New 2D Sonic Level Gimmicks

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Prototype, Jun 25, 2021.

  1. Prototype


    So, the 2D Sonic series is known for it's various level gimmicks, which usually involve fun creative ways to use or create movement and momentum. Sonic Mania managed to unite a lot of disparate gimmicks and merge them into re-imaginings of levels to great effect, essentially giving you the nearest thing to "best of" levels.

    If there was a potential Mania sequel, and you had to design a set of entirely new level gimmicks, what would you include?

    I would potentially build on an Encore mode type setup, and incorporate the "Time of Day" level palette shifting from Knuckles' Chaotix, but in such a way that it could trigger weather effects which alter the layout of the level on the fly. So, say something triggers the season condition "Winter" in Angel Island Zone, given enough snowfall it can block certain routes and open new routes. You could then also incorporate lamp-posts which change the season on you, so you have to be careful which checkpoint you hit, potentially sacrificing a checkpoint to maintain your desired route.

    It would add a bit of creativity to the levels, and would break it out of the bog standard "Island Zone", "Casino Zone", "Ice Zone" level archetypes that have been done a million times.

    Entering Special Stages could advance the flow of time so it's potentially a whole different time of day or season when you exit the Special Ring, and the level is adjusted accordingly.

    This is more of a large scale gameplay gimmick than a particular level gimmick, but I feel it could expand developer creativity with the gimmicks used within the levels.

    Anyway, to reiterate the question;

    If there was a potential Mania sequel, and you had to design a set of entirely new level gimmicks, what would you include?
  2. Gestalt


    Sphinx in Chains Member
    Keeping it simple:
    - Sonic can't land on platforms that are invisible/greyed out
    - You have to jump through them to make them visible
    - The greyed out areas remain invisible
    - Unless you walk off the platform and fall through them
  3. Prototype


    That's certainly an interesting idea. I wonder how it could be applied to creative level design? Perhaps it could be best used in a Boss Arena scenario, or a Funhouse/Hall of Mirrors/Trick House type level, where the terrain isn't always quite what you'd expect.

    I would like to see more done with the foreground/background level shifting like in Metallic Madness. It adds visually pleasing size shifting and expanded level concepts, and I'd love to see that technique applied to new/old zones. Imagine that concept jammed into a level that wasn't "inside" a building like GHZ, or even one that alternates between interior and exterior like Flying Battery Zone.

    You could then add new gimmicks that transport you between the foreground and background that are different from the generic weight/catapult style object. You could have interesting ramp variants like at the start of Palmtree Panic that simulate 3D movement, as I feel like that mishmash of 2D and 3D is somewhat key to Sonic's visual/gameplay identity.
  4. Wildcat


    Ice Cap themed stages - Sonic turns into a big snowball from rolling downhill (ya know cartoon style). Can be controlled to smash obstacles/enemies. Can only be in for a limited time or freezes. Similar to drowning but probably a little longer. Exit by performing spin dash and it explodes into mini snowballs that might hit nearby enemies.
  5. Frostav


    I'm not sure if something this dramatic counts as a "gimmick", but I'd like each character's version of a stage to be different. I don't mean just in different character routes, I mean, quite different. Preferably, characters going through stages in a different order too, to explain the differences. E.g right now every character goes through the stages the same: 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5, etc, whereas what I'm proposing is something more like

    Sonic: 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6 > 7
    Tails: 4 > 2 > 6 > 1 > 3 > 5 > 7
    Knuckles: 6 > 3 > 2 > 5 > 4 >1 > 7

    And tie this to level gimmicks. Sonic enters "Zone 1" at daytime, but Knuckles enters it at night, with more traps and eggman patrols/blockades forcing him into harder paths. Let's get a bit more experimental than typical Classic Sonic and set it in a city akin to Route 99 from Advance 3 (but you know with good level design lol). Level gimmicks that catapulted Sonic past difficult sections don't work anymore by the time Knux and Tails get there, so the level is a lot harder for them.

    How about taking Angel Island 1's thing and expanding on it: Eggman firebombs, say, Zone 4 at the end of Sonic's run through it. As such, Tails, entering it as his first, experiences it as a serene and pleasant beginning level; Sonic runs through it as a much harder level filled with Eggman's bots and it's much harder as a result; Knuckles experiences it as a burning hellhole, making it far tougher than the other characters'. Of course there could be story reasons for the different level orders, though Classic Sonic isn't too big on in-game story (I came up with this general idea for a 3D Sonic game, actually, with cutscenes and story explaining why each character was doing something different, but I think it could be applied to 2D Sonic as well).

    One benefit of this system is that it heavily incentivizes replay value (a good thing in a gaming industry and community where replaying games is less and less of a thing), because each character's path through the game is quite different, and people love seeing stuff like this in games in my experience. Like, imagining finishing Sonic's story, and then starting Tails'; the moment you start it up, you see the fourth zone, but it's so much sunnier and serene than the Eggman-invaded nightmare Sonic's version of it was. Beat the game as one character, then experience the levels in a new light as another.

    The main issue I see with this is the budget needed to make each version of a level distinct enough to be worth it, and also the fact that this kinda gets way too complicated once you go beyond 4 characters or so. Still, some zones would be similar to normal Sonic ones and be mostly the same (barring differing paths) for all the characters, I'm imagining that there would be a few "money" ones that are dramatically and strikingly different for each one and the rest experience mostly difficulty and art changes.
  6. Azookara


    yup Member
    I’d REALLY like more stuff pushing the “faux 3D” angle, since that was a LOT of the appeal of the games in their heyday. Make a whole game centered on plane-swapping ala Mania’s MM (though maybe more like the proto of Rayman 2). Use springs or loops/spirals to fly closer to or farther away from the camera, and seamlessly tie it in to visual set pieces to go max spectacle and stay seamless. Really want that 32X/Saturn “on the cusp of the 3D era” vibe to shine through, and more clever ways to stretch it.

    I’d also say up-to-four player co-op, maybe something new for game progression (a world map would be cute!), and maybe just more variety in maps or level sequence between characters? There’s loads of stuff you can do other than just ape 3K/Mania’s structure.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2021
  7. Wildcat


    I like the idea of a world map. Lost World is the only one to do it right? I know the 8bit games sort of did it. Playing the old Mario games it was fun seeing other destinations and thinking what they might be like. It added to the excitement.

    Each character going through alternate states of the zones would be cool too. I don’t know why it would be too expensive. Sonic CD did it.

    Not sure about faux 3D/32X/Saturn. I understand why people like it but I feel like it’s more about nostalgia because we grew up during those graphical transitions. We have proper 3D now. Keep it in a 2D plane but don’t purposely make it 32 bit or whatever.

    Id rather have 2D with modern graphics like NSMB.
  8. Myles_Zadok


    IDK Member
    I was gonna write something snarky at first (like "Introducing Sonic Mania 2, with a brand new 4-player co-op mode! Tails, Knuckles and Ray all get to keep flying back in after Sonic despawns them! It's just like Sonic and Tails mode, except 3 people can be frustrated instead of one!") but then I thought about it and realized that co-op platformers work because the games are designed with them in mind. The easiest example of this is to compare 1-1 from NSMB on DS to 1-1 from NSMB Wii. Everything is more spaced out on Wii to accommodate for multiple players. Part of the difficulty in making a Sonic game work in co-op is that so many of the stage gimmicks (springs, speed boosters, really anything that makes you accelerate instantly) would pretty much have to be gutted for it to work. But then that fundamentally changes the classic formula, and that needs to be considered carefully. Not because changes can't/shouldn't be made, but that they should be made with thought and care. Knuckles' Chaotix and Sonic Advance 3 had some interesting ideas for a 2D Sonic co-op game, but I'm not sure how much potential those really have. (On a related note, are/were there any hacks/fan games that have tried to improve co-op for 2D Sonic? Did those ideas have any merit?)

    In my opinion, 2D co-op platformers work better when the gameplay is slower and has a greater emphasis on combat, exploration, and puzzle solving. The best 2D co-op platformers are probably Kirby and Rayman, and MAYBE NSMB, unless there's something else amazing out there that I'm not aware of.
  9. Swifthom


    A Friend Remembers... Member
    I adore Sonic 2 and 3 co-op - but I get it's not for everyone.

    Gimmicks - hmm. The important thing for me is they can't break the momentum too much. A small stop is fine but no waiting is important for a good Sonic stage gimmick.

    1) Bring back the minecarts from Underground Zone. Not new but not done outside the gamegear and master system
    2) The Egg capsule things rideable within a stage (like the one at end of launch base but not a curtcene). Put badniks in there, smash them then enjoy a limited 20 second free roaming ride until you jump out or it self destructs.
    3) Twinkle Park style mirrors (Amy Rose zone level). Not sure how you'd get it to work in 2d sprites but I'm sure i've seen it done. Added suggestioon - put in a haunted zone with invitible ghosts who only become vulnerable when they pass in front of a mirror.
  10. I'd very much enjoy a combo of Frostav and Wildcat's ideas. A world map to travel from zone to zone and act to act, that also serves as the save menu. Separate zone orders depending on the character, which take place at different times of day, or perhaps even different seasons. There could be different types of badniks, of varying quantity and placement, for each route. It could also be fun to have rival encounters littered across the world map, with Tails getting to face off against Tails Doll for instance, Sonic getting a Metal Sonic race along with a Mecha or Silver Sonic fight, and a Metal Knuckles fight for Knuckles.
  11. GT Koopa

    GT Koopa

    Elgin, IL
    Flicky Turncoat DX, T.L.W.S. Vs M.G.W.
    One of my zones planned for Flicky Turncoat DX if I ever get around to finishing it was called "Picky Exchange." It would have been based on a trading floor and there would have been Casino Night type devices similar to slot machine bars where you could invest your rings. After a while through the zone you can go back to a different machine and get rings back, but a random generator would have been running in the background the entire time with five states: Ring count goes way up, ring count goes up a little, ring count stays the same, ring count goes down a little, ring count goes way down. You may get more rings than you started, or less. Also minecart like vehicles that ran on tracks made up of those arrows. Otherwise it would be your generic colorful electric base with upside down gravity shenanigans. Act 2 would have "outside" sections where it reveals you have been in big city skyscrapers the entire time where you also fight the boss in one big Porco Rosso reference.

    That was the plan anyway. Maybe you will see it someday in some form.
  12. Wildcat


    Not really a gimmick but a Knuckles stage that’s entirely climbing up a mountain to destroy a machine on top. Side to side 3D on 2D plane. Rocks falling and flying enemies. Certain portions would require digging through with interior sections where you take out badniks mining the inside.

    I’ve always wanted a legitimate Haunted House stage/zone. Not just Pumpkin Hill and the occasional ghost. I thought of this for 3D but could work in 2D I guess.

    Act 1, Spooky forest in typical cartoon fashion. Moon out, haunted house in background. Tombstones with old model badniks popping out of the ground. They don’t hold Flickys and break into separate parts (Zombie badniks). Nothing that difficult but more annoying. Jump on the tombstones to cover graves.

    Act 2, Haunted House. I haven’t really thought about how it would play but could have Flying badniks disguised as ghosts. Require 2 hits. One to knock them out of their white sheets. Could also be something like Sandopolis where you need to keep the lights on or real ghosts appear.

    Boss. Egg-o-lantern. Robotnik inside flying jack o lantern. This is why I thought of it in 3D. So like many 3D boss fights it takes place while running. Given the setting of a Haunted House it could be a never ending hallway. Attacks are fire balls from the mouth and turning upside down to pour out orange “pumpkin goop” to slow you down.

    Defeat by bouncing objects that float by from open doors into it’s face. Boost when there’s an opening to land hits. Once beat the hallway ends and a new doorway mysteriously appears letting you out.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2021
  13. Azookara


    yup Member
    I feel like at the very least if 2D Sonic is gonna stick to pixel art, then that faux-3D angle is part of what makes that art direction special, and should be played into harder. The world kinda missed out on a proper Saturn Sonic title, and I think a lot of the perspective trickery and low-poly fun that could've been had with a Sonic title in that era is something Mania only barely scratched the surface of, as welcome as their nudges towards it were.

    Otherwise I can get with a 2.5D look. But like NSMB? Noooo sir, don't want that lol.

    I'm looking from the perspective of not couch co-op, but online (think like Mario Maker's multiplayer). That'd be the best way to do multiplayer for Sonic, I believe.

    Trying to keep four Sonic characters on screen at all times for a couch co-op is a nightmare that I think could only truly work if like Rayman Origins/Legends the screen were allowed to be zoomed out.. but that would require an art direction that wouldn't have scaling issues like pixel art would.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2021
  14. Crappy Blue Luigi

    Crappy Blue Luigi

    mighty is my son. thanks Member
    I've always wanted a 2D Sonic games where some (all?) zones had multiple end points that led to different subsequent zones, creating a branching path structure for the whole game. Not mission-based like Shadow the Hedgehog's level progression, but just based on which ending path you took in the zone you're in. Some zones could have entirely different Act 2's depending on where you ended Act 1, locking you into going to a certain zone depending on which major Act 2 path you started on.
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  15. Wildcat


    What’s wrong with NSMB graphically? Even Kirby and DK use modern graphics.

    I guess I should have just said go with the 2D sections of 3D Sonic we already have. You can still stylize it and play with perspectives.

    I personally don’t want faux Saturn graphics. I get the appeal. I like seeing it old games but I prefer proper 3D. It looks better imo.
  16. _Sidle


    A lot of full game gimmicks in a thread that seemed to be about things you'd find in maybe one level...
    I've been toying with an object that snags you while running, builds up tension, and whips you back the other way like the bungees in Mania SSZ2... that you can snap out of/avoid being grabbed entirely if you spindash/roll/dropdash through similar to how you break out of the vines in 3K MHZ2, but not exactly. Use cases would be situations like the first horizontal red spring in the bottom path of S2 CPZ1, where a path opens up behind you but you're free to ignore it to trek onward in the direction you were heading. Have a great idea for a Special Ring location using one of these~
    The NSMB*** series in particular has some quite plastic looking terrain, and animations that feel rather lifeless (... kinda similar to Sonic 4*, now that I think about it). It worked a lot better on DS* where you could trick yourself into blending it in with the tiles and sprites at such a low resolution (... also like Sonic Rush's main stages*, huh). The two DKCs** and four Kirbys**** are far better reference points, with Generations HD's classic stages being somewhere between them and NSMB (though the classic character models in Gens aren't nearly as appealing as the ones in Fighters or Mania imo).
  17. Palas


    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
    Branching zone paths based on time or rings

    A lot like this:

    But rather than where you finish the stage, branch paths based on when or how you finish it. For instance, consider a stage in which something is going on there and then (Robotnik turning animals into robots, for example). If you take more than 3 minutes to finish it, all animals are turned into robots and Sonic now has to go through another, maybe more difficult stage next. I love how Angel Island catches on fire in Sonic 3, but imagine if whether it happens at all or not depended on how fast you were.

    Checkpoints with a kick

    I'd love for checkpoint signposts to have a catch and for death to ahve additional meaning. I've always been in love with the idea of a particularly difficult stage in which dying took you to the next signpost instead of the last, or a stage in which -- say -- there's a signpost on a wheel that only turns once you die, and when you go back you're locked into a previously unacessible path.

    Or having checkpoints trigger some sort of trap like a rolling stone (remember Lava Reef Act 1), turning a stage into a Indiana Jones-esque experience.

    If every single stage did its own thing with checkpoints, I think death would gain another meaning across the entire game. And, thus, collecting rings and even 1Ups would get more insteresting.

    Trippy patterns who cares*

    Stages having geomatrical patterns, except trippy. Just imagine something that seems to move while you're running, but stays still otherwise. Like this:

    Or just outright vertigo inducing, like this:

    *Half-joking. It'd be the Sonic version of that Pokémon anime's Polygon episode, but I'd still like to see it.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
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  18. Micheal Anthony

    Micheal Anthony

    der Bär Member
    I adore the idea of a vertical scroll level for Knuckles. Vertical scroll isn't something used a lot in the 2D games for obvious reasons, but for Knuckles it could present an interesting puzzle level.

    I feel like pushing objects is always an underused mechanic, so something I think would be interesting is some sort of cannon that you load ammunition into similar to the cannons from the Kirby series but on a larger scale using Sonic's speed & level design... maybe a Wing Fortress type level with this gimmick for transporting. Perhaps you can push charges into the cannon, then you light the fuse via friction by running across a combustible surface. You then have to navigate Sonic to the launcher before the cannon fires.
  19. I've considered making a fangame or something like that myself. I'm not 100% sure what I'd call it, but I wanted to base it on south island, since we know of dozens of zones that all supposedly exist on the landmass.

    As for a 2d gimmick? I dunno, I just want rush adventure's trick system back, and maybe a rhythm mechanic better than the one in lost world.
  20. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    My name's Martin Member
    Local co-op multiplayer on a split screen would work for example if the goal or the boss weren't always at the same position, so everyone could be exploring the area to find it and they got an arrow pointing to the right place when the first player found the target. Imagine a boss that always faces a character, so it will be a lot harder to handle until the rest arrives and take advantage of its blind spots, or just the boss having different weaponry that can be repelled by one of the characters but not the rest, so having everyone allows to bounce back a lot more attacks and defeat the boss quicker with its own weapons.

    Also consider paths that will only be accessible if there are two specific characters working together, for example Tails carrying Knuckles to a wall the later can break but not reach by himself.

    Oh, sorry, level-specific gimmicks, yes? Add for example a badnik that would be invincible to direct attacks but it's present in a level with pipes, and it's vulnerable if you can hit some wheel to throw water at high pressure on it.