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For other uses of the term, see Lava Reef (disambiguation).

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Lava Reef Zone

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Enter the biggest, hottest Zone on Floating Island! Beware of exploding rocks and Toxomisters that poison the air!

— Instruction manual

Lava Reef Zone (ラバーリーフ Rabārīfu?) is the fourth Zone of Sonic & Knuckles, and the tenth overall Zone of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. It is the last "normal" Zone, since all succeeding Zones have no Giant Rings, making Lava Reef the last chance for the player to capture any missing Chaos Emeralds or Super Emeralds before crossing the point of no return by entering Hidden Palace Zone.


Lava Reef Zone is the longest Zone in Sonic & Knuckles, and is also the longest Zone in any other Genesis Sonic game. The Zone takes place in an abandoned network of mines and caves as well as the magma chamber of Floating Island's dormant volcano. The Death Egg is visible in both acts, face-down through the volcano's mouth.

In Sonic and Knuckles's opening title sequence, the Death Egg can be seen (as Sonic is dropping into the foreground) plummeting and crashing into the volcano, getting stuck halfway through the mouth.


Act 1 comprises a level set in a cavernous chamber deep underground. Large, dark green pillar-like formations of rock dominate the foreground, and speleothems dot the background amongst an eerie reddish glow. A vast plain of freshly-cooled magma stretches far beyond into the horizon. Pipes festoon the walls and floor, and the inactive Death Egg can be seen on the chamber's roof, sitting beside a pillar in the near background. A flowing fall of lava makes up the background of the boss room, where Sonic and/or Tails fights Heat Arms.

Act 2 is mainly composed of a network of caves with the corners and walls curved and smoothed out. Most likely due to the magma solidifying, the walls sport cooled-down blue crystals and rocks of many sizes. The stairs approaching the area where Knuckles knocks the characters into the boss room overlooks a subterranean cavern bearing much similarity to the background of Act 1; however, the rock formations are adorned with blue color instead of red and green. The Death Egg once again becomes visible in this area's ceiling, albeit much closer to the player's perspective than the previous act.

The boss room of Act 2 uses the same blued-out cavern background of the two acts with a major difference; the Death Egg is now extremely close to the player's perspective, taking up nearly the whole top of the screen. When the Death Egg activates its laser attack in its eyes, the background switches to a fiery red tint; a mirage effect caused from the extreme heat also causes the image of the background to "wiggle" from side to side, just before Doctor Robotnik appears in his Hot Mobile to open fire on Sonic and/or Tails.

Act 1

Act 1 begins with an animation of Sonic and/or Tails free-falling into the level itself. As the player makes their way through the first act, common gimmicks include platforms that break and fall away (often into magma) if stepped on, spirals and ramps that propel the player over magma pits, holes that shoot fireballs horizontally in a straight line (which closely resembles the hazards found in Marble Zone), and doors that can only be opened by pressing a nearby button. A section of Act 1 includes a long, slanted path that releases a large spiked ball if the player travels through it. It is impossible to spin jump over the ball without taking damage, so the player must dodge it instead by crouching in the small pit at the end of the path and waiting for it to pass. After navigating through the zone, the player must then face the act's boss, Heat Arms.

Act 2

After the player defeats Heat Arms, much of the magma hardens and cools into a solid state, rendering it safe to touch and walk on. Gimmicks in this act are geysers that shoot streams of fire every few seconds, pads that launch small spiked balls into the air at audible time intervals, large steel blocks that move up and down or side to side, tunnels that will transport the player when entered, and rotating blue rods with bars on them. If Sonic/Tails grabs these bars, they will latch on and move around and around with the rod; spin jumping propels them either up or down, depending on if they were moving up or down when the player pressed the jump button. After moving through the complex system of caves, the player proceeds up a staircase followed by a large, flat platform that breaks away when stepped on, and another set of stairs. There, the player again encounters Knuckles, who laughs evilly and pushes a large boulder into the protagonists, taking them with it as it falls into the boss room.

Boss Room (Act 3)

Similar to the beginning of Act 1, Sonic/Tails falls into the boss room, where the Death Egg awaits; suddenly, the once inactive spacecraft activates the laser cannons in its eyes, engulfing the entire screen in a bright flash. When the flash dies down, the once solidified magma has reheated into a molten state by the Death Egg's attack, which has also caused some of the ground to become fragile. Dr. Robotnik appears in his compacted Hot Mobile and releases a barrage of missiles. Now, Sonic/Tails must make his way by jumping from platform to platform while avoiding the raining missiles as the screen forcibly advances forward as Eggman watches in the background before retreating into the magma for the boss fight later. After reaching a Checkpoint, Sonic/Tails then has to traverse across sparse footing down a fall of magma, where he can find a Lightning Shield and a Fire Shield positioned on stationary ledges. At to the foot of the magma fall, the player encounters Dr. Robotnik in his submarine-like vehicle, the Hot Mobile.

If playing as Knuckles instead of Sonic or Tails, he does not fight the Act 2 boss. Instead, Knuckles proceeds past the site where he drops the boulder on Sonic/Tails and travels through a tunnel into Hidden Palace Zone.


Main article: Hot Mobile

The Hot Mobile.

In a similar fashion to the Submarine Eggman from Hill Top Zone, the Hot Mobile is a submarine capable of withstanding the extremely hot temperatures of the magma. However, this machine is thoroughly protected by long protruding spikes. Dr. Robotnik will appear on the right and left sides, rising from the lava. Creating a sloping current in his direction, he will attempt to make the platforms Sonic/Tails is standing on run into his protected machine, while constantly shooting spiked mines in order to add another danger to the player hopping from platform to platform; ironically, his own mines will follow the current's flow and damage him. Eventually, after 14 mines hit his machine, the scientist will be defeated and the lava will once again cool down, allowing access to Hidden Palace Zone.

In other media

Sonic the Comic

In the Sonic the Comic series published by Fleetway Editions, Lava Reef Zone is a Zone set in the volcano on the Floating Island. Sonic and Knuckles pass through here after escaping from Sandopolis Zone.

Archie Comics

Main article: Lava Reef (Archie)

In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series published by Archie Comics, Lava Reef Zone was a location that Sonic, Knuckles, and the Chaotix visited when they went to go free Locke from captivity.


  • The Death Egg is absent from the Zone if playing as Knuckles; this is likely because Sonic's adventure chronologically precedes Knuckles', which implies that Sonic has already defeated Dr. Robotnik and neutralized the Death Egg for the time being.
  • The level background music of Act 2 is recycled and used again for the succeeding Zone, Hidden Palace Zone.
  • The boss segment in Act 2 is considered to be an Act 3 of Lava Reef by many fans since the player can restart from the beginning of the boss if they die instead of having to restart from the level itself.
    • Additionally, in the game's Level Select, the boss segment is listed as the third Act of Lava Reef Zone.
    • Hidden Palace Zone is listed as the fourth Act of Lava Reef Zone in the game's Level Select.
  • Lava Reef Zone appears as a part of the Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack in Lego Dimensions.




Name Artist(s) Length Music Track
Lava Reef Zone (Act 1) Tatsuyuki Maeda, Tomonori Sawada, Sachio Ogawa, Masayuki Nagao, Masanori Hikichi 1:27
Lava Reef Zone (Act 2) Masayuki Nagao 1:43


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