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As part of the Sea Urchin-like Orbinaut series, Tubinauts have a spherical, orange body with wide blue eyes. They also have three sphere-like satellites (each having their own separate color, which are green, blue, and purple) orbiting their body.
In Sonic Mania, and its expansion Sonic Mania Plus, the Tubinauts appear in both Acts of Studiopolis Zone. In gameplay, they levitate back and fourth around their designated area with their satellites orbiting them. These satellites can damage a vulnerable player at any time. Also, from time to time, the Tubinauts will rapidly spin their satellites around their bodies so they make an impenetrable rainbow shield that causes damage upon touch and repels even Super State users. After a few seconds though, the satellites will resume normal speed before repeating their patterns.
The satellites can be destroyed with any attack while they are moving slow, although destroying them with moves like the Spin Jump will bounce the playable character back a little. If a Tubinaut loses one of its satellites, the barrier they form can only deflect the player rather than damage them when they touch it. If the player destroys two of the satellites, the barrier is disabled completely, although the Tubinauts will still spin the last orb around themselves for defense. Also, with each orb destroyed, the Tubinaut's expression also changes, changing to a despondent look once its last orb is destroyed.
Attacking a Tubinaut's main body will put this Badnik out of its misery, causing the satellites still orbiting it to be scattered. While reducing its satellites makes this Badnik more vulnerable, slipping through them to attack the main body is also possible. Upon a Tubinaut's destruction, it releases an Animal that was inside of it.
Powers and abilities
The Tubinauts are capable of levitation, though their main abilities lie in the spherical satellites which they can hold in orbit around them. In addition to the satellites acting as one-time attack buffers, the Tubinauts can temporarily spin them around so fast that they form an impenetrable barrier about the Tubinaut itself.
The name is a portmanteau of "Orbinaut" and "tube", the latter of which is a slang term for television.
↑While not listed in any instruction manuals, the internal files in the PC release of Sonic Mania refers to this enemy as "Tubinaut".