Sonic establishes his controversial gambling problem with the original casino themed level, a classic staple. Bumpers, flippers and blocks are inexplicably arranged high above the buzzing cityscape at night, and colourful neon lights are everywhere. The classic pinball zone of Sonic 2, that'll send you bouncing off of things in all directions, often across giant pinball tables.
The nighttime city is alive and buzzing for miles in the distance, with multi-coloured lights constantly moving back and forth and flashing away. Blue skyscrapers line the horizon, and above, some large bright blue stars move along rather unnaturally with you. In the foreground, you can see the actual casino buildings, with their bright, flashing neon decorations (including the words "Sonic" and "Sega"). In essence, this location is set high up above a very Vegas-like city. Alive, and vibrant, and no light remains static.
Most of the ground is of a gold colour, made up of many small blocks and square black gaps, possibly to indicate windows on buildings, but all over the place you'll also find all manner of flashing, neon decorations. Amongst the gold blocks there are colourful signs depicting arrows, flowers, bars and crazy shapes, and little panels that alternate between images of Sonic and star, and Tails and moon, respectively. The amount of variety you'll see is incredible, and way too much to be detailed here (conveniently). The surface of most of the ground is an animated red neon road, sometimes held up a little way by thin blue bars, other times surrounded in little flashing decorations, around loops and curves. Open areas that have alot of bumpers, flippers and slot machines form a kind of pinball table, supported by a much more minimalist, spiky-edged chunk of yellow and blue background, and there are alot of little flashing numbers, words and $ signs to boot. On the ground, you'll find mini neon palm trees, flowers, pillars, circular signs sometimes saying "Casino" in the middle of them, and the names of Sonic and Miles in flashing lights, etc. There is so much to see, and so much artistic work has been put into this level that you really have to see and play it for yourself.
Casino Night is based on a fairly built-up structure, with much of the map being occupied by solid ground, but there are large open vertical spaces cut into it. These spaces are often occupied by the pinball tables, filled with bouncy objects, flippers, slot machines and all that jazz, the idea being that you simply try to bounce your way through. Linking these sections up together are smaller, slow-moving areas with moving blocks and elevators, etc. In relation to a real casino, if the open areas are like the large casino rooms, then these smaller areas are like the back corridors that the heavies take you to for a bit of roughing up, after you're caught cheating (and the big blue moving blocks are like the heavies.. or perhaps I'm over-analysing). You can also find extremely narrow diagonal and horizontal passages in the large chunks of ground, in which you can only fit by spinning through. These are handled much more speedily though, and pinball-style plungers are used to send you off, and loop-de-loops are thrown in aswell, for good measure. You may also need to do careful platform hopping and/or bouncing in order to get from one ledge to another in some areas. So in essence, we've got a mix of both open and enclosed rooms, plus a variety of levels of speed here, and all that bouncing around to go on top of it.
Ground surfaces tend to be fairly straight and sometimes based on small steps in the slower areas. Platforms and ledges don't seem to last very long before you have to leap off, and often contain tight holes and shafts in them, dropping you down to an area below. You can also get fairly gentle slopes, but the bouncy areas are much more curvy on both the floors and ceiling. Remember those deep dropping pits with curved bottoms in Spring Yard Zone? You can get quite alot of similar structures here too (though luckily, you now have a spin dash move with which to blast your way up the long walls), and long, steep slopes make up the walls in some pinball tables, leading downwards. Multiple routes are quite numerous, and the zone often holds two or three at any one point. They usually originate at different points along the right side of the large pinball tables and bouncy segments. If you manage to flip your way up to the top of them, you may take one route, while simply dropping off at the bottom will allow you to go on an alternate path. There are many of these across the map, and some routes merge together after a short way, so there's quite a large variety of places to explore, and ways of getting through each act, but they don't tend to differ too much in how quickly they take you to the end. As usual, the main direction is right, but your vertical position changes quite regularly, thanks to those long, large pinball rooms and also small blue elevators that can travel a fair distance up or down long, thin vertical shafts in the ground.
The big hotbed for items in Casino Night Zone are, of course, the pinball tables and rooms, where all manner of crazy bumpers and bouncy things lie. Glowing neon green flippers are positioned in standard pinball places such as a pair of them near the bottom of the table, or single ones to the sides of it. They're also found in a variety of other places around the level too, but mainly in the large, bouncy spaces. They hang slanted to the side, and you'll start spinning when you land on them. When on it, press a jump button to flip it up, which will send your character flying up across the area, which is your main way of getting around these tables. You can also find red flippers which hang vertically, positioned in the middle of curved pits. These will flip automatically as soon as you touch them, sending you speeding back up the wall you came down on. Bumpers, all animated, come in a number of forms for you to bounce off of. There are the circular star plates, established in Spring Yard and positioned in the air just about anywhere and everywhere really, each delivering 10 points per hit, but only for the first ten hits. Two types of red triangular bumpers are positioned on the sides, floors and ceilings, and small blue hexagonal ones that move slowly from left to right (and sometimes stationary) can often be found in the middle of pinball tables. In horizontal, diagonal or vertical rows, you'll spot little green icons, which I've been informed are probably intended to resemble drop targets on a pinball table, only positioned sideways so that you can bounce off of them. I've always thought they looked a bit like hot dogs, personally - but that would just be silly. Hit one once and it changes yellow, twice, red, and three times, it'll disappear, but you get 10 points for each hit, and 500 for the last one of the group. Quite often, you'll have to get rid of at least one, in order to fit through a gap to get to the area below.
Another common feature of the pinball tables are the groups of three horizontal bars, which you can land in by entering from the top or bottom. Ones on their own will top up your score a little way with a series of 100 points, before dropping you back down after two or three seconds. When they're positioned above or below three casino slot machine panels however, landing in them will get the slot machine rolling, which is located at the heart, and acting as the centerpiece of many of the pinball tables. One by one, the three slots stop by themselves after a few seconds, producing any three of the following images: The faces of Sonic (replaced by Knuckles in Sonic 2 + S&K) or Tails, "ring", "bar" and "jackpot" icons and a picture of Eggman. If all three turn out to be any one of those first five icons, you'll be rewarded with various, and usually large sums of rings. Get stuck with three Eggmans though (which is quite common), and you'll lose the maximum of 100 rings, via 100 (probably - I didn't count) little spikeballs that come flying at you from all directions. You can play the slots as many times as you like, and you won't die if you get three Eggmans when you have less than 100 rings, or none at all, and you may still get small ring payouts, such as 2, with pictures that aren't all the same.
Adding further to the pinball theme, red plungers found in narrow dead ends in the ground can be used to launch yourself with great force, much like they do in real pinball tables to launch the ball. When you land on the top of one, you'll be spinning and won't be able to move, or jump off of it. Simply hold down the jump button instead, which will charge up the plunger and force it downwards, and it'll gradually start to flash yellow more and more vigorously. When it's as far down as it can go, release the jump button. Diagonal ones will blast you through the corridor at maximum speed, usually into a loop-de-loop, while vertical ones shoot you straight up into a pinball table. Release the button sooner for less speed.
One of this level type's most commonly used features, the standard "big moving block" are blue and flashing in this zone. They hang out in the more slow-moving sections and narrow corridors, and like all of them, they move slowly upwards, downwards, left, or right. You can land on them fine, but save for one odd exception (Point #5), they will happily crush you into the ground or another block if they feel like it, so literally stay on their good side. Little blue elevators will take you up or down long, very thin vertical shafts when you step on them, accompanied by nice whirring sounds, and they'll usually go back when you step off, meaning they're one-way only. Thin purple conveyor belts, usually found more often in mechanical zones, are placed in the air and force you to run that little bit harder, by heading in the opposing direction. Over open gaps in the path, obscure objects made of small green blocks can be used as temporary platforms. They kind of go around in a small square pattern, one block following the other, but they disappear on one side, and reappear at the other. There are a few long spike sets to be aware of, and plenty of springs, of course.
To balance out that vast amount of stuff, you'll find only one badnik here, who appears fairly infrequently. His name is Crawl, and he's a round faced crab-like bot who moves very slowly, but is armed with a bumper plate that he uses to defend himself, should you try and mount an attack from the front or above, causing you to simply bounce off. To defeat him, you need to go for a rolling attack or spin dash from behind, only.
- Like the introductory tropical seaside stage, the bright, flashing casino level is another location that is a particular signature of the Sonic series, mainly because you never see anything quite like it in other, similar games. The Casino Night Zone is essentially the first full-on casino, borrowing some aspects of its design from the more general-looking Spring Yard Zone. This type of setting is most commonly associated with the "bouncy/pinball" kind of stage that features regularly in Sonic games. The features and design of Casino Park, from Sonic Heroes, are modelled closely on this classic stage.
- While in production, Casino Night had a completely different appearance to the impressive gold structures and detailed scenery art we see today. As the Sonic 2 Beta ROM shows us, its main colour scheme was originally going to consist heavily of pink! The ground carries much more of a playing card theme, and the music is an alternate version of the same tune, but with added notes here and there. For once in Sonic 2, the backgrounds are different for both acts, with a more simplistic, less busy cityscape in Act 1, while Act 2's background is based on the pinball tables of the final design. Level maps and structural components remain largely the same, but with objects and pieces of the floor missing, this early version is unplayable.