Sonic, seemingly, experiments with drugs in his most visually bizarre, backward, psychedelic level in history. This is Sonic CD's standard bouncy/pinball stage (coming in unusually early in the game), with bumpers, flippers, springs and other typical paraphernalia, but the appearance and location of the level is just such a mixed bag of random stuff that it's almost beyond explanation and classification. Amy manages to get herself kidnapped by Metal Sonic at the beginning of the stage, and you must bounce and flip your way to the patience-challenging pinball table of a boss.
The aptly-named Collision Chaos is virtually impossible to class into any category based on appearance alone, because none of it really makes much sense at all. The Present is essentially an obscure, psychedelic world whose rather wacky, and possibly drug-induced design is made up of a variety of different visual contents. The background is set outside, and is sort of a weird, distorted version of Palmtree Panic, with tall, rocky orange mountains that are below much larger, darker and more pixellated mounds. The dusky sky is a very dark blue/purple with small magenta clouds travelling quickly across it, and below the mountains are what I can only assume to be a purple-ish river, and then basically just a load of orange and yellow circles. Your guess as to what the hell those are supposed to represent is as good as mine, but I assume it's forestry of some sort. As if that wasn't weird enough for you, you can see a little bit of similar ground upside down at the very top of the stage, which might sound totally nuts, but bear in mind that it's probably supposed to be Never Lake, back down on the home planet. This game of course takes place on the neighbouring Little Planet, yet no matter what the time zone, this upside down area always looks the same as the surrounding background.
Things don't make much more sense in the foreground, which is mostly a nice shade of pink and bits of yellow, arranged in various patterns, extrusions and intrusions in the rock, plus a touch of greenery here and there, and along the surfaces of straight paths. Also on the paths you'll find many tall, light blue metallic structures reaching up, in various designs, and blue girders sticking out the sides of walls. Internal sections feature large holes in the dark back walls and flashing diamond patterns, and not forgetting the huge black decorative panels in the air above the ground, featuring flashing neon words in a kind of Japanese-like writing (though I'm pretty sure it's just gibberish). Along the bottom of the stage is a pretty nifty flowing river, with reflections of the ground above.
Thankfully, this insane place never used to be like this. The Past becomes much more normal, and like the Past of the first stage, this is more of a rocky pre-historic jungle, where the sun is setting, creating an orange sky. The horizon presents a mix of dark mounds of forestry and tall, thin rocky structures set at different heights, with grass and trees on top, which resemble parts of playable ground. The calm water below it reflects the orange glow and leaves of a closer forest area line the bottom of the background. The pink foreground rock is replaced with a gold one, still with grass in some places, and various pre-historic trees and plants take the place of the tall light blue structures in the Present. Likewise, where there will one day be large inexplicable neon signs in the air, there are, for the moment, collections of floating brown rocks with grass platforms on top that you can actually stand on now. Despite being relatively undisturbed, there are also occasional pink girders sticking out of ceilings and walls.
While the Present and Past were set in the evening, the Good Future rolls on to a bright blue sky in the middle of the day, and everything, while still a little bit wacky, seems pretty peaceful now, with a kind of utopian flavour to it. The hilly mounds in the distance are a dark green colour, and in front of them, a mix of bright orange rocky mountains and shiny light blue futuristic towers and buildings. The fresh water glistens beneath, and the forest at the bottom of the background remains as a vague collection of green circles. The foreground is now a pale green colour, mixing nicely with the blues to create a pleasant, calming sort of place, and the futuristic decorative plants adorning the grassy paths help too. The weird Japanese-like neon signs are still here in much the same form, but with the obvious Good Future visual differences such as green structures and plants surrounding them.
As you'd imagine, the Bad Future is a rather darker affair, yet still colourful. The sky is a very dark grey colour, with red clouds drifting past, and equally red pixellated mountains on the horizon. Dull brown tall pointed rocks stand between green towers and power stations, and the river and forest below it have disappeared, to be replaced by orange pipes stretching across. The flowing water in the foreground at the very bottom of the level, if it still is water, is now a purple and fiery orange colour, and the patterned ground is dirty, metallic grey with orange grass on the surface. Any remaining plants have all been chewed up by Eggman's piping systems and small green and orange towers, predictably flashing away. The obscure neon signs have gotten a bit more complicated in their text, and surrounded by decoration that glows several different colours, but largely remains red and black.
Collision Chaos features a very open structure in places, with large wide areas for Sonic to bounce around between springs, bumpers and flippers in the air, which is typical of this type of level. There are also narrow corridors - usually fairly long ones at the bottom of the zones and in most cases, paths are either perfectly straight (and sometimes quite long) or they become curved pits and walls. Numerous winding passages in the foreground will separate the areas as they progress you to the next ones, although you can often spin back through these tunnels afterwards without too much difficulty. There are quite a few different types of interesting structures to encounter, such as a series of very long pits, each with curved ground at the bottom and numerous platforms and holes in their walls along the way down, creating multiple routes across the top, middles or bottoms. Other long pits contain no gaps through their walls and consist of a series of flippers, platforms or bumpers all the way down. You can make your way up small steps in very enclosed, vertical passages, and when breaking out at the top, you'll tumble down a very steep slope. Hidden entrances in some walls from the outside can also lead in to these small internal sections. Most annoying is where you have to try and get through huge open areas by bouncing between bumpers and springs to try and get where you want to go, which isn't always easy.
Multiple routes quite often depend on how high you can get up across the large, open bouncing sections or by hitting curves with speed from the winding tunnels to send yourself flying into the air, but upper routes are rarely stable, and it's difficult to remain on only one vertical plain as you progress through the stage. There are typically two or sometimes three paths on the go at once, and you can change between them only in certain, open places. Differences across the time zones often relate to the winding tunnels, precise locations of tall walls and steps, or internal passages, and bouncy objects and walls may make backtracking across the zones a little difficult, although much of it is still possible. Zone 2 is one of only two stages in the Sonic world that have two different exits, as illustrated in Point #4.
The typical assortment of bouncy pinball objects offer up the most notable features of Collision Chaos. Bumpers include the common red and white, starred circular ones in the air, which will each dispense 100 points every time you bounce off of them for the first five bounces. They can sometimes be found moving in various patterns in open, pinball areas. Other bumpers, not available in the Past, can be found in triangular form, or either horizontal or vertical long bars, two of which are often placed opposite each other, a small gap apart for you to bounce between them. Also in the large pinball areas in all time zones, you'll find slightly bigger horizontal bars that will move either side to side or up and down, and can sometimes be used as transportation platforms in this way. None of these other bumpers produce points. When you land on a grey flipper facing either the left or right, press a jump button to make it flip up, and send you spinning upwards, with the height depending on how far along towards the tip of the flipper you're standing. In the air amongst the black neon signs in the Present or Bad Future, there's an occasional glowing entrance hole that will award you 200 points if you land in it, and squeeze you back out a few seconds later. There are small, circular bumpers nearby that you can get minimal bounces from, and if you land in the hole, your momentum will be maintained while it's holding you, so you can use these to time travel.
There are grey, man-made platforms that will either remain stationary or move left/right or up/down, and small gun turrets of sorts found on platforming ledges, will pop up every once in a while and shoot two small projectiles from left and right cannons, and then go back down again. The top will begin flashing when it's about to pop open and if Sonic is standing on it, he'll spring upwards a little way when it does. In the Past and Good Future, they pop up, but they don't fire any projectiles. As you run along straight paths and slopes, pop-up horizontal springs will appear out of the ground behind you, connected to grey blocks, and are important for getting up high curved walls, but beware as there are usually similar pop-up horizontal spikes nearby that do the same thing. In the narrow corridors along the bottom of the stage, small spheres in the center will each have a line of spike-balls slowly orbiting them either clockwise or anti, so leap over them or pass underneath accordingly. There are 2 spike-balls in the Past, 3 in the Present, and 4 in the Futures.
Zone 2 has a couple of features of its own. There are two different large, enclosed rooms that are full of glass bumpers that will break when you hit them, also earning 100 points each. You'll come in from the top or the bottom on the left side of the room, and most of the room is completely filled, wall to wall, with these glass bumpers, and springs or flippers below can launch you up into them. Make your way through by breaking them, and you can either drop down to the exit on the bottom right, or use them to try and bounce through to the alternate top exits. In the Present these bumpers appear as small red spheres within the clear glass, whereas in the Past, they look more like green jewels within it, and the Good Future's version is similar but the jewels have flashing lights on them. The Bad Future's glass bumpers are orange with green and purple spheres inside. The other exclusive feature occurs in two forms towards the end of the zone, on the upper routes. There are huge checkered cylinders that rotate slowly, with small platforms dotted across them, which rotate with it. You can stand on these platforms and use them to get across, but not when they are first emerging from the very top of the cylinder, or when they are at any point on the bottom half of it, as they move downwards. Aim for the upper-middle platforms if you can, and below, there will be springs and other objects underneath to catch you and send you back up. In the Past, the cylinder does not rotate at all, so the platforms remain motionless at various positions across it.
Collision Chaos features three enemies for you to entertain yourselves with. Blue and yellow winged insect creatures will flutter across the screen slowly after appearing from a state of invisibility, perching themselves on the foreground walls, with their backs to us. Unlike most, they don't go back and forth over a set area, just keep on heading one way, and healthy ones sprinkle some light, harmless yellow dust as they go, which the older, slower and decrepit ones are not capable of. Beware of these near vertical springs, as they'll take advantage of your inability to spin. Green mantis bots on wheels will roll across a set area, and when new ones lock their eyes on Sonic, they begin to fling a couple of small spinning blades his way, that look much like nail clippings, and which will quickly fly straight across, left or right. After this attack, they are helpless however, as are older ones from the get go, but with several of these in one area, it can lead to an annoying frenzy of projectiles that are hard to avoid. If you jump or roll while being hit by them, these spinning nail clippings of doom will instead be deflected harmlessly. Ladybirds meanwhile are the coward's badnik. They hang about, fluttering above the ground usually in narrower corridors or on slower platforms, and when Sonic shows up, they flee away from him, periodically dropping small black spike-balls on the ground. These start to flash red and explode in a small puff of air after a few seconds, and are harmful to touch at any time. The old ones have no spike-balls to drop, and interestingly, if you chase them toward a winding tunnel that leads upwards, they'll actually go up it themselves, rather than carrying on through the foreground. The flowers that Collision Chaos enemies release have yellow, square petals, black stigmas and green stems.
- If you're wondering, like I am, exactly why Sonic CD felt it had to break with conventions by putting a pinball style level in the place of the second stage, rather than the typical position of third or fourth stage, you'll find some nerd-ish comfort in the assumption that Collision Chaos was originally intended to be the third stage afterall. Game files that can be easily found on the PC version, and the level select menu clearly numbers Palmtree Panic as stage 1, and Collision Chaos as stage 3, with all subsequent stages being given a number that's one higher than their true stage numbers. Sonic CD was supposed to have the unusual collection of 8 levels, but what happened to the real stage 2?.. No one knows.