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Let's criticise classic Sonic gameplay.

Discussion in 'Fangaming Discussion' started by Deef, Jul 19, 2015.

  1. Laura

    Laura

    Brightened Eyes Member
    What?

    Lives are a frustrating system that shouldn't exist as far as I'm concerned. Sonic 3 doesn't make lives obsolete anyway, you need lives to restart at checkpoints and at the second act. So your dubious argument is inherently flawed anyway :v:

    Sonic 2 was a short game, but would have benefited from a save system.
     
  2. Beltway

    Beltway

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    Oh OK, now I can see what you mean by that complaint. When framed in the context of lives and difficulty I can see your argument.

    That said, I personally don't really find Sonic 3(&K)'s save system that much of a bother, largely because it depends on the situation. Admittedly I rarely go out of my way to pick a certain level and continue from there when I play the classic games nowadays. Indeed, the Genesis Sonic games have a much shorter length and a faster / more "arcadey" gameplay pace compared to other platformers. They are not akin to going through the likes of Mario or DKC, where there are 50+ levels for the player to complete before they finish the game.

    But at the same time, I'm not always keen on starting from scratch with a new playthrough either, especially with the earlier titles (and their own respective predecessor oddities when compared to Sonic 3&K) lacking it unless you go to the debug level select. Sometimes I put a playthrough off and would like to return to it and continue where I left off. Same situation with watching a movie (to quickly touch on your comparison there). In most cases, I do prefer to watch a film from the beginning to the end. But there are times where I stop somewhere in the middle and I prefer to continue from that point when I return to it later. Maybe I'd be in more agreement if this was the only way to engage in Sonic 3(&K) playthroughs, but the game(s) do have a "No Save" option where you can play the game without using a file save, like its predecessors.

    In my book, the issue seems less a result of the save system itself being at fault here, and more to do with how it along with Sonic 3(&K)'s higher leniency on rings/lives in general and the short length of each individual classic Sonic game impacts the games' difficulty as whole. I say the latter bit as while I think this complaint about the save system can certainly apply towards Sonic 3 by itself, due to its even lower amount of acts/zones compared to its predecessors (despite the actual size of those levels being much bigger); I think Sonic 3 & Knuckles' length makes the complaint less consequential. (In light of this, I think this may had been the reason why Sonic & Knuckles by itself didn't come with the save feature a la Sonic 1 and 2.)
     
  3. CSketch

    CSketch

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    I also never got the existence of the homing attack in 2D games, though I think Rush nailed it pretty well, making it a completely optional attack that's basically only for guaranteeing precise hits without being too OP because of its short range (though I think its range is waayyy too short to make it useful at times).

    Anyways, back to Classic Sonic gameplay...

    This problem mostly applies to Sonic 1 and 2 but basically: they gave you big stages with branching paths to explore, but you got little incentive to explore them, CD tried to remedy this with the roboticizers in the Past but those were simlpy frustrating to find because of a problem mentioned way earlier in this thread: levels overall feeling samey (and I mean the actual Acts IN a Zone, different Zones obviously have different gimmicks and stuff to make them different), which can cause the player to get lost quite a bit.

    I mean, in the first two games the most you get is some items and rings to help you get Special Stages but....honestly, getting all of the Chaos Emeralds or Time Stones doesn't give you much, in the first game all they do is change the color of some flowers in the ending sequence (and somehow that clasifies as a best ending?), in the second you get Super Sonic which becomes useless since you lose him as soon as you turn the game off, and in CD all that changes is that in the ending animatic Little Planet just blows up into some sparkleys or something (I never really got that).

    Sonic 3&K fixed both of those problems at once with the simple addition of the Warp Rings as incentive to explore more of the stages in order to get Super and Hyper Sonic, and this time they weren't devalued because of the Save Feature, though the problem of the ending not changing much was still there, permanent Super Sonic and Hyper Sonic in your savefile until it got deleted or your cartridge got screwed over was just enough to make up for it.

    TL;DR Sonic 1 and 2 had no incentive to explore, Sonic CD's incentive was just frustrating and all 3 of those games had no motivation to get all of the mcguffins but it's all right because Sonic 3&K, in my opinion at least, fixed that problem.
     
  4. Deef

    Deef

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    I would love to shoot down the people misreading/badmouthing the thread or its topic. But this isn't the Sega forums and it is my thread, so I don't want anyone crapping it up further.

    @Rika Chou
    Many thanks! That's crazy. I see why the marketing division didn't let that through; I would have felt pretty jipped paying $100 (Australia) for a 6-zone game had I felt that small number of zones was deliberate.


    @SoNick
    I was going to give respect to your opinion about my thoughts on the DKC series, since I definitely didn't play the series a lot. But as I read your comment, honestly, your comment is what I would use as an example of something that hasn't evolved much. All the stuff you wrote in defense of its evolution... is not a lot of stuff, and is not very significant stuff. Not trying to show disrespect to you, and perhaps there were also other, more significant changes I don't know about. I'm only saying that I think your post had the opposite effect to what was intended. The main point back there anyway was that the Sonic series was also too stale, in my opinion, for 5 games. (But I'm also glad that it was, personally.)


    @Laura
    Agreed about the save thing, but yeah, not a problem anymore. Sonic 2 especially could have used a save game level select, at least after completing it. That would have a been a great reward. I think the final boss is great though. Hmm... despite everything I'm about to write to winterhell below, I have a lot of love for Sonic 2's no-nonsense climax. Oldschool vibes...

    Regarding the screen though, pros and cons. Because the ultimate end of the argument that "It's too zoomed in and we can't see things in time" is to pull the camera out far enough to let the player see everything in time. And that is even worse; there isn't a sweet spot in the middle. So the camera's zoom I believe is decided firstly by what looks and feels good, and what is practical is adapted from there. The big sprites and the sense of speed were a big thing for Sonic games, but what I value most about the zoom is that it says in no uncertain terms that level design can handle it. In other words, I actually like the statement it makes that we can make a game where you often travel too fast and see too little for reactions. The game looks and feels better for it, and it gives the level design a fun restriction to work with. Slowing the player down is a thing. Memorisation is a thing (I'm against the idea that leaning on memorisation is necessarily bad).

    As for putting Sonic in the centre, boy, I hate how Sonic CD doesn't do that. It doesn't actually help the player really, I believe. We are still nowhere near reaction time.
    I also dislike how Sonic 4 does it even vertically. So I guess it's simply what I'm used to, but imo Sonic 1-K do it best.


    @Winterhell
    I feel you; there is definitely an experience that is lost with how things are now. But that simply won't fly in a game these days unless the game is obscenely good in a way that doesn't really exist. Expectations around lives systems have changed since the 90s. Nowadays, the gaming audience is much more fickle due to the explosion of options. A bunch of the fundamentals of classic games are broken in modern gaming; lives being meaningful is one of them. Making them near meaningless is intended. Sonic 3 was just part of that. So was Super Mario World. If a modern game does have a lives counter, it also has whatever is necessary to give the player infinite lives without being explicit about it.

    Sonic 4 is probably the dumbest example of this; a triple digits lives counter, combined with stages that hemorrhage 1-ups at you, when the game already provides an act select. Meanwhile DKCR gives the player 2 extra lives near many difficult checkpoints, so you only gain the more you die, plus you can literally buy them in bulk. NSMB drops 13 lives on you in the very first level, which you can return to at any time. And Ubisoft simply bit the bullet; Rayman Legends and Origins are honest about their infinite lives, plain and simple.

    As a result, many people will say just get rid of the lives system completely. There are definitely pros and cons to doing so, but it is also a definite that having to repeat any significant amount of progress because of lives is not what players want anymore.

    But lives are still one of those things where we need something to push us, but we don't like having to have it; much like due dates.

    In my opinion the games that implement the lives system the best are the games that do the best job at pretending it matters. Namely, Mario. The only reason you don't get infinite lives in NSMB is so that when you die you don't feel like you lost nothing... even though you lost nothing. And honestly, I think Sonic 3 was about the best balance of all. You did have to repeat a chunk, but that would still feel like an acceptable chunk to me.

    Rayman Origins messed it up in my opinion; having infinite lives gave the designers the freedom to create many situations that simply weren't cool, and were just 40-odd deaths in a row. If it weren't for the 2-second restart and unlimited retries, the game would have crashed and burned imo. Despite this, I still think it's easier to get infinite lives right than making limited lives meaningful, and really I think the best approach is indeed to just disguise the whole thing. Give the player something that makes them think it's bad to run out of lives, but once that psychological trick is in place, don't force them to repeat more than a stage.

    TL;DR
    Sonic 3 was taking that in the right direction imo, not the wrong one.
     
  5. Felik

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    Dunno how about you but back in the day when I could play sonic 3 special stages with my eyes closed it was bringing me immense satisfaction to see that lives counter on the file select menu displaying value of 99.
    Of course these days I can't even break the 50 mark but still lives in Sonic 3 were like proto-achievements.
     
  6. Rosie

    Rosie

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    I'd argue it has more to do with keeping the costs down on the expensive lock-on cart, just like using a cardboard box rather than the usual plastic Mega Drive shells.
     
  7. I'm not sure about today's games so much, but the lives system was a great way to raise tension.

    Attempting to beat Death Egg in S2 with only 1 life remaining was a nail biting experience. Would it have been with unlimited lives or a save feature? I doubt it...
     
  8. Rosie

    Rosie

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    I'm actually all for the lives system in a platformer, as outdated as it seems now. The addition of 1-Ups serve as a reward and, most importantly, if you merely get infinite checkpoint re-spawns, the game can easily become too easy, or become like the bullshit bits in the Rayman games which use cheap deaths and memorisation to make up for it.
     
  9. One thing I didn't like about Sonic 2 were the special stages, especially if you chose to have Tails as your partner. Tails having a lagging movement behind yours meant that your precise movements would end up being gone to waste because Tails lost the rings he collected. Even if you just went with Sonic, it still was weird. The controls weren't awkward, but it felt weird. I'm not really sure how the 3D in that stage compared to other games at the time, but I don't imagine it was that great. The special stages were frustrating, bomb spikes coming out of no where and from bad angles and you basically needed trial and error, even in the earlier special stages. I don't like Sonic 2 special stages at all, and that's why I never tried to get all 7 chaos emeralds in that game. Meanwhile I've done so in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which by the way has a much better special stage.
     
  10. urlogic

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    Launch Base Zone.

    It's layout is fucking terrible and I hate it.

    That is all I can think of, apart from the bosses in every classic sonic game being too easy and not very unique...especially after playing Rocket Knight Adventures and Gunstar Heroes. Sonic CD did a better job with the bosses, but even then they were still a bit too cheap.
     
  11. Aerosol

    Aerosol

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    Hey we're not criticizing zones or bosses here bub. Just Sonic gameplay. I can see how you might be confused, so this is just a friendly reminder.

    I suppose I should put in some input of my own. Let's see...

    Sonic's gameplay is fine, but dependent on good, detailed level design. This is because how he interacts with the environment is one of only two really meaningful differences between Sonic games and other platformers. The other being he can jump into things from below to attack them. Other game series (namely Mario) are not as dependent on detailed level design. Look at 1-1 from SMB. It's simple as fuck.

    I mean, that's kinda why a conversation about critiquing Sonic games without mentioning how level design plays into it is a fruitless endeavor. I mean, we're already talking about life management, which really has nothing to do with Sonic games specifically.
     
  12. Lumanare

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    I'm gonna rip on both a Zone and a mechanic, specifically Chemical Plant Zone. Do I like this level? Heck yeah, but Act 2 has one part I hate playing as Sonic, and that's the rising water section. I died way too many times in my childhood to those platforms not working with me. It honestly made me hate the Zone as a whole.


    I have since long gotten over that, and have even beaten it with Sonic. To wrap up my thoughts, I did like how it added challenge, but I think they added too much challenge at once. Look at Marble Zone. Yeah, there's fire and other hazards, but your introduced early on. Had they saved the rising water for Aquatic Ruin or Oil Ocean, it would have been better.
     
  13. Beltway

    Beltway

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    The implementation of cooperative multiplayer is something of an afterthought regarding Sonic 2 and Sonic 3(&K). This one is a bit of a tough cookie to me though, namely because the general fast-paced nature of Sonic gameplay has never really lended itself to providing a simultaneous co-op experience in my view; nevertheless, I'll only try and focus on how the Genesis games on this point.

    Arguably a major function of co-op is that it allows players to share one screen. This isn't possible in either Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 & Knuckles, namely because the camera is focused on Player 1 / Sonic the entire time. It doesn't re-adjust or pan out to accommodate Player 2 / Tails; so in most cases, the result is that Player 2 ends up being left off-screen as Player 1 starts moving. While Player 2 does contribute to the core experience by being able to collect rings, destroy enemies, attack bosses, and generally being nigh invulnerable to game hazards lives (Tails can't lose a life from being attacked by a badnik; and while Tails can "die" by being crushed, drowning, or falling into a bottomless pit, he's not bound to any life system, so he will respawn after a minute or so of waiting in most cases); the former two usually aren't possible due to the aforementioned problem of the player being left out. Sonic 3 (& Knuckles) is somewhat better with this, as it allows Player 2 (as Tails) to carry Player 1 (Sonic) up a certain distance. This allows for some actual co-operative play, as Player 2 --Tails-- can help Player 1 --Sonic-- reach certain locations Sonic can't access by himself--something which wasn't possible in Sonic 2, because Tails was generally a palette swap, and the player didn't have access to his flying abilities. Player 2 also can't destroy any monitors, which by extension prohibits them from using shields in Sonic 3(&K) as well; that said, this bit is more of a personal nitpick of mine.

    On an unrelated point, the Super Flickies that accompany Super Tails in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. They automatically attack any enemy or boss in close proximity, which is fine (if overpowered) in most cases. However, this makes the boss fight in Death Egg Act 2 Unwinnable By Mistake if playing as Super Tails. The spiked enemies dropped by the boss mech are necessary to attack it (as the boss enemy has a protective shield against regular spin attacks). However, the Super Flickies destroy the robots, while also being unable to attack the boss mech either. Which leaves the player three options--allowing their rings to run out and become regular Tails (risky as it is), getting a time over (in case you have way too many rings or too little time for them to be exhausted), or simply resetting the game and starting Death Egg from the beginning. That said, it's arguably a bit of a lesser issue given the circumstances--Death Egg Act 2's boss is the only one in the entire game that has this problem, which points to the error likely being an oversight that likely wasn't noticed by the developers --especially given how rushed Sonic 3 & Knuckles' development was as it is--; and the new Hyper/Super forms provided by the game level were pure bonus elements anyway that weren't really reigned in (with Hyper Sonic and Hyper Knuckles having some game-breaking abilities on their own terms).
     
  14. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

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    Why on earth would you choose the last option? There's a checkpoint right before the boss area. Unless you happen to arrive there on your last life as Super Tails, you'll replay the boss as regular Tails (with rings) upon losing a life anyway.

    Also the Flickies are so slow anyway that to call it unwinnable is ridiculous.
     
  15. Beltway

    Beltway

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    At the time I wrote I was generally thinking about available choices the player could take, admittedly I wasn't thinking much about how rational said choices they would be. Yeah that's a fair point to make heh.
     
  16. Deef

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    Just gonna throw some things in that stem from comparing to Mario titles, then discuss how much they are worth considering for a Sonic game (since I don't want to suggest shoehorning Mario gameplay into a Sonic game, but there are good design features there that are worth considering in a general sense).


    1. Enemies have next to zero interaction with the level.
    2. The vast majority of enemies have only 1 level of interaction with the player.
    3. The process of collecting a powerup has only 1 level of interaction with the player.
    4. The levels themselves have a low amount of deformation/response to the player.
    5. Secrets in plain sight are very rare.



    1. Enemies have next to zero interaction with the level.

    Hammer Bros. jump between platforms. Magikoopas transform blocks into stuff. Thwomps destroy land and creatures below them. Even Koopas have different rules about when they walk off a platform and when they turn. In these examples, the player experiences a more playful game as they have to scope out the surrounding level and anticipate events that haven't happened yet. All this, and the enemies respond to each other as well, bumping into other enemies, bobombs blowing each other up, etc.

    And to be honest I am not finding any such examples in the classic Sonics immediately springing to mind. There must be some, I just can't think of any. The see-saws in Hill Top I suppose? Anyway, however many there really are, they're an exception in classic Sonic games.


    2. The vast majority of enemies have only 1 level of interaction with the player.

    Hit it once, it's dead. It hits you, you're dead.

    There are a few exceptions, like the Orbinauts in particular, or Slicers. Some Sonic enemies respond to you, and some just do their thing as if you don't exist.

    It's pretty much the same with Mario, but in Mario titles there are more enemies with more stages of interaction. Koopas that lose wings, then become incapacitated in their shells, then wake up and walk again. Enemies on clouds that you can steal. And of course, being able to grab a shell from a koopa you've killed. The Mario games aren't riddled with such examples, but they're a good design point nonetheless. Sonic games could benefit from more of them.


    The problem with both of the above points is the usual issue of speed. Classic Sonic gameplay is very much about not doing the Mario, and putting a lot of enemies in a Sonic game that expect you to pause and think would not be a good thing. So the challenge is in finding ways (ie., enemy designs) that improve in areas of the above 2 points, without bogging down the Sonic style of little restraint too much.



    3. The process of collecting a powerup has only 1 level of interaction with the player.

    Simply collecting a mushroom in Mario means:
    - There are at least 3 ways to even expose it in the first place
    - You don't know what it is until it's exposed
    - Once it's exposed, you have to chase it, and while you chase it, it is interacting with the level
    - The way you expose it (your direction when you hit it) affects how it comes into play

    Or you hit a shield powerup and you get a shield powerup. Sonic games are literally less game in this aspect and this is one thing I would definitely be happy to see improved. I haven't really been able to think of any good solid examples to suggest though apart from a few basic things, like rings spilling out of monitors.


    4. The levels themselves have a low amount of deformation/response to the player.

    What this is referring to is Mario's blocks. And this is a big "Mario, not Sonic" thing. Trying the same kind of destructible block business in a Sonic game would look cheap, and not just because it would be ripping off something that's so Mario. It would also look cheap because Sonic games clearly aren't about blocks at all, and are not about mucking around with clusters of stationary objects. A few times, sure, cool. And there are a select few examples already: the crumbling land in Green Hill Zone, the destructible blocks in Marble Zone, the pulley contraptions in Mushroom Hill Zone. But if that kind of thing became commonplace in the game? No thanks. Sonic consumes screens as he whooshes around; we don't want to break that.

    So can anything be learned from this? I think so, but I can't think of a way to say it's important. Sonic games could definitely have more responsive elements in their levels. But so much to the point that it feels like a deliberately design improvement? ... I can't think of way that works. So perhaps this isn't a criticism at all. Sonic zones are 99.9% static because they're huge and that's what works. So I guess I'll put this down to simply being something you don't play a Sonic game for. It's a cool part of Mario games, but the reason Sonic games can't do it nearly as well is because they have other cool parts that conflict.


    5. Secrets in plain sight are very rare.

    Simply, Mario's pipes. And blocks with powerups that sit amid 40 other blocks.

    It's not just that Sonic doesn't have a similar gimmick, Sonic games barely acknowledge the concept at all. Secrets that you see, recognise, and don't bother checking.
    There are a few very rare examples; the best one I can think of is the raft in Aquatic Ruin Zone (and that really is an awesome example). So I guess here I'm partly asking for more cool secrets that are literally right under your nose, as well as an answer to the pipes/blocks business.

    Or perhaps this is a similar issue to point 4, in that it's a design idea that just wouldn't fit with classic Sonic gameplay. I'm not sure; I'm writing this post without stopping to think really. But it does sound possible that some kind of mechanic could be invented that gives to the player an ability to activate a thing, or not activate a thing, and for that thing to be very commonplace throughout the zones, and for the player to get to the point of not bothering, or forgetting, to activate it.

    But again, perhaps it's just that it works for Mario. Because personally, I play a new Sonic zone wanting to explore everything. Keeping my eyes open for any new path I haven't tried is how I would play. But with Mario titles that feeling isn't really a thing; it's just not part of the game in the same way, and thus, the secrets in plain sight factor is more viable.



    Food for thought.
     
  17. Deef

    Deef

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    Totally agree on the point about level design. Not sure if that's a response to something you felt I was suggesting, but in case it was, I agree with you there.

    I disagree about your thoughts on lives though. I get where you're coming from: the number of lives you have doesn't affect your abilities or control when playing, neither does getting another life. The effect lives have on the player in a Sonic game is pretty much the same as any platformer with lives. Continues/saves/act selects get in there and mess it all up over the classic titles, but again, in no way that wouldn't apply in any platformer.

    But life management in Sonic games very much has its own caveat unique to Sonic games, on top of the usual mind games, and that caveat is their connection to rings. If the implementation of lives isn't very good, then its like throwing out the biggest design tool rings provide. And rings are kinda worth putting in a Sonic game.

    I would like to point to Sonic 4 as the perfect example, but the lump of poo that it is, I've barely played it. And I genuinely can't remember back to the last time I played a classic Sonic game with a desire to gain lives, BUT I believe the point still remains. Don't discount the 100 rings factor, otherwise rings lose their meaning and a good part of their use as a tool for the developer. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I like to think that rings still have the ability to significantly affect the player's game through their connection to lives (not life).

    Having said all that, if you came back and said "Ok so instead of lives, 100 rings give you X", and X ticked all the right boxes, then I'd mostly agree with your sentiment. However I do still think the finite-vs-infinite question is a question worth being asked (and I still think Sonic 3 did that best).
     
  18. TheInvisibleSun

    TheInvisibleSun

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    That one set of push-able spikes that hides a special stage ring in Flying Battery comes to mind.
     
  19. Deef

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    Yep, that one was awesome also.
     
  20. Beltway

    Beltway

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    Very intriguing analysis Deef.

    Concerning complaint #3, I think it's worth pointing out that Sonic 3 & Knuckles did have some small experimentation in this field--though not with monitors, instead with animal capsules. Angel Island and Marble Garden had the flying capsules, which floated around and had the button to release them upside down, so the player had to aim and time their jumps right to open them (and naturally, they housed Flickies / bird animals). Flying Battery took things a step further with capsules that contained rings, enemies, and even having one capsule be the Act 1 miniboss, disguised as an ordinary capsule. With that in mind, I suggest that maybe monitors could follow from that example and be more mysterious in what they contain, giving them mobility, and possibly even altering their physical appearance. In other words, your spilling rings example applied on a much broader and varied scale on how monitors behave.

    Additionally / alternatively, you could have the powerups be emitted in a physical form for Sonic to collect, rather than Sonic gaining them immediately, and go on from there. One possible physical depiction are Sonic 3&K's bonus stages, which depicted all collectables (shields, lives, and multiple rings) as solid-colored spheres with letters; a rather basic approach, but I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to make the spheres more a more spiffier design in a newer title, if not go for something else entirely.

    On that note, I think addressing complaint #3 could allow it to be worked into a partial solution #5, at least regarding placement. Monitors that may contain one thing but also hold a secret. Sonic 3 was onto something with the hidden rooms in Carnival Night that had three monitors; with the monitor in the middle covering up a tunnel that leads to another secret room directly below (either with more monitors or a giant special stage ring). Angel Island Act 1 also had a hidden room with three monitors, except the middle monitor in that scenario hides a spring that projects the player back up to the path.

    That hidden room, by the by, was concealed with a secret in plain sight too--the hole that leads down to it is covered by a small rock; and you have to push it to enter the hole, a la Flying Battery's spikes. It's also the only time the small rock object was implemented in such a manner in the zone, the other small rocks in the zone can't be pushed at all.