With Sonic Mania Plus, people get a new opportunity. The cast of Sonic Mania expands, bringing in characters from SegaSonic the Hedgehog to the show. People who are unfamiliar with Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel might be confused. After all, one looks a little like Knuckles and the other sounds like it relies on an ability Tails pretty much has nailed. But in action, each of these characters does something pretty substantial for the game and give people a chance to experiment with new techniques.
Mighty and Ray are available in both Sonic Mania Plus’ Mania and Encore modes. In the former, you can choose which character you want to use and stick with him for the rest of the adventure. In Encore, Sonic will have the option to choose either Mighty or Ray as his initial partner before heading on the remixed adventure. If you are unfamiliar with these characters, I would suggest going with Encore mode first, as its ability to switch between the lead and partner characters would give you the freedom to go between them as you learn which one works best for your needs or current situation.
Of the two characters, I would say Mighty is the most forgiving. For the most part, he plays like Sonic. You are relying on his speeds and standard jumps to get through Sonic Mania Plus. But what’s nice about him is how well he can attack enemies or environmental blockades. Basically, he ground pounds. If you make him jump, then press the jump button again, he will execute a Hammer Drop. This destroys any enemy below him and could also create an impact that makes item boxes drop or things like rocks crumble. There is a familiarity here.
Mighty also can be forgiving. Due to his hard shell, he can land on spikes once and not take damage. So say you are running through a level and mess up the timing on a jump. Mighty hits a spike trap. As long as you immediately jump up to a safer place, you will not take any damage. Your rings will remain intact, unless you do something like… well… have Mighty keep standing on the spikes. I felt like this was especially helpful in Encore mode, where you have to rely on keeping the characters you have with you alive to survive.
Ray, on the other hand, requires a bit more finesse. His gimmick is the ability to glide. It is executed in a manner similar to Tails’ flight. Once Ray jumps, you press the jump button again to begin the Air Glide. It is a move that can be undeniably helpful, but it requires space and timing. Once Ray is in the air, you use the D-pad to alternate between diving and pulling back. If you can get the rhythm down, he can fly further than Knuckles or Tails. But, it takes time to learn how to do this, he is vulnerable to attacks in the air while this is going on and you might not always find great areas to employ this ability in every level. Which, again, means he is a good pick for Encore mode, where you could swap him out for someone with a more useful ability until you find a place where Air Glide could come in handy.
Both Mighty and Ray bring something new to Sonic Mania Plus. They function in ways Sonic, Knuckles and Tails do not, offering alternatives when adventuring. Mighty could be helpful for someone starting out, due to his ability to take one spike hit without damage and his Hammer Drop attack. Meanwhile, Ray is a technical character who requires people to put in the effort to working out how to maximize his time in the air. Each one can help make things interesting.
Sonic Mania Plus will be available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on July 17, 2018.