this game.

Avatar image for SsangyongKYRON

@Shinnok789: Thanks. Crazy day at work didn't have time to read the whole thing. Question is who bought the old version.. Do they get free update?

Avatar image for mgespin

@SsangyongKYRON: Heya dude! For those who own the game, you gotta pay $5 to purchase the new DLC. From my time with the game, it's super worth it!

Avatar image for superretrogamer

I love old Sonic on Sega! Great game, great times!

Avatar image for sakaixx

You know gamespot, I do actually read reviews. please stop autoplay.

Avatar image for tetrapod

@sakaixx: glad you have time for that, most of us don't.

Avatar image for sakaixx

@tetrapod: yeah its a privilege.

Avatar image for girlusocrazy

Remixed stages? Please five more details. Not sure why this was a footnote.

Avatar image for mgespin

@girlusocrazy: My editor had me cut the larger explanations from my update text, but I'll do my best to explain! Aside from being color swapped, many stages remain very similar to their original counterparts. However, a few new hazards have been added to increase their difficulty. Other stages have had their sections reorganized and there's even a couple that are just straight up new. Overall, the remixes aren't super drastic, but the differences that exist are enough to be refreshing for people revisiting the game after a several months away! I do ponder the experiences of those coming into the mode after just beating the game, but I have to imagine that the change in the lives system is enough to be refreshing.

Avatar image for girlusocrazy

@mgespin: Thanks! I wonder if that is geared towards speed runners? I am very interested in these changes, very into this game, it's the best thing for a Sonic fan since Sonic CD! Thanks again for explaining! _/‾-0_

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

I was reading the review article halfway when something all-too-familiar happened: the page loaded to another one, specifically a page for a non-related GameSpot video.

This is yet more fucking coding for the awfully unreliable GameSpot video player, specifically it's fucking autoplay bullshit.

Avatar image for lionheartssj1

@Gelugon_baat: This. I've been having similar problems. Sometimes even when I try to watch the videos it will stop part way through and take me to another page.

Avatar image for patriotplayer90

Is there any challenge to this game? The new Rayman games cover the no challenge/mindlessly simple gameplay niche. I'd like something that you aren't able to breeze through with your eyes closed.

Avatar image for tetrapod

@patriotplayer90: most side scrollers are mindless

Avatar image for ronaldmcreagan

Blah. More 16bit junk. Not interested.

Avatar image for tetrapod

@ronaldmcreagan: Thanks for letting everyone know, like we care?

Avatar image for consolehaven

Why was this article reposted as new? Just curious.

Avatar image for mgespin

@consolehaven: It just got updated with details and assessment of the brand new Encore DLC! New characters and modes were added.

Avatar image for so_hai

I hate the boss fights. They're just frustrating. The level design is crazy yes, but it's not always flowing.

Avatar image for Franzkill

@so_hai: Each to their own but personally I thought the boss fights were the best parts of the freaking game!

Avatar image for deactivated-5a726f07c989c

A proper Sonic game! I never thought I'd see one again. Bravo, Sega!

Avatar image for forester057

@travis_lawlor: LOL. Its the same exact game I played on my Sega Genesis in 1992 and then again on the gamecube in the early 2000s. This is just another exact replica of the same game. Oh with a spin dash added (that actually was needed - slow ass start ups were a drag). Sonic is as boring as hell - pointless time wasting is not my thing. Time to move on from the nostalgia fueled bs cashgrab games, Sega.

Avatar image for tetrapod

@forester057: Please tell me you don't play Pokemon.

Avatar image for itchyflop

@forester057: in your opinion, some of us welcome the old mechanics and nostalgic game-play only more of it.

What about the cods and BF's that are the same every year, or sandbox titles from the same game fetch quests that make GTA and its respective clones so popular? ? Will they need to move on from their nostalgic roots, i mean iv played GTA over and over on all hardware for years?

Or the countless remasters on each system or rehash's, at least this is NEW (but old..... ahaha :) )

Though i hear you and you clearly don't like these titles, what would you make out of interest to keep things fresh?

How do we or sega move on?

I personally think its great new comers or younger gamers can experience the greatness of Sega in its defining years then only better on a more capable piece of hardware they already own (possibly).


Avatar image for deactivated-5a726f07c989c

@forester057: ok

Sonic Mania More Info

  • First Released Aug 15, 2017
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Sonic Mania brings fans back into the 2D world of platform games with nostalgic pixel-style art and core classic gameplay by reimagining iconic Zones and Acts from Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD and Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles, and adding in completely new Zones with all-new Acts, and bosses into the mix.
    Average Rating89 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Sonic Mania
    Developed by:
    Tantalus Interactive, Sega, PagodaWest Games
    Published by:
    Action, 2D, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Cartoon Violence