The Bumper (ボビン,Bobin?), also called Bumper Ball (バンパーボール,Banpā bōru?), is a recurring pinball obstacle that appears in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Bumpers first appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and function similar to real-life pinball bumpers. Bumpers can be a nuisance, as the player can get stuck bouncing between them; however, they can also be used to the player's advantage by propelling them further distances.
In Sonic the Hedgehog games, bumpers are basically featured in casino-themedzones, Bonus Stages or even in Special Stages. When a playable character touches one, they will ricochet off it. Bumpers usually flash after getting hit and bouncing off them is worth a certain amount of points. In some games, the bumper will stop awarding points if the player hit it too many times. Because of this, each bumper can only grant a limited number of points.
The appearance of bumpers have changed many times throughout the series, but usually it is depicted as round, red with a blue inner area and in the center is a yellow or white colored five-pointed star. This circular symbol is used in other objects (seen below). The shape of bumpers has also been changed few times in the series: In the first Sonic games for the Sega Genesis, Master System and Game Gear, it has been depicted as a floating round object. After Sonic 3D, Sonic Adventure and few later games, bumpers have appeared as flat, real-life pinball bumpers, but it returns to its floating round object form in Sonic Heroes. Even to this day, the object's shape is varied.
Bumpers have a unique sound effect, which has been used in many games where the bumper has appeared throughout the series. According to Naoto Ohshima, when Spring Yard Zone in the original Sonic the Hedgehog was finished being developed, everyone in Sonic Team started calling the bumpers "bobbins" due its sound, which it makes when the player bounces on them.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
Bumpers first appear at Spring Yard Zone in 16-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog, where the player can earn 10 points for bouncing on them. In that zone, these objects usually occur in groups. Bumpers can appear as common obstacles in the Special Stage. This orb-shaped object is a red background, blue in the middle and has a yellow five-pointed star in it.
Bumpers also appear at Special Stages in 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog. In the game, bumpers have the same appearance as its 16-bit counterpart, although these objects are little larger than Sonic himself.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit)
Bumpers made next appearance in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, where they are featured in Casino Night Zone. Bumpers have a similar appearance, having a red outline with blue in the middle, but the five-pointed star is now colored white. Also between the red background and blue centering there's an extra line, which flashes green and yellow.
By getting bounced once, the bumper rewards the player with 10 points, but soon stops giving points after bouncing to it ten times. On several sections of the Zone, the player can use them as platforms to reach other side of the gaps. There are also many other types of bumpers in the Zone, which either give points or not.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD
In Sonic the Hedgehog CD bumpers are featured at Collision Chaos, Special Stages and above last bottomless pit of Metallic Madness. There are also smaller ones that don't earn points but keep the player on the air well while having better control than with normal ones. Collision Chaos also features different ones at large groups that broke after bouncing them once while giving 100 points. In Special Stages, normal bumpers are shown to be more flatter and have similar appearance from the first game.
In the game's rounds, bumpers are more detailed looking, as their background is cubic ornaments with red and white colors and moves around. The centering of bumpers is colored blue and has a yellow five-pointed star in it. Like in the first game, these objects are floating in groups, although some of them move in the air back and forth to certain directions. Bumpers earn 100 points after bouncing once while up to 5 times for a total of 500 points and after fifth bounce, it stops giving points.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
In the original 16-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, there are blue and gray colored Bumpers set at narrow pathways of Lava Powerhouse, which give different amount of points depending how much the player gets bounced on them. Animal prisons at The Machine's center arena functions similarly, but will free animals and one blue Chaos Emerald inside of them.
In the 8-bit version of the game, they do appear more often including at Toxic Pools and Lava Powerhouse. They are also featured at exclusive Egyptian-themed Bonus Stages, where bumpers are larger than Sonic himself, much like in the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
In Sonic the Hedgehog 3, bumpers are featured at Carnival Night Zone and Special Stages. These different bumpers are white with a red star in the middle this time around but they work the same as they did in previous Sonic games. Like in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, bumpers give 10 points until they stop doing this after bouncing several times. In Carnival Night Zone, there are bumper grounds that rotate around two or three ones. In Special Stages, bumpers bounce the player to move backwards though they can press up on the D-pad to move forwards in the correct direction. In Competition Mode, four bumpers are featured in Balloon Park, which are colored as red and light yellow star symbol on it.
Sonic & Knuckles has two different-looking bumpers in two different Bonus Stages, although they work same as others. The first types exist in the Slot Machine area (20 rings is required to get in it), which is smaller, having a big red background, yellow between line and blue center with a white five-pointed star. Second variations can be found rarely from Magnetic Orbs Stage (50 rings is required to get in it), as its shape is similar to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ones, but the background of them is green, red between lines, and a pink center with white five-pointed star.
Sonic Drift 2
Bumpers, now called as Bobbins appear at all around Casino Night race course in Sonic Drift 2, where they can bounce the player off the track. Here bumpers look more like red and orange colored springs with a star above it.
In Knuckles' Chaotix, bumpers, now called as Bumper Balls, are included in both Bonus Stages and Special Stages, where bumpers are moving around or rotating in one direction. Getting bounced by one sends the player to walk backwards until it starts walk ahead again. Some of them have spinning spiked balls being connected with chains, which the player has to avoid while running ahead. Some bumpers are seen being set in a row on edges, which may help to not get fall off the Special Stage.
It also appears a few times in normal gameplay, as one of Badniks Dribbler is seen dribbling two bumpers on each hands and during the boss fight of Botanic Base, the single bumper floats around the arena while the player has to used it move around, while combi partner has got stuck to Robotnik's device above the arena. The bumpers' appearance is basic as its background is blue, center is red and a yellow five-pointed star.
The bumper's appearance in Sonic 3D is slightly different in every zone. It appears as a more flat, green glowing ball in Rusty Ruin Zone, as a red and yellow colored ball in Spring Stadium Zone, and as a light-blue glowing ball in Diamond Dust Zone. In the game, bumpers don't give points nor does it bounce very far unless the player is in full speed.
Bumpers appear briefly in Sonic Blast, only being featured at the Special Stages where they will bounce the player backwards like in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. In this game, the bumpers look like a sandwich, because of the pseudo 3D vision, with a yellow center and the upper and lower faces with a style based off on the previous games.
In Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut, bumpers are featured on the 777 Slots Pinball and Card & Pinball tables in Casinopolis. It's similar to its Sonic the Hedgehog 2 appearance, but having more realistic appearance like a real pinball bumper. The player earns one ring per hit. Bumpers are also seen floating in the air on upper side sections of the pinball table, where the player has to balance on them to get to the other side or the player will fall down to the pinball table.
Sonic Pocket Adventure
Bumpers make appearance in Sonic Pocket Adventure as common objects in Cosmic Casino. As the place looks like Casino Night Zone, bumpers have taken its look from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
In Sonic Advance bumpers are featured in Casino Paradise Zone. Its appearance looks like one from the first Sonic the Hedgehog game and acts much like it did originally. It normally gives 10 points by getting bounced once.
Bumpers make its appearance in Sonic Heroes, usually as a floating, spherical pinball bumper. Bumpers have green surface and its front side is colored black with a light green five-pointed star. Bumpers are featured in Casino Park and Bingo Highway, as it can be found in pinball tables and outside of them. Outside of pinball sections, the speed characters can bounce on them more safety by using the Homing Attack.
Sonic Pinball Party
Bumpers appear at almost every Sonic board in Sonic Pinball Party. In the game, bumpers give points and have exactly the same appearance as Sonic Advance.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I
Bumpers reappear in as a common gimmick in Casino Street Zone Act 1-3 and Special Stages in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, having its Sonic the Hedgehog 2 appearance. Due to the different rotations on this game's physics, bumpers do not bounce the player very far and it is easy to maintain Sonic's direction while bouncing.
The only times bumpers appear in console/PC versions are as common gimmicks in the DLC pinball mini-game of Casino Night (where bumpers take on a more realistic appearance) and Classic Sonic's challenge of Crisis City, where Classic Sonic is thrown against bumpers by Vector. In the latter case, the bumpers are flat and float in group.
Sonic Lost World
Bumpers make an appearance in Sonic Lost World, where they have simple, yet similar appearance from Sonic Generations. In the game, Bumpers are set around the numerous pinball tables on casino-themed zone at Frozen Factory Zone 3. Getting hit by Bumper awards 100 points. Bumpers also appear in normal platforming sections of the zone as well, but unlike in previous games, Bumpers still have more resemblance to real-life bumpers instead of floating objects. The player is able to balance on these types of Bumpers by jumping on them.
In Desert Ruins Zone 4, there are also Antlions growling under sand pools, which apparently are seen caring on numerous amount of Bumpers behind on its tail. This is only seen in Wii U version of the game. In Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Lost World, bumpers are only seen at the beginning of casino-themed Sky Road Zone 2, where they are set around the planetoid-arena. Unlike the Wii U version, they are smaller and more round-shaped.
Breakaway Bumpers, also known simply as Bumpers and Spheres, are variants that appeared in Sonic CD and Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble. These obscure bumpers are seen as one large group or rarely as singles being separated at pinball sections. As the player bounces one of them, it breaks and disappear while giving points or nothing.
In other media
Sonic the Hedgehog Story Comic
Bumpers appears briefly in Sonic the Hedgehog Story Comic Volume 2 story "Clash!! South Island" as during the journey of saving animal friends, Sonic enters to the Sparkling Zone, he accidentally slips on a slide and is thrown into the pinball arena. He then gets bounced back and forth between the many bumpers, only being confused. After that he lands to the ground, until one second later Crabmeat and Newtron tries to attack him, but got destroyed by Sonic.
Later, bumpers are seen as part of another large pinball table called "Pin-Ball Blizzard" at park that Robotnik has taken over. Sonic gets bounced bumpers and other gimmicks while Robotnik is earning points from the pinball game. After while Sonic starts earning points for himself and such Robotnik sends Scratch and Grounder to the pinball table to stop Sonic. However the Badniks assault fails and they got stuck to the pinball, bouncing around bumpers and other pinball gimmicks.
Sonic the Hedgehog (TV Series)
In Sonic the Hedgehog television series, multiple bumpers played a part of a huge pinball table created by Dr. Robotnik inside a mechanized pyramid. As Sonic got himself trapped by Ari, Robotnik forced him to being used as pinball while trying to trap him in the void.
As Sonic got bounced around, he began destroying the pinball table gimmicks with a Power Ring, including the bumpers. As Robotnik grew more desperate in his efforts, many bumpers got sucked into the Void, along with Ari himself.
The yellow or white five-pointed star on a blue circle among a red background or in an annulus is a common symbol in the series. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the symbol of a star in a red annulus is the main feature of Star Posts replacing the lamppost that were the previous checkpoints in Sonic the Hedgehog. Also the Badnik Crawl has shields fashioned like bumpers that protect them, functioning just like the real thing.
The symbol bares resemblence to the National Symbol that was used during World War II, it was stenciled on motor vehicals assigned to tactic units, the symbol was usually a white star, a star in a broken circle or a star in a thick circle, sometimes yellow. The symbol also bares resemblence to the United States Air Force 1943 roundel, it's fourth design being a star set in a circle.
Ever since springs have been rendered in 3D games they have been red, supporting the star-on-blue-circle bumper design on them where Sonic jumps from. Also since Sonic Adventure 2, large red balloons with the bumper symbol are on certain stages. Once popped, the player gets a bonus item, and is useful to gliding or flying characters who need a bit of lift.
In Sonic Heroes, checkpoints have been redesign as pillars of blue light with gold stars in red circle. The colors and design also resemble the bumper symbol. These checkpoints are favored for Nintendo DS side-scrolling games.
The recently introduced Red Rings have stars that take up most of the space set in their centers.
The first planetoid section at Sky RoadZone 2 has similar appearance, color scheme and even features the large five-pointed star on it like bumper obstacle in Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Lost World.
In Frozen Factory Zone 3 in the Wii U version of Sonic Lost World, interacting with a bumper may cause a strobe effect to appear (giving the illusion of an epileptic seizure, lag, and color errors), leaving Sonic stuck until he gets a Time Over. It also happens on the second pinball table containing the Zone's third Red Star Ring. This glitch was patched as of version 3.0.0, and was passed on to the PC version.
↑This map was the first one to be drawn and finalized. Wanting to bounce around on the pinball-like bumpers in this stage really can't be helped! Because the star-patterned bumpers make a "Bo-bin!" sound when you bounce on them, in Sonic Team lexicon we call them bobins (laughs). - Naoto Ohshima, Sonic Team Commentary in Sonic Jam Strategy Guide.