The objective of the game's Special Stages is to guide Sonic through a rotating maze to find a Chaos Emerald at the end. Collecting all seven Emeralds gives Sonic the ability to transform into Super Sonic, and changes the game's ending.
When entering the Special Stage, Sonic will be constantly using the Spin Attack while the stage's maze rotates in a 360 degree angle. Unlike in Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), the player controls the rotation of the maze rather than Sonic. In the PlayStation 3 and Wii versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, rather than using the left stick/, the player can tilt the Six-Axis controllers/Wii Remote to control the maze's rotation. On the mobile version of the game, the rotation of the maze is controlled by tilting the device or swiping the screen. The player can also shake the Special Stages' maze by pressing the jump button ( or / or /).
When entering a Special Stage, the player is given a time limit for how long they have to reach the end of the local maze. This time limit can be extended by collecting Time Bonuses. If the time limit expires, the Special Stage ends without the player receiving a Chaos Emerald. Rings are also found around the mazes which the player must collect in certain amounts to open gates blocking the paths. Collecting fifty Rings grants an extra life on the results screen. Many other gimmicks are also found in the Special Stages, but the player has to avoid Goal blocks which will make Sonic exit the Special Stages without getting a Chaos Emerald.
Upon reaching the end of a Special Stage and touching its Chaos Emerald, the player exits the Special Stage while getting a Ring and Time Bonus added to their score. Once the player clears a Special Stage, they will not be able to visit the next Special Stage from the same Act they visited it from. After the player collects the Chaos Emeralds from all seven Special Stages, they can return to the Special Stages to collect 1-Up icons instead of Emeralds.
Gimmicks and obstacles
|Goal||Red circles found in small wells and row formations. Touching one will transport the player out of the Special Stage without a Chaos Emerald. Avoid these at all times.|
|Bumper||Objects similar to the ones from the Casino Street Zone. They do not grant points, but will bounce the player away.|
|Jump Stand||Red and white blocks that come in two variants. The first works like a normal square block that bars the player's path, and the second variant is transparent and intangible, but will usually turn solid after the player passes through it.|
|Color Block||Diamond-shaped crystals in different colors that serve as platforms or passage blockades. Touching one causes it to shrink and change color. If touched enough times, it breaks.|
|Time Bonus||Orange and yellow orbs that appear separately. Touching one increases the Special Stage's time limit by the amount of seconds shown on it (5, 10 or 15 seconds).|
|"Ring Gate"||Orange-striped barriers that repel the player when touched. The player must obtain a certain number of Rings from around the maze to make them disappear. The number of Rings required are shown on the barrier.|
Special Stage information
|No.||Emerald color||Starting time limit|
If the player collects the Chaos Emerald from all seven Special Stages, Sonic can transform into Super Sonic with fifty Rings in gameplay. It also lets Sonic transform into Super Sonic just before the credits by collecting enough Rings during the ending sequence after clearing the E.G.G. Station Zone. After the credits, the player is then treated to a teaser of the next episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4. If the player does not collect all the Chaos Emeralds, however, the game tells the player to try again.