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Carnival Night Zone

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Carnival Night Zone
Not to be confused with the Night Carnival Zone of Sonic Rush.
  • Act 1
  • Act 2
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Carnival Night Zone
Fourth level, Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Number of Acts: 2
Level theme: carnival/casino
Sub-boss: Bowling Spin
Boss: Graviton Mobile
Maximum rings, Act 1: 312 + 250
Maximum rings, Act 2: 261 + 270
Underwater areas: Act 2 (as Sonic and/or Tails)
Non-English names:
Marble Garden Zone | IceCap Zone

Carnival Night Zone lives up to its name — it's a theme park! In the fourth zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, everything's pretty much the same, except that there are many more hidden areas than in other zones and a few more toys. There's the cannon, which will launch you in the direction of your choice. Of course, don't forget the anti-gravity pads and balloons to bounce off. There are large, black wheels to get dizzy on, and the unforgettable rotating barrels; note that not all barrels move very far. Sonic and Tails enter the zone by flying from Marble Garden, while Knuckles comes in through a tunnel in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. At the end of the Zone, Sonic and Tails are launched out of a cannon to IceCap, whereas Knuckles will use a teleporter to change zones.

It is interesting to note that Act 2 is one of the only three levels where Knuckles does not fight a boss to advance to the next zone (the other two being Lava Reef Zone and Hidden Palace Zone).


The barrel

The "Barrel of Doom".

Carnival Night Zone is infamous among Sonic 3 players for a certain design choice in its second act.

Near the end of the level, after the player has turned the power back on to the zone, Sonic and Tails will run into a tall room with a barrel blocking a gap in the floor. A door will shut behind them, and it's up to Sonic and Tails to get out of the room before they run out of time. Jumping on the barrel makes it wobble, but no matter how high Sonic and Tails jump, or how they time their jumps, the barrel does not move enough to allow a safe exit.

It's not immediately obvious what to do next, and becoming colloquially known as the "Barrel of Doom" among players of Sonic 3. For the younger demographic less adept at puzzle solving, Carnival Night Zone act 2 was often as far as they could reach - it was a regular question posed to gaming magazines of the time, and presumably Sega themselves.

There are many barrels in this zone - some behave similarly to this one, others move on a fixed path and can crush the player. Until this point in the game, simply treating the barrels as obstacles and avoiding them works as good tactic, but you can't do that here - it needs to be moved by the player. This is achieved by standing on the barrel and pressing Up and Down to shift its weight; you can use this momentum either to reach high places, or in this case, get through the gap.

Carnival Night Zone is the only level in the Mega Drive series to feature an obstacle like this, and stands as the only situation where pressing Up is required to beat the game. There are no visual clues to suggest the D-Pad is needed, no hints in the manual, and even if the directions are pressed accidentally, their effects are not noticed until the player commits to the up-down-up-down pattern.

When playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, Knuckles (usually) takes a different path to Sonic and Tails through Act 2, and so is not visit this room.

Sega has officially poked fun at this barrel and its problems it has caused since 1994. It appears in Lego Dimensions as the "barrel of doom" and is destroyed by E-123 Omega in issue #67 of Sonic Universe. It was also immortalised in drinking mug form in 2019, and Yuji Naka has publicly apologised for its inclusion in the game.

Quotes

Night life on the Floating Island is exciting. Bounce and flip your way across this colorful Zone which is filled with anti-gravity platforms. However, beware of many traps that are set along the path.
While developing in America, we would see these portable carnival rides come in around shopping centers, and that was the idea we went with for this stage. When you think of carnivals of course there are Ferris wheels and teacup rides, but it seems like generally there were a lot of things that just pushed and spun you around really fast (laugh), my main memory was that they were unusually scary!

Yuji NakaSonic Jam Official Guide

Badniks

  • Batbot — Bat with a lightbulb for a behind.
  • Clamer — A blue clam that can serve as a spring, much like the Spiker.
  • Sparkle — An electric "grenade" that usually comes at you in pairs.

References


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