The original "water level" is indeed a tough one, set in the ruins of an underground cavern, mostly submerged in water. Sonic will have to navigate the narrow tunnels and keep an eye on his ever-depleting supply of air while under. There are various puzzles to solve and sticky situations to work your way out of.
This enclosed, water-filled cavern level is constructed entirely of yellow/orange stone blocks, including a mixture of carved squares and naturally-shaped rocks, in varied sizes. This goes for both the detailed and varied ground Sonic stands on and the background, which is little more than a series of huge, duller coloured square stones. Carved on some of the stones are various ancient symbols, seemingly depicting weird faces, and nearby accessories include thin vines that hang from the ceiling, coloured crystals and poles reaching up from the ground. Water is plentiful of course, and it's dropped down from the mouths of stone gargoyle heads into pools that consume large chunks of the rocky terrain. That aside, there really isn't a whole hell of a lot else to see in this zone. It's basically an old, underground passageway left by an ancient civilisation, now half-flooded. Nonetheless, it has an adequately lively atmosphere, thanks in part to its catchy music, and yellowish and brown colours.
Labyrinth's layout is essentially a mass of solid rock occupying the whole maps, with a network of winding passages and rooms cut into it to make up the pathways. Needless to say, this makes for a highly enclosed structure, typical of this level type, and everything has a ceiling above it. Some corridors are very cramped while others are a bit bigger, and you can also get much larger rooms every now and then, which are often above the water and contain a collection of objects that form a small puzzle to complete. The surfaces to walk on are notoriously rocky and uneven, full of bumps and steps in the path, and directions take you left and right through the winding tunnels, using these steps to guide you up steep vertical passages aswell. The ground is mostly connected though, so there are fewer platforms to jump around on. There's no one set direction throughout the acts, so like the Marble Zone, this level more resembles a maze, plentiful in puzzles to solve, and is definitely not a smooth, speedy one. Most of the paths are straightforward, offering one route with very little deviations, even for hidden power-ups. Your best bet to find these are in the larger rooms, where things can be hidden away more easily. There's a big shortcut in Act 1 that is extremely well hidden (see point #1), and Act 3 contains a much shorter alternate route which takes you straight to the last checkpoint. Other than that, there is little else to explore beyond the main path. A fairly long and enduring level.
The main feature of Labyrinth Zone though is its supply of water, which occupies most of the level maps, so you'll probably be spending the majority of your time in it, navigating through long, submerged tunnels. This is the first time Sonic ever encounters it, and realises that rather than being able to swim gracefully, he simply sinks like a stone. Therefore, ploughing your way through will probably be your toughest challenge in this zone, so be aware of what you're getting yourself into. When Sonic lands in water, he'll sink to the bottom and you can walk along the pathways and platforms down there, but all of your actions will be much slower, and Sonic becomes a bit harder to control. You also have to watch out for your air supply while under, because you have only 20 seconds before you begin to run out, and unless Sonic can get some air, or evolves gills in that short space of time, a final 10 second countdown will begin, as will the scary music. Well, I always found it pretty scary at least. After the final 10 seconds, Sonic drowns and you'll head back to the last checkpoint with one less life. To prevent this, look out for bubble clusters that sit on the ground. They regularly produce big air bubbles, which will top you up with another 30 seconds worth of air when you touch them (and produce the single greatest sound effect ever, by the way). Or just get out of the water, if you're near the surface. In some areas, the water level will automatically rise and fall as you make your way along, usually when heading up the steps of a vertical passage, and the current can also force you along twisting horizontal tunnels too. To get through the long water sections as safely as possible, you need to look for, and grab every air bubble you see, while you're progressing.
Dangerous obstacles you'll need to be on the lookout for include 360 degree swinging spikeballs on long chains, which are particularly nasty on vertical passages. When you're heading up the steps here, try and stand within the radius of the chains, which are harmless, then wait for the spikeball to pass above you before you continue upwards. Long, sharp white spears slide in and out against the walls, ceiling and floor, so pass by them with care, and side-facing statues of gargoyle heads shoot out small projectiles from their mouths. Be very careful of reverse-falling platforms underwater, because these things lie on the ground or make up part of a suspended path, waiting for you to step on them. At this point, they will move straight up in an attempt to crush you into the ceiling, and they're not always that easy to spot, either.
In large open rooms above water, you'll often find a series of small brown platforms connected to a circuit of chains, moving along in one direction thanks to some turning wheels. Stand on one of the platforms and let it take you around to the next area, but when being lead upwards, it's a good idea to look up because the platforms can sometimes be brought right up to the ceiling, and you'll be crushed if you're on it at the time (see points # 2 and 4). There are blocks that float on the top of the water, and if you stand on one, you'll be able to go up/down with the water level as it rises and falls. Don't stand on these in narrow, horizontal passages though, as they too will crush you into the ceiling. When underwater, there are some loose patterned blocks in thin pathways, which will drop down when you place your weight on them, though rather than drop you into a hazard, these actually lead to areas below.
Representing a certain puzzle aspect to the level's objects, press on buttons to open up immoveable blocks and doors in the path etc, which are sometimes positioned at a certain distance away, and watch out for long pits of spikes like in Green Hill, and singular ones that hang from the ceiling. As explained above, wait for the small bubble clusters to produce a large air bubble, which Sonic can suck up to keep him going underwater. Inbetween, they also produce smaller, useless bubbles too, so ignore these and just look out for the huge ones.
Three zone-exclusive robots here. You can see the noses of Burrowbots peaking out in the ground before they leap out, when you get too close. They then trundle around a bit, and are often found in groups, for a more dangerous attack. Jaws are fish badniks that patrol the larger sections of the underwater caverns, simply swimming back and forth slowly over a set area. Unidus make up a common badnik design, that Eggman still uses today. They're a single sphere with eyes, and four spike balls swinging around them, which this model fires at you as soon as it sees you. Being underwater only, these can be tricky to dodge, so try and use the following trick: Once it's seen you and fired its first spikeball, move away from the badnik, so it goes outside of the boundaries of the screen. When you return, most of its spikeballs should have magically disappeared into thin air, and once it's lost all of them it becomes a sitting duck, although still harmful to touch.
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#1. Comment posted by Chris on Saturday, 12th July 2008, 12:28am (BST)
#2. Comment posted by Joe on Monday, 18th October 2010, 9:46pm (BST)
#3. Comment posted by Philip on Wednesday, 22nd December 2010, 7:42am (GMT)
#4. Comment posted by Anonymous on Friday, 19th August 2011, 10:38am (BST)
#5. Comment posted by Anonymous on Sunday, 25th September 2011, 11:01pm (BST)
#6. Comment posted by FacePlant on Thursday, 27th October 2011, 1:09am (BST)
#7. Comment posted by eggman nega on Tuesday, 29th May 2012, 3:59pm (BST)
#8. Comment posted by Lucas the Human on Thursday, 14th February 2013, 4:16pm (GMT)
#9. Comment posted by Claire Hislop on Friday, 3rd May 2013, 4:58pm (BST)
#10. Comment posted by Joseph Malkamaki on Wednesday, 3rd June 2015, 12:27am (BST)
#11. Comment posted by Anonymous on Saturday, 20th June 2015, 12:04am (BST)