Flying Battery has taken our heroes to a dry, isolated desert region of the island, home to ancient Egyptian buildings and artifacts. Act 1 takes you through the sunset labyrinth of crumbling structures, where sand slides, crushing blocks and quicksand are the order of the day. Act 2 is based solely inside a huge pyramid - keep it well lit to prevent the ghosts from appearing, and doors only open when you press against timed switches, closing slowly while you make your way towards them. One of the most puzzle-based levels ever, with all kinds of traps and tricky features. A long and difficult zone for any player.
The pyramids of Sandopolis are based in the middle of nowhere. Presumably on a far, remote edge of Angel Island, there's little else but miles of empty desert wasteland around. It's sunset though, which is always nice, and the sky is purple at the very top, gradually turning to bright yellow along the horizon. There are rows of sandy hills far in the distance and an occasional pyramid in front of them. It's hard to make out, but I believe there are some palm trees spaciously distributed just in front of them, and then simply semi-flat, dry land separating all of that from you. One neat graphical feature you may spot is that the whole background shimmers slightly in the hot, desert air. Act 2 takes place exclusively inside a large pyramid, and like Labyrinth Zone, the background is simply a huge wall of blocks, not too far away from the foreground. They're a kind of dirty yellow colour, illuminated by the torches, which are arranged in threes in certain places across the wall. The blocks vary in size and shape, but they're all very old and crumbled and some even have little Egyptian hieroglyphics on them. It's always the same image though - a man on the left and what appears to be a bird on the right, with some other stuff in the middle. Of course, as the lighting dies down and the ghosts appear, the background, and all of your surroundings get darker, and you can see the torches getting less powerful on each phase.
Yellow and brown stone blocks, crumbled and uneven, make up most of the ground surrounding you with occasional Egyptian symbols on some of them. When outside, in Act 1, this ground shimmers a little just like the background does, and thick chunks of solid sand provide for most of the floor and walls. In some sections, you can also find yourself in large pillar structures. Here, the ground is based within a large cylindrical construction of cracked old turquoise coloured blocks and the floor is solid yellow ground, with a zig-zag pattern running through it. It has a high ceiling above it, made up of the same thing, and long thin yellow pillars on either side of the path hold it all up. Other sections in both acts place you inside small rooms, where the walls in the background are of plain black bricks. There are also pairings of dark red-ish pillars supporting it.
Now this is one big level, so get ready for quite a long experience. At a glance, the map of Act 1 mainly takes place on a series of platforms in a very complex design, some with curved roads on the floors and ceilings and occasionally connected by long diagonal sand slides. There are corridors, often located inside the brief internal sections, but a lot of open spaces as well, usually between huge turquoise pillars that your character can scale their way down using the hanging ropes. Being based mainly on sand, the roads are full of lumps, bumps and steps along the way, and short curves in the road, loop-de-loops and catapult devices regularly send you hurtling through the air. Those loops are always against the wall, by the way, and rather than coming in one side and exiting the other, you have to spin round and round it a few times before it finally throws you upwards. Sand slides occasionally force you the other way, but your main direction is right in Act 1, and each route mostly sticks to its own large horizontal segments of the map.
Act 2 is generally more enclosed, with the action all taking place in a series of corridors and rooms, except for large open areas for more sand slides. The pieces of ground seem to be more connected here, with less emphasis on crossing gaps in the path, and more on working your way through trap-filled passageways and figuring out little puzzles at a generally slower pace. This act uses the looping system on several occasions, where a path or drop will carry on at the opposite end of the map when you reach the top or bottom of it, at certain points. This is used to either create a seemingly longer vertical route, or by means of a detour, to get you back onto a previous ledge you may have missed. Most other structural elements are the same as Act 1.
As for routes, the two acts are rather different. Sticking with Act 2, this mostly has one long, single route, except for a couple of occasions where Knuckles is able (or is forced) to break down blocks to find his own brief, and often more difficult path toward the end of the level. He can also access an alternate start of the act (and an exclusive big ring) by simply climbing the wall to the left of the entrance. The other detours mainly occur at a couple of points where you have to scale down between two huge turquoise pillars from the top of the left one to a platform at the bottom of the right one. If you miss this, you'll need to carry on with the route downwards to either find an alternate path, or keep dropping to loop back up to the top and try again. Act 1 meanwhile is a mass of routes, sub-routes, shortcuts and hidden rooms and it'll take you ages before you explore all of them. Essentially, there are two main routes that branch off from each other fairly early on. The top route is quite vast, splitting and rejoining multiple times across most of the map, but with easily missed entrances and connections, it's harder to get on, and as a result most players will remain near the bottom of the act, oblivious to what's going on above them. Knuckles can gain access to the above areas early by climbing the very first straight wall at the start, and as discussed by Point #4, the upper middle of the act splinters confusingly into an array of sand pits, with sub-routes emerging from them at different floors. A few shortcuts or hidden areas at the very top of the stage are designed specifically for Tails' flight ability when playing S3&K, including one of the big rings, and several barriers along the brief upper sub-routes prevent access to anyone but Knuckles.
Finally, this stage is absolutely packed with well hidden Special Stage rings. There are seven in Act 1 (often hidden in secret little rooms to the left of an area, which you don't normally notice while heading right) and four in Act 2, though of course some are only in places accessible to certain characters so I doubt it's possible to pick up all of them in one go by fair means.
Thin waterfalls of sand (or, if you will, "sandfalls"), pour from long diagonal sand slides or frequently just edges of platforms or ceilings. If you jump into them, they will move you slowly either up or down. You won't be able to move left or right very quickly, but you can repeatedly jump upwards, regardless of the direction of flow to get yourself to the top ledge. These sandfalls are usually vertical, but you can also find them curving round into horizontal ones across ceilings that carry you along, and you can jump out at any time. When you see a small yellow stone block on the edge of a platform, go up to it and push it off over the ledge, by holding the direction button towards it. It's heavy but it eventually tumbles, and lands on a series of small wheels suspended in the air, which move it along the path. Jump on it to be carried along to the following area, but make sure you jump off when you see the next ledge, because the block usually falls off into the quicksand below.
This quicksand works just like the oil in Oil Ocean and the sludge pits in Marble Garden. If you fall in, simply keep jumping to stay on the surface, and then make your way to whatever platform is around. Otherwise, it'll drag you down and one of two things will happen - you'll die, or sometimes you'll actually survive and find a hidden area down there! If you can see a solid piece of ground or some sort of platform below it, you should be alright, so it might be worth just dropping down and having a look. Many sand pits are near the bottom of the level, but unlike Oil Ocean Zone, their method of killing you isn't just about trying to drop you off the stage, you can still die just as easily within large pits near the top of the level too. Even more threatening are the incredibly plentiful long yellow crushing blocks with thick black edges, particularly in small rooms and corridors, so be very wary of them. They move up and down or left and right, often very slowly, and sometimes have sets of spikes on their tops or bottoms. They can easily lurch out on top of you when you least expect it, though they can also be completely stationary on occasion as well.
Long, diagonal sand slides are fairly self-explanatory features, and simply drop you down from the top to the bottom, sometimes arranged on opposing sides over a large area. They're difficult, if not impossible to climb back up just by jumping, except for those smaller ones that feature a series of small platforms that are released from the ceiling above the top of the slide. Coming down the sand and dropping away at the bottom, they form convenient stepping stones for you. Catapults are formed from strings of circles that are spread diagonally across some corners of walls. Jump on them and they'll throw you across a large distance or to a higher ledge on the opposite side. In wide, open areas in both acts, you'll be able to take a rope ride across from one wall to the other or to scale down one of them. Simply grab hold of the hanging hook at the top and you'll drop down a little way on it. From there, use the jump button to kick away from each wall until you get to the bottom, where you can jump off.
Taking you up and down, platforms on the ends of long arms swing 180 degrees from one point on the wall to the other, with the base of their arm in the middle. Stand on them to make them move, and then they'll swing back when you get off. You can also get horizontal ones suspended in the air that just swing back and forth of their own accord. When walls of solid sand reach up out of the ground and uselessly try to block your path, just simply jump up over them. Jump on brown blocks that stand in your way to crumble them, though some of them may in fact be a badnik in disguise (see the last paragraph for those). When you see a barricade of small silver cubes blocking an entrance to a corridor, that's a Knuckles-only route you've got there, and Sonic is incapable of breaking through it. Also watch out for basic slotting spikes on the ceilings and floors and the good old crumbling ledge trick too.
Act 1 is all relatively straightforward and there's not too much to worry about. Act 2, unfortunately, is the exact opposite, incorporating almost all of the above, and adding some impressively tricky ideas. First thing you'll notice is that it's nearly pitch black inside the temple. You'll find grey hanging light switches on the ceilings at regular intervals throughout the act, and you'll need to jump and pull these to fully restore the lights. However, this is not permanent and the lights gradually die down all the time, which is when the ghosts begin to appear. They're harmless to start with, but if you go too long without turning the lights back on, spending time with them won't be a picnic. They'll start appearing halfway through the fully lit phase, when a single, small white ghost will patrol back and forth along the top of your screen, following you wherever you go, but you can't interact with it just yet. Allow another 15 seconds or so and the lighting will drop down to medium, where another ghost will join the party and do the same thing, both looking larger and more evil now. 30 seconds later, and it becomes almost pitch black again, and you should probably start getting concerned now, as a third ghost appears and all three develop mean, pointy ears, though still continue hovering across the top of the screen. After 15 seconds of this, they'll finally begin to unleash their fury by continuously diving at you from either top corner. You'll take damage if you get hit, and if you jump into them, they'll disappear and then reappear back at the top and continue the assault. The only way to relieve yourself of them is to find one of those light switches and quickly. Fully restoring the lights will always make them vanish, no matter what phase they're in. Fortunately, light switches are quite frequent and in obvious places, so it shouldn't be too difficult to ensure that you don't allow them to grow that big. As Sonic, ghosts will only start appearing after Point #6. for Knuckles, they'll be there right from the start!
Another regular feature of Act 2 are the heavy black door switches. Push them all the way to the right to fully open up the nearby doorway, but when you release it, it'll move back to the left at a certain speed, which in turn gradually closes the door. The long thin doors open either vertically or horizontally, and after pushing the switch, you sometimes have to quickly make your way through a brief obstacle course in order to get through the door in time, as the switch and the door are not always right next to each other, unfortunately. They can also open more than one door at a time, and have a fairly annoying sound that plays continuously while they close, even after leaving the vicinity completely. Don't get caught too tightly beneath a closing door, or it'll crush you. And then there's the sand-release hatches, which are located on the ceiling in certain areas. Jump to break them and streams of sand will begin to flood the room, which will either immediately create a plain of stable sand to walk on below, or more famously a long, ever-rising bumpy mound of it that'll carry you upwards, and can crush you into ceilings if you don't move fast across it or the corridors that it's chasing you up through. See points 10, 11 and 12 for all the section-specific details.
Skorps are scorpion badniks that crawl around a small area. They are particularly evil, because as soon as they see you, they'll throw their long, stinging tail directly at you with pinpoint accuracy, even when you're a fair distance away. By badnik standards, this is a very hard attack to avoid, so if you can't sneak up on them stealthily, make sure you strike before they do. Meanwhile, Sandworm is another robot based on the classic Caterkiller design from Sonic 1. These ones lurk inside pits of quicksand, swimming back and forth close to the surface (you can see the sand splashing just above them), and then periodically leap out, in an effort to catch you off guard. Bop them on the head only, as the other parts of their body are protected by spikes. A badnik apparently named "Rock'n", (though it isn't officially recognised by the game's instruction manual) disguises itself as a standard chunk of rock lying on the ground. When you step near, the eyes at the front open and legs at the bottom lift the block up, and it starts walking around. This odd looking thing doesn't actually hurt you though, it instead simply pushes you along, potentially into danger. You'll stand on it if you attempt a regular jumping spin attack, so only a spin dash will destroy it. I'd hesitate to even call it a badnik if it didn't produce the customary trapped animal upon destruction.