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Review: Sonic Mania: Encore (Nintendo Switch)By Azuardo At 01.08.2018 19:52

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It doesn't take much to get a Sonic the Hedgehog fan hyped up for more Sonic Mania. SEGA could have released a five-second trailer saying "More Sonic Mania is coming" and that would have been enough. There was a bit more to the marketing than that, though. The average person might have expected more than what this Encore DLC pack put together, however. The £4 price point warrants a double take, because that is unusually cheap for what surely must include a few brand-new stages.

Sadly, there aren't any new levels to be found. In fact, this is actually quite a limited package. The full content is essentially two new playable characters in the form of Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel (old-school fans may remember these guys, who now get a chance to shine with the success of Sonic Mania); the Encore Mode, which introduces some adjustments in all zones for the new characters to take advantage of with their abilities; and the option to now play multiplayer with three or four friends locally.

Four-player split-screen is great, and looks surprisingly good now that the screen sizes are downsized appropriately. Even in two-player, the option is there to choose between a squashed, stretched output, or smaller individual boxes that maintain scale, where the latter is much easier on the eyes; all at 60 frames per second, too. It seems a bit ridiculous to put three- and four-player multiplayer behind a paywall, though. Some minor updates were included in a base game patch at the time the Encore DLC launched, such as adding extra cut-scene transitions between stages, so one might have thought the new multiplayer may have been bundled in free of charge, as well.

Regardless, very few people are likely going to be buying Encore for its multiplayer update, so its inclusion can be seen as a bonus to the core of the pack, which is clearly the two characters and Encore Mode. Mighty, as his name implies, is a bit of a bruiser, and can unleash a slamming piledrive into the ground with a press of the jump button in mid-air, allowing him to bust through weak floors, destroy nearby enemies, and knock items down from trees. Ray has the ability to glide up and down in a style extremely similar to that of Mario when equipped with his cape in Super Mario World - but this move isn't as cheap as the plumber's almost game-breaking aerial skill.

Encore Mode essentially lets you run through the game again, presenting three separate save files and some slightly reworked zones that allow Mighty and Ray to put their abilities to the test. Breakable floors and sneakily-placed platforms are common, but the end result isn't anything drastically different than what has been seen before in the standard Mania Mode. Part of this is due to the fact that all five characters are playable in Encore Mode.

In fact, the means of gaining lives is also different here as there are actually no lives to collect at all. Instead, players find extra characters as they progress through levels, adding them to the reserve stock. In classic Donkey Kong Country fashion, when one character dies, the next jumps into the action. Having at least two in total will always ensure two are visible on-screen, with a press of the X button flicking between controlling either one. Swapping in another character in reserve is done through special item boxes. It sounds a little complicated, but, if all goes swimmingly, you can have up to five characters available at one time, giving extra leeway for mistakes. Lose that last remaining character, however, and it is game over.

This is a pleasing change to the original format, where it provides another level of challenge and allows all characters to have a more meaningful presence in the game, thus ensuring players get accustomed to their unique styles of play. That aforementioned problem of zones still just being too similar to their Mania counterparts rears its head too often, though, and without the chance to collect emblems (which are absent in place of tedious pinball stages that are a means to acquiring back-up characters, power-ups, and rings), there isn't too great a desire to essentially re-run the game in this way, unless desperate for a reason to come back to this overall quality title.

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Final Score
[i]Sonic Mania[/i]'s [i]Encore[/i] pack gets away with having not much to offer because of its almost irresistible price. Super fans will lap this up in an instant, appreciating the addition of two new characters with unique abilities and slightly adjusted zones to put them to use in, but this isn't enough to entice the less hardcore [i]Sonic Mania[/i] owner. Completely fresh zones would have really changed that. Guess that's a job for [i]Sonic Mania 2[/i].



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