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Sonic Mania - Encore DLC Review

Most gamers are familiar with Sonic as a character. He is one cool spiky blue hedgehog, generally on a mission to save the poor defenseless animals captured by Doctor Eggman. In this particular installment from Sega, Doctor Eggman has employed a group of elite EggRobos, each with unique powers and abilities (now known as the Hard Boiled Heavies) that are wreaking havoc around Angel Island. Sonic is not alone in his mission, however. He is joined by his good friends, Tails and Knuckles, as they investigate exactly what is going on.

GETTING BACK TO ITS ROOTS

Sonic games have been around for decades now, and in that time they’ve gone from 2D to 3D, to platforming, collecting, questing, and just about everything in between. Sonic Mania takes the series back to its beginnings and allows new fans of the franchise to enjoy the classic feeling of Sonic games they might otherwise have missed out on.

The 2D, side-scrolling platformer revives the feeling of many of the classic levels seen as early as the Sega Genesis games. The graphics are bright, crisp, and pay homage to the original feel of the series. The animations are extremely smooth and give the game a very polished look. All the usual small enemies can be found, and the character designs of Sonic and the gang match those of the original titles. It really feels like dropping back into one of the original Sonic games, which is definitely not a bad thing. For players looking for an even more authentic experience, Sega have included options that let you set the graphics to look just like the original style, and even have the display emulate an old CRT monitor.

LET’S DO THE TIME WARP!

Sonic Mania takes players back, but doesn’t feel stuck in the past. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but there are many positives that make this game truly enjoyable. To get the negative out of the way, it has to be said that the default controls on anything other than a controller are downright painful. Thanks to the PC release, these can be changed to something that works a lot better but still is a painful point for the port of this title. Some of the level design can also be a little choppy, interrupting good speed runs with unexpected walls.

Those things aside, there are good unlocks and additional modes to be found — enough to keep players entertained for hours if they want to experience everything. There is very little in the way of plot, just like old Sonic titles. You are dropped onto Angel Island, and aside from a brief view of the Hard Boiled Heavies, it’s straight down to the business of collecting rings and fighting bosses.

THIS PLACE SEEMS AWFULLY FAMILIAR…

The maps themselves are interesting, with plenty of details and lots going on if you actually stop on your way through to look. There are both new and familiar levels and outlines, though all incorporate unique touches to bring the game up to the 21st century. If that wasn’t enough, there are many hidden secrets and bonus stages to be accessed as you quest for Chaos Emeralds and try to hunt down Doctor Eggman.

Speaking of hunting down Doctor Eggman, the game does an excellent job of increasing the difficulty with each stage. Levels get progressively harder and each boss has unique mechanics and range from the incredibly easy first stage boss, to the almost impossible final encounter. It provides a challenging and yet rewarding experience for gamers and makes you want to keep coming back for more.

AN ALL-STAR LINE-UP?

As you might expect, Sonic,Tails, and Knuckles make great appearances with their signature moves. They are great at fighting bosses, whether solo or running as a tag-team. Those looking for a nostalgic experience will have great fun with any of these three, as they all add big positives to the game.

The Encore DLC gives us two additional characters, Mighty the armadillo and Ray the flying squirrel, but they’re a bit of a mixed bag, unfortunately. Mighty adds some really interesting gameplay and unique abilities, such as being immune to spikes when in ball form. Like Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, he traverses the levels well and makes for a rewarding experience. Unfortunately for Ray, while the character design is cute and fits in well with the classic levels, the controls are another matter. Ray’s unique ability is that he can glide through the air without losing altitude, though this can be clunky to use and makes speed-running extremely difficult. In the right sort of level his ability is very helpful, but that’s not most levels. It definitely adds an element of challenge, but ultimately he is the weakest of the three characters. Currently, the rest of the crew (Amy, Shadow, etc.) are missing as of yet, but the ones that are available offer plenty of variation, so it’s not a huge loss.

SO, ABOUT THAT DLC…

For those wondering what else the DLC brings with it, unfortunately there isn’t a lot more to say. Two new characters and some remixed levels are about the extent of it. So is it worth it? If you’re looking for a couple of extra characters, then yes, but if you were hoping to get completely new levels or play modes, then the DLC is very much lacking.

The one major saving grace for the add-on is the extremely cheap price tag. It makes investing in it much easier, and makes those extra characters even more accessible. Still, the base game stands up extremely well on its own, and the DLC is a fairly painless add-on for the price asked.

7

The Verdict: Great

At the heart of this game is the desire to revive some of the original Sonic feel, as is clear from the designs, levels, and implementation of mechanics throughout this title. That said, there is a level of polish and some merging of things (like bonus stages from the various Sonic titles) that mean the game still feels fresh and new. While not perfect, fans of the franchise, and even those new to it, are bound to enjoy Sonic Mania. Affordable DLC makes the additional spend worth it if you want more characters and thus ways to complete the game itself. Overall, this is a great addition to the Sonic series. If you want to experience the original magic of Sonic without having to dig out an old Sega Genesis console, this is definitely the title to pick up.

Melanie Hawthorne
Written by
August 01, 2018
Published in Action

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Mel is a London-based copywriter that has been writing about video games for a few years now. After growing up in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs (which included working as a web developer, shopkeeper and translator) before she settled on what she really wanted to do – periodically anger video game fans by expressing her opinions on games through various online publications. When she’s not writing about video games, she’s probably playing them... or walking her dog in a park. Since that depends largely on the English weather, Mel has plenty of time to indulge in her favourite games. These include but are not limited to Ark: Survival Evolved, Skyrim, GTA V, and oddly enough, Amnesia: Memories. She loves Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. She thinks Star Trek is way better than Star Wars and isn’t afraid to admit it – Live long and prosper!

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