Undeniably an all-time classic contender for the much sought after "stupidest level name" award. In appearance at least, this is a prime example of the mechanical zone type, set inside an industrious Eggman factory. Long checkered bars stretching along the bottom of the stage hurl Sonic up almost across the entire height of it when he touches them, making it difficult to squeeze under the low gaps beneath a series of hanging pillars in Zone 1. Also beware of wide networks of electrifying conduits that light up the background when active, and blasts of freezing air that turn Sonic into a popsicle. The factory is being built against a backdrop of desert canyons in the Past, while the Good Future offers a brighter, fun-factory style experience.
Though its name sounds suspiciously like a course from an old Micro Machines game, Wacky Workbench is an all-business industrial factory level set inside a huge bustling warehouse. Following in the footsteps of previous large mechanical levels, the background in the Present is largely a dark blue/green wall of technical stuff. At the top, the ceiling consists of rows of structural beams with inactive lights popping up across it. Below this is your wall of stuff including but not limited to large pipes, circular lights, bending wires, yellow and black danger signs, railings, large mesh panels, tanks, valves, switches and general doo-hickeys. Phew. Interestingly, the colour of this wall and ceiling starts off a dark turquoise colour but after a certain point in both Zones 1 and 2, it suddenly changes to dark green and remains that way no matter where you go from then on. When the electrical conduits that spread across large areas of the stage begin lighting up, the background flashes quickly between these two colours for a brief period. Foreground structures are made of solid purple material with cylindrical golden generators and various bolted panels and flashing things. The pathways feature long strips of black and yellow just below them, and on their surfaces you will regularly find posts with flashing red siren lights on them, and thin segmented pillars connecting floors to ceilings. There are also many strings of chains hanging around too.
Things get quite a bit more colourful when venturing into the Past. For one, the mechanical wall that normally occupies the background has yet to be built and we can actually see outside. It would appear these Wacky Workbench factories were built on a rocky desert canyon location, which until more recently is a curiously unusual backdrop for a Sonic level. It's sunset here, and the huge stubby red rocks engulf the horizon, and the sky is mostly mauve, quickly turning yellow as it meets the ground, with small pinkish clouds floating by. Just as the colour of the background suddenly makes a slight change in the Present, the sky becomes darker after a certain early point in each zone, and will light up when the electrical conduits do. Below, cranes are already at work establishing the structures that will grow to encompass the land, all reddish and orange in the fading sunlight, and a couple of long green horizontal bars are much closer to the foreground. The foreground is as bright green as the Present is purple, so it makes for quite a bright appearance in general, but it still contains the same sort of variety of technical stuff, including tanks, bolted panels, pipes and flashing things. The small flashing siren posts and strings of chains along the paths are here too.
What's this? In the Good Future, Wacky Workbench has turned into a kind of children's fun factory, the sort of place that would make a fine and more unique bouncy/pinball zone for a future Sonic game. The background wall is quite dark, but all the technology is done away with, in favour of various childish shapes and symbols. The ceiling beams are now made up of blue and green semi-circle shapes, and the dark blue wall begins just below, with spiralling poles, cloud-like shapes, lit capsules and moon and star symbols, arches on poles and strangely, checker patterned dark green shields on display. There are also arrangements of light green cubes towards the bottom, but everything else is mostly various shades of dark blue and a bit of purple. The primary foreground colour is now shiny pink, with bits of light blue thrown around for good measure, such as in most of the pathways which also occasionally feature short railings along the surfaces. There's still a bit of technical gadgetry amongst the large plain panels in the ground, but it's more about fun, brightly coloured shapes and patterns that any young child will appreciate. This also goes for the pathway decoration, as the siren poles have been replaced by a variety of coloured shapes, including blue and red lolipop-like spheres on sticks and triangles on straight or zig-zag poles, some with flashing circles and other decorations on them.
Essentially, the Bad Future is pretty much an old rusty, decrepit version of the Present, with the same visual contents, but everything is broken and worn down. The beams running along the top of the warehouse feature broken and dislodged lights, and below, generators and tanks have gaping holes in them, pillars have fallen or rotten away in places and wires and pipes are left hanging and severed. Small lights are flashing in dark corners to indicate electrical sparks, and other features of the large mechanical wall are similar to that of the Present, focusing on a largely black and grimy green colour scheme. The foreground is now an old, rusty bronze colour and features all the usual contents except everything is predictably cracked and damaged, with dark orange bits and pieces. The siren poles are still with us (and surprisingly still working, although occurring less frequently), as are the thin networks of pillars and posts and hanging chains and any previously yellow and black danger signs are now red and black.
This is the area that I think Wacky Workbench is most intriguing - moreso than most of its fellow Sonic levels, and it's best to consider one zone at a time here. Although the structure of Zone 1 and the way it uses its objects can be frightfully annoying, you (by which I mean just me, I'm sure) can't help but be impressed by its innovative and interesting design, if nothing else. It's basically just one long "tricky bit" that keeps throwing the same problem at you, but within several instalments, and not much else really. Almost all of the bottom floor, which is broken up into chunks of different heights, is encased in checkered bars that will instantly throw you all the way to the top of the zone as soon as you touch them. Satisfying the first few times, yes, but you'll soon learn to loathe them. This zone is very open, with huge wide spaces above these bars, except for 12 thin vertical strips, or upside down pillars of foreground that hang from the ceiling, and a number of straight horizontal pathways that connect them across the middle and upper portions of the zone. Mostly, these hanging pillars only allow you enough space to get past them at the very bottom. When you touch the checkered floor and get thrown upwards, chances are you'll go up through the many horizontal paths at the top, but you won't fall back down through them. You'll be placed on one of the paths, often laden with traps such as those electrifying conduits, and then have to wind your way back down to the bottom and hope that you don't touch the floor again, or you'll be sent all the way back up there within an instant. In order to progress horizontally through the level, you must squeeze through the gaps at the bottom of these long pillars, using a range of moving platforms spread across the zone, just above the checkered floor, so essentially, it's all about precise platform-hopping. And patience. A lot of patience. Be careful of jumping on the wrong platforms too, as many of them also go up and down, intended to help you with getting down from the horizontal paths above. It doesn't all have to be this way though, sometimes there are brief routes through the tops of the pillars, and Point #2 even indicates a very handy secret passage through some of the most challenging parts. In the Past, the pillars are no longer much of an obstacle at all really as there are many holes within them that you can sneak through, so everything is much more accessible.
Fortunately, Zone 2 is not more of the same, and goes back to a more regular kind of structural balance and variety. It's still quite interesting in that several times, it switches from huge, open spaces with the bouncy checkered floor at the bottom, to mazes of very tight, narrow corridors, all short and winding and rife with traps. More reminiscent of the kind of structure employed by a pinball style level than the later factory stage that it actually is. The map literally goes from a huge, open room to a large chunk of ground filled with corridors that occupies the whole height of it and then another huge room follows to the right of it, etc. The tight corridors offer several brief multiple routes within them, depending at which point you enter from the previous large room, and there may be three or four available. Some of these routes meet within the maze of corridors, though there are still several different exits into the following large room. There are still a few of those annoying long pillars of ground hanging down, but they're rarely a nuisance this time. Most of the paths in the level as a whole are all perfectly straight and end quickly, often creating numerous alternating ledges going up and down, but there are occasional winding, curving tunnels within the ground that you'll automatically spin through, as with many Sonic CD levels, and also the odd curved corner path or two, but no long slopes. You can also step inside the foreground in a few places to be sent tumbling through the factory's piping system, which drops you off in another area. It has its moments but it's generally not a very fast level, making time travelling a challenge, in Zone 1 at least.
As discussed in the Structure section, the key object is probably the long stretches of checkered ground, which throw you up extremely high whenever you touch them, along with a very satisfying, low-pitched "oowwp" sound. It does have very brief periods of inactivity where you can actually stand on the floor, but these last less than a second at a time, between periods of flashing activity that last about 3 or 4 seconds, so even if you do manage to land on it, you won't be there for long. In the Past, many smaller chunks of bouncy floor can be found arranged at various heights just above it, and its period of inactivity may be just a little bit longer as well. Also bouncing up and down on the floor are medium length yellow platforms, usually appearing alongside each other in small groups and are one of three different types of platforms that you can use to cross the perilous floor. They're a bit heavier than our hedgehog friend so they don't go up nearly as high as he does, and only bounce a little when they land on the floor during its brief inactive moments. You can get crushed underneath them too, but that's not a situation you're likely to get in too often.
The more common platform throughout the whole level though is the smaller, circular-looking platforms that will always operate on a left/right or up/down pattern of movement, and they'll often meet each other during these cycles so that you can switch between them. They all have a siren at the bottom of them, and when you see a platform where the siren is flashing (less common, but there are enough of them to be a pain), that means its surface is rotating, so it'll be harder to stay on it. Sonic will spin around with it, so pay attention to how close he is to the edge as he rotates, as this is where he is likely to fall off if you let him stay there. When jumping onto them, try and aim for the center. Their sirens don't activate or deactivate, each platform will always be either stable or spinning all the time. The third and final platform that tends to lurk near the floor is the constantly adjusting sets of blocks, again similar to an object more commonly found in a pinball style level. Several groups hang out near each other, each consisting of four small square blocks that aim to spread themselves out in a line by moving one block at a time, fairly slowly. Their pattern is difficult to describe but they start out going in one direction, and when they've formed a line, they change their direction by 90 degrees, the end block retreating behind the one next to it whilst reappearing out at the other end, heading in the new direction. In Zone 2, these are more commonly found as crushers that move up and down within two stacked horizontal corridors.
Typically placed on the very tips of those long hanging pillars and on the ceilings of tight corridors, thin grey icy exhausts emit huge blasts of cold air. Upon contact with this blast, Sonic will be encased in a solid block of ice in a rather cartoon-y fashion, and he'll fall to the floor. When you hit the floor, the ice will break and cause you damage, but if you jump as it breaks, you'll come out unscathed. The ice blast will be fully powered for a few seconds but then start to splutter until it eventually deactivates, allowing you to pass it safely until it comes back on another few seconds later. A platform may often pass underneath it close enough that the blast will touch you, so getting your timing right with these can be very tricky. Covering large areas of the upper horizontal paths in Zone 1 and the large rooms in Zone 2, diamond-like arrangements of electrical conduits appear behind the foreground, held up by circular mine-like objects. Horizontal, vertical and diagonal conduits connect them to each other, and about every 8 seconds, all the conduits that go in one of those directions will light up, harmlessly for a second, but then they'll start flashing brightly for about 3 seconds, also illuminating the whole background of the stage and are dangerous to touch at this point. If you're caught up nearby, try and stand in front of one of the circular mine-like objects they're connected to, as these won't hurt you. In the Good Future, the whole network of these things are completely inactive.
Big grey crushing blocks in the corridors are in fact, not crushers at all. Unless you're trying to lose a life, this is something you could only find out yourself by accident, but although they display all the hallmarks of a mean old crusher by moving down slowly and coming back up very quickly to lift you up into the ceiling, you don't die, you actually just fall through it to a hidden area below. This is essential for getting to the hidden machine in the Past, just don't apply the same logic to any other Sonic level, because this is truly a one-off. Used for ascending, see-saw like objects have a platform on the end of either arm. Stand on one platform to make the other instantly move upwards, and a jet at the bottom of the center of the object ensures that the see-saw keeps going up as you jump between the platforms. Stay standing on it though and it'll slowly begin to descend back to the ground. Sonic shows off a new sprite when he shimmies along an overhead horizontal pole in corridors, usually over a long field of electricity on the floor that never deactivates and also appears in smaller instances elsewhere or as an occasional alternative to the bouncy floor in Zone 2. Just jump on the pole to attach to it, and press left or right to move across, and you'll drop off of it when you jump or reach either end. Large speed launchers pop up occasionally and allow you to leap into them, at which point the launcher blasts across a long straight path and throws you out with speed at the end, into an open space. Hidden transport tubes can also be found within the foreground walls in some places, which will take you inside the foreground and through piping systems, and you'll eventually be ejected through an opening hatch on a wall. These may be your safest bet for time travel in Zone 1.
The maze-like corridors of Zone 2 are home to a few of their own objects, namely huge spinning contraptions that you can roll around with, making them ideal for very easy time travel. They can be found either on their own or one on top of another, creating a figure 8 path for you to go in as one delivers you to the next. Enter from one path and jump out at another exit when you're ready. Where the corridor leads up or down using short, alternating horizontal paths, beware of long strings of spikeballs rotating slowly around a ledge. The direction of their orbit suggests that the route is only one-way and their length generally increases in the Future. Not to be confused with crushers, huge doorways normally at the bottom of the stage, block the path until you come along from the left, and they will then move down smoothly to allow you to go through. They're perfectly safe to stand on, and will only move up again once you've proceeded onwards, but coming from the right, they won't open for you, so it's another one-way deal. In the large open rooms, you'll find several very long, vertical spinning poles lined up with some distance between them. When Sonic hops onboard he'll curl in a ball and spin around the pole, going either up or down it, and when he reaches either end or hits a wandering badnik in a certain way, he'll reverse his direction. Getting off on the side you want is a bit tricky as when you press jump, Sonic will get off on the side he's facing at that time and because he's circling the thing pretty quickly, this requires careful timing.
Yellow and black wasp robots patrol open areas. Like similar badniks from the series, they buzz back and forth, fairly slowly in this case, and occasionally stop to point their stingers in a diagonal direction and fire a flashing projectile. Damaged ones are slower and skip the old stopping and firing shtik. Joining them are odd yellow flying bugs that cling to the foreground just above the bouncy floor. When you arrive they will begin to hover along left or right, and continue in this direction, and healthy ones will drop small spiked mines which fall to the ground and start flashing red, exploding after a few seconds. Green grasshopper enemies use springs mounted on their underside to leap enthusiastically around the horizontal paths, except for the damaged ones of course which are a lot less enthusiastic with their age and as a result can't bounce as high or as far. Finally, thin yellow and red robots hang stealthily from corridor ceilings, although you can still see the bottoms of them. When you get too close, they drop down via a thin line and show off some spikes that will slot in and out a few times before they go back up again. Bet you can't guess what feature the broken ones lack.. Flowers here have green stems, pale yellow petals and orange stigma.