In November of 2012, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed dropped to a positive critical and fan reception. Some considered it a contender with Mario Kart, while others would argue that, at the time, it may even have surpassed it. Transformed, unfortunately, had its fair share of bugs, some of which were sorted but many that, to this day, haven’t been. Fast forward to today, and after a healthy delay, we now have Team Sonic Racing. Gone are the transforming vehicles and colorful SEGA cast, instead replaced with Sonic mainstays and a focus on cooperative gameplay. And while in a few areas, Team Sonic Racing feels like a step or two towards improvement, it takes several flights worth of stairs tumbling backwards.
So, Sonic Forces. It’s tough to know what to say about it. The game has been out for a while now and admittedly this review is coming a little late, but if Forces shows us anything it’s that the franchise itself needs to slow down and take time for a bit of reflection. Having had longer to digest the game, perhaps we can have a better idea of what went wrong, what went right and just how we got here.
The first trailer for the game in 2016 could be described as confusing. Announced as Project Sonic 2017, many fans (myself included) really didn’t know how to parse what they had just seen. After what had then been years of light, fluffy, Saturday morning cartoon-esque stories, we had a trailer showcasing a seemingly ruined world, overrun by Eggman’s giant Death Egg Robots destroying everything – and wait, Classic Sonic’s here too? Just what is happening? That question, along with the fact that this was being developed by the team behind Colors and Generations, was enough to raise eyebrows and generate significant interest in the title, even alongside the also-announced Sonic Mania. It’s fair to say that expectations were tempered (especially after Lost World) but many fans were expecting a return to the ‘boost gameplay’ that, love it or hate it, has probably been one of Sega’s more successful attempts at doing Sonic gameplay in 3D yet.
So is that what we got? Well, kind of.
SEGA seems quite happy with the success of last year’s release of Sonic Mania. Sonic Team took a risk with passionate independent developers has paid off. After it became quite possibly the best commercial iteration of 2D Sonic, SEGA thought it would be best to entice players with not just added content but also a reason for players to put it on their shelf. SEGA is giving you several ways to experience Sonic Mania Plus, the expansion for the original Sonic Mania coming out for all digital releases of the game including Steam as well as disc and cart based versions for all consoles containing the full game and the Plus content. SEGA was kind enough to give us a Nintendo Switch copy for review a week before launch.
Much of what you come to expect from Mania echoes from Neo Hazard’s review when the game originally released. A lot of it’s key points remain the same here, such as sharing significant connections with the development team that could show bias in this review. If you want to know more about the main game, you can read about those thoughts in Neo’s original review. Surprisingly the development team also saw fit to make changes to the main game to tighten up the experience in some areas which does not need the Plus expansion. This includes revised boss patterns, updated level layouts to accommodate for the new characters and making certain challenges easier to handle. Whether you’re buying into Mania for the first time or looking to check out Encore Mode with Ray and Mighty, this review will cover what’s changed and what’s new. The Plus in Sonic Mania refers to the fact that it really is just more of Sonic Mania. While there is one new level the Plus content is more of a remix of what all is available. This is ideal for those who have mastered Sonic Mania along with more features that are enticing to newcomers and the small price is like leaving a generous tip at your favorite walk-in restaurant.