The Special Stages of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I are similar in concept to the Special Stages of Sonic 1; each stage is a rotating maze with various bumpers and blocks, rings to collect, and a Chaos Emerald hidden somewhere. However, it is not a direct copy of Sonic 1, having some key changes.
Rather than moving Sonic around, the player instead moves the maze itself; Sonic now bounces off walls, and he can only jump by pressing a button to shake the maze when he's touching a wall (which causes him to bounce off it). Walls no longer deteriorate to open passages or doors as Sonic touches them. In addition, there is a time limit, which can be increased by hitting time balloons in the maze. Sonic will also have to collect a predetermined number of rings in parts of the stage to pass certain barriers to obtain the Chaos Emerald. The player must still take care to not let Sonic touch the goal blocks, which will end the stage immediately.
To rotate the maze, these stages use the D-pad or Analog stick by default, but motion controls can be assigned in the iOS, Wii, and PS3 versions.