After the great reception that Sonic Mania received last year, it’s no surprise that SEGA wanted to give people more, and resurrected a couple of fan-favourite characters in the process. Whereas the main title lets you play as Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, Encore also gives you Mighty and Ray.
Accessed from the main menu, Encore Mode brings more than just a couple of new characters, but honestly not much in the way of levels, since the stages are all the same. There are some differences, to allow for the new characters of course, but apart from half of Act One of Angel Island there’s nothing brand new. Oh, it allows you to play multiplayer with four people, and the option to save replays of Time Attacks, too.
However, the Bonus Stage that you access from the Star Posts is now a pinball table. That actually plays into the gameplay of the main stages, so honestly I’m glad to not have more of the one from Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The Special Stages are the same thing, just remixed - catch the UFO, stay on the path, don’t run out of time.
Back to what the Bonus Stage pinball mini-game is all about. During the main stages, you don’t have lives. In place of them are the other characters - you control two at a time - and once a character dies you restart from the closest checkpoint with the next character in the line. Once they’re all gone, it’s Game Over, so to get them back you have to play pinball. When you hit the top section of the table, you get the chance to play a claw game to grab one of your dead characters, a shield, rings or to reset the rings on the table. Grab a character, it gets returned into play - I managed to grab three out of my four dead characters in one Bonus Stage, which was a heck of a relief.
On to the gameplay of the main stages with the new characters. Ray (a flying squirrel) is another glider, like Knuckles, but you have to make him swoop to gain height. It’s a really interesting mechanic, unfortunately limited by the amount of levels that just don’t have that kind of space. Mighty (an armadillo) smashes straight down at the ground, which will break blocks and pop Badniks that are too close. More interesting is the fact that he can survive certain hazards such as spikes and some projectiles unscathed.
Overall this is the best Sonic DLC available, and that includes the Sanic t-shirt for Sonic Forces. It’s not that expensive, and brings in two new characters that aren’t just simple reskins. Using the team of characters in place of lives is a really interesting move, though I’m glad they kept it to the DLC instead of the main game. I just wish there was more to write about, other than the remixing of levels, soundtrack and the slightly different multiplayer mode.
Sonic Mania Plus (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
It brings more of that great Sonic Mania flavour, remixed in some slightly different ways, but the absence of some new levels stirred in leaves a disappointing taste in the mouth.