The gameplay mechanics and physics of the video games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series have changed over time, but some game details have remained the same.
The main purpose, as expected from Action-Adventure games, is to reach the Goal of the Zone/Stage. To do this, Sonic the Hedgehog, or other playable characters in the game, must overcome the level's environment, obstacles, traps and enemies to get to the other side of the level.
Throughout these games there will be opportunities to earn points and also to enter the Special Stage where a Chaos Emerald can be earned. However of later games the concept of the Special Stages have been dropped to the side-scrolling Sonic games.
Counters can be seen throughout the levels during gameplay keeping score of lives, rings and time.
The maximum time limit of each stage is 10 minutes (However, this limit does not apply in all Sonic games). The purpose of a timer in the games isn't to show how much time you have left, but how long you have played the level.
As Sonic is about speed, the clock is to encourage speedplay and records as usually the Goal rewards quickest time.
Rings are one of the common gameplay items in almost every Sonic game. They are mostly used for protection from attacks and damage. 50 rings can grant access to the Special Stage by Warp Rings or Star Post while 100 Rings gives an extra life.
Rings are also in Special Stages, either as optional collectibles to increase score or as items necessary to earn a Chaos Emerald (for example, Sonic the Hedgehog 2).
A modern use for rings is that they are recognised as an international currency and can be used at shops to buy various items and skills. However as shops are usually located at hub worlds you can only spend rings you have collected in total from stages (which are saved like a bank) and you cannot have saved rings when you start a stage.
Lives are how many attempts the player can play a certain level over. Lives are generally lost when the character is attacked without Rings, crushed by traps, or falls into bottomless pits of the level.
There are ways to increase your lives. The two most major methods throughout the series is for the hero to break open a "1-Up monitor"; these rare item boxes can be found in difficult places. Another method is to collect 100 Rings which result in an extra life. Lives can also be rewarded as bonuses after completing an Act or level.
At the bottom-left corner of the screen during gameplay, the icon of the player's character's indicates how many lives he/she has remaining. Every time the player loses a life, he/she continues from the last Checkpoint that is activated (or from the start of the level if the player has not activated any Checkpoints).
- Further reading: Score (gaming)
Points are earned from defeating enemies which cost 100 points. Points are tallied at the end of the act or stage along with rings and time converted into points which depending on how much may reward you with bonus items. (And in later games a rank)
|Item / Enemy||Point value|
|100 (Limited dispense)|
|Golden robots||1000 (Sonic Adventure 2)|
400 (Sonic Heroes)
- Wikipedia article: Checkpoints
Checkpoints are marked areas of the Zone or Stage in which if you lose a life, you can return to this point and continue from the very moment you reached the checkpoint. However you will not return to the last checkpoint if you loose all your lives in which the game is over. However if Continues are retained you are able to restart the zone/stage from the beginning.
These checkpoints have more purpose. When passed with 50 rings portals to the Special Stage will open above them.
In Sonic Heroes, checkpoints have been redesign as pillars of blue light with gold stars in red circle. The colours and design also resemble the boppin symbol. These checkpoints are favourated for Nintendo DS side-scrolling games.
Shadow the Hedgehog has the most unique checkpoints as large green markers which Shadow can teleport to previous checkpoints he has activated in the stage.
Meters and Gauges
The games do not rely on a "life bar" since Sonic or his friends will lose a life just under 1 hit (with no rings). However, lives can be sustained by possessing rings or have a barrier to protect them.
Meters which register power or health have been used in more recently in Sonic games. The earliest being Tails Adventure where Tails' duration of flight is kept. Tails' stamina to fly increases everytime he gets a Chaos Emerald.
Meters for powers have also been used such as in Sonic Heroes where when the Team Blast meter is filled, the whole team can perform a powerful attack. An Action Gauge has been used in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) where characters abilities are limited to this gauge, the meter however could recharge over time or needed Light Cores to recharge.
Sonic Rush and its sequel utilized a meter for boosting called the Tension Gauge. A meter for boosting has been developed further for the game Sonic Unleashed where rings give Sonic the ability to break into instant and powerful speed. This very meter used again in Sonic Colors which is charged by the Wisps Hyper-go-on energy. (The meter in the Nintendo DS variation of Sonic Colors mostly resembles the Tension Gauge from Sonic Rush while the Wii meter resembles the boost meter from Sonic Unleashed.) Boosting returns in Sonic Generations and it is also implied in cutscenes that the instant-speed boost will remain as Sonic's ability.
Some enemies in the series have health meters of there own. First seen during boss battles in Sonic Adventure and some tough enemies in Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog have their own life meter to remind the player know how much health he/she has remaining.
The first time that playable characters actually use a life bar would be Tails and Dr. Eggman during their gameplay in Sonic Adventure 2. The mechs they drive had meters that display their health and can be replenished when collecting a certain number of Rings.