The Backstory: We’re dealing with the latest 2D, side-scrolling Sonic instalment; a game that was nearly single-handedly developed by Sonic fan game programmer Christian Whitehead, and reaped the most raving reviews since the Megadrive entries. I think I played it at some point in late 2017 or 2018; however, I have nearly no memories of it. I might not have been in a Sonic mood at the time; a second try was in order, just to make sure I wasn’t missing on a potential New Classic.
The Game: I guess you cannot go wrong with Green Hill and Chemical Plant as openers; whether you can impress or surprise is another matter entirely. I’ll admit it: I was a tad disappointed. Sure, these two zones sport new gimmicks; however, they look and feel way too much like their original versions — which hold no secret for me whatsoever. But then came Studiopolis, and my interest was piqued. Then Flying Battery, one of my favourite Sonic zones ever, with a ton of delicious new gimmicks; by the time the superb Press Garden rolled in, I was the game’s b*tch. I confess: I cleared the entirety of SMP in two settings, over the course of a single day. And I might have played a bit more than two hours.
This is probably the first Sonic game ever in which I love every single zone. Even Oil Ocean, which I loathed in Sonic 2, was a complete delight! Granted, I made the game conveniently easier by wisely picking up Tails; but I don’t think another character would have drastically changed my feelings about SMP. Playing with Sonic wouldn’t have made the mix of old and new zone gimmicks less stellar, or the physics less fantastic; and playing with Knuckles wouldn’t have made the boss battles less inventive and thrilling, or the atmosphere less captivating. Cherry on the cake, the new zones are quite complex while remaining perfectly navigable; I always instinctively knew where to go, and I didn’t get lost a single time. And the gimmicks… Look, SMP sports some of the best gimmicks in the entire series. I could write a whole raving post about these gimmicks; that’s how good and abundant they are.
The Verdict: Let’s end the suspense right away: I fell hard for SMP. I’ve not felt that way about a Sonic game since Sonic 3&Knuckles in the mid-90s; even the Rush games, which I love to pieces, didn’t make me feel that mix of wonderment, delight and giddiness. The whole game had me beaming and enjoying myself; without question, Sonic Mania Plus is a New Classic of mine. Thanks a million, Mr. Whitehead!