The Strange Relief, also known as the Relief (レリーフ Rerifu?) or the Arrow-Shooting Head, is a gimmick/obstacle that appears in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It is a wall-mounted stone statue that shoots arrows.
Strange Reliefs are wall-mounted stone statues of a human face with red gems on their forehead. The stone statues are surrounded by yellow structure edges. In Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, Strange Reliefs' eyes have only white pupils.
In gameplay, Strange Reliefs fire fast-moving arrows in whatever linear horizontal direction they are facing. Making contact with these arrows will inflict damage on the playable character.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3
In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and the lock-on game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, Strange Reliefs appear as obstacles in Marble Garden Zone. They are found in both the exterior and interior sections of the Zone, usually at the dead end of the routes.
In gameplay, when the playable character gets in its sight, the Strange Relief starts shooting its arrows from its mouth every couple of seconds. In order to progress along the route the Strange Relief is on, the player has to hit the flashing red gem on the Strange Relief's forehead three times. Doing so will make one of two things happen: a rock hatch (usually below the relief) will open or a small piece of the level structure will rise up to a point where the player can continue through the Act. Meanwhile, a Strange Relief with a broken forehead gem becomes inactive.
When playing as Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, Marble Garden Zone Act 2 will include one Strange Relief at the end of the Act that Knuckles cannot reach due to his short jumping height. The side pillars in the room with this Strange Relief are also breakable, meaning that if the player attempts to climb on them, they will crumble. In order to get around this Strange Relief, the player must backtrack until they comes across a wooden sign with an arrow pointing upward, which indicates an exclusive route that Knuckles can reach.
Knuckles later encounters two more Strange Reliefs in Marble Garden Zone. The first one is located in the top right corner of the exterior section after the brief encounter with Eggrobo. To reach this Strange Relief, the player has to use a Platform-raising Wheel. The second Strange Relief is found towards the end of the segment with the rising ground. Here, the player has to destroy the forehead gem on the Strange Relief to open the rock gate on left before the rising ground crushes Knuckles.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II
In Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, Strange Reliefs appear in Sylvania Castle Zone Act 2. In gameplay, their attack pattern resembles their original one, albeit more predictable, as they have to open their mouths to shoot arrows each time. The player should avoid standing right next to a Strange Relief while it opens its mouth as well, as the large arrows they load to fire can already damage the playable character before they even shoot them from their mouths. The Strange Reliefs themself are also invincible, as hitting their gems does not effect their behavior, meaning the player can only avoid their attacks.
In Sylvania Castle Zone Act 2, Strange Reliefs are also placed on walls, ceilings and floors as aeration blowers in underwater sections. Here, the constant water flow made by a Strange Relief forces the playable characters to be guided through an underwater passage. After reaching to the new section in the Act, the player is unable to backtrack on these passages, as the water flow keeps pushing the playable character back.
In other media
Sonic the Comic
In the Sonic the Comic comic series and its spin-offs published by Fleetway Editions, the Strange Relief is one of traps found on the Floating Island, and is meant to ward off intruders. Sonic accidentally triggered a Strange Relief's trap during a trip to the island, but he managed to avoid the arrow thanks to Tails' warning and it was subsequently destroyed.
- Despite the last part of the route for Sonic/Tails in Marble Garden Zone Act 2 being inaccessible for Knuckles under normal circumstances, there's a method to gain access to it for Knuckles by using the Spinning Top from somewhere in the Act and bringing it to the Strange Relief room. This requires precise maneuvering of the Spinning Top without losing it. After reaching the room with the Strange Relief on it, the player has to Spin Jump and glide above the Strange Relief, so Knuckles can land three hits on it and gain the access to the route intended for Sonic and Tails.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog Encyclo-speed-ia book, the creator of Strange Reliefs is left as an open question as Dr. Robotnik or the Ancients are mentioned as two possible candidates.
- Kellie (16 March 2012). Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II – Concept Art Friday. Archived from the original on 23 March 2016. Retrieved on 6 February 2015.
- Flynn, Ian; Sega (8 December 2021). Sonic the Hedgehog Encyclo-speed-ia. Dark Horse Books. p. 52. ISBN 978-1506719276. "Relief - An arrow-spitting face. Were these built by Dr. Eggman or the Ancients?"
- (in Japanese) ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ３ 公式ガイドブック. Shogakukan. 1 July 1994. p. 14. ISBN 978-4091024794.
- Sonic the Comic #34, "Sonic 3 Part 1 - The Zones"