Inspired by Sonic Adventure 2, Project Needles features two "good-vs-evil" stories, but it goes more in the flow of Shadow the Hedgehog - you choose your path for Needles, Hero or Dark. Both stories feature entirely gameplay and have way different plots, although either one can lead into the hidden "Last Story", which features the true ending of the game. The Hero story features Needles helping out the citizens of her town and tracking down the hidden evil forces hidden in her town, and the Dark story features Needles helping out her psychotic mother take over the world and countries beyond it. In both stories, you can actually betray your friends and suddenly break out to the other side.
Following the success of Sweet Invader, TimeStrike wanted to make a direct sequel for it, but it was argued that it would be too soon to begin planning, so they developed a sort of side sequel, featuring Valerie's daughter, Needles. Knowing the failure of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and how many of its products inspired the company's games, they decided to base Needles' game off of the Sonic series, with Sega's permission.
Project Needles is a 2D side-scrolling platformer, featuring Needles running along "zones", which are the game's levels, each Zone being divided into three acts and a boss level. The goal is to make it to the end of each act - or defeat the boss - and destroy nightmarish enemies as you move along by jumping on them or spinning into them. Needles has unique abilities of her own, including the ability to jump on walls and bounce off of them utilizing her spiky body, and the ability to transform into a spiky ball for a second midair, giving her a very short lasting shield. Unlike usual traditional Sonic games, Needles can perform the homing attack and air dash.
Because of the incredible speed of the Sonic series and how it partially led to the series' downfall, and how Needles is supposed to move as fast as Sonic from Sonic Unleashed, the level designs are lengthened considerably and the player gets warnings on when to jump over off screen objects, helping the player keep their speedy pace. The level paths often break off into others, allowing the player to finish the level in several different ways. Like as expected from the Sonic series, Project Needles has loop-de-loops, corkscrews, breakable walls, spikes, and bottomless pits.
Needles' health system has "rings", but they're different objects and function differently. Needles has four life-representing hearts at the start of each act, and when she is attacked by an enemy, she loses a heart. If she loses all hearts, she loses a life and is forced to start from the last checkpoint she touched - and if she falls into a bottomless pit, she loses all her hearts even if she has more than one. To refill hearts, the player needs to collect thirty of the level's rings. Bottomless pits, as well as crushers and instant kill moves, automatically remove all of Needles' hearts, and exceeding the ten minute time limit also makes her lose a life (and makes her reset from the level's beginning). Unlike traditional Sonic games, collecting 100 rings does not grant the player an extra life.
Within the game's levels, there are capsules floating about which grant Needles an item when broken. These can include an extra heart, invincibility, faster speed, higher attack power, or even an extra life. Notably, there are different shields in the game, which are somewhat hidden away in most stages - these shields often have strong effects and help Needles considerably in the game's levels. The shields have their own golden borders in contrast to the grey ones the normal item capsules have.
Via hitting a checkpoint, Needles returns to that specific point in the level for every time she loses a life in it, except for when she loses all lives and a game over happens, taking the player back to the title screen, or for when she hits a different checkpoint, which makes her return to that point in the level instead. If she is holding 100 rings, the player will be able to hit the top of the checkpoint and receive an extra life.
Each boss fight has Needles fighting Nateah, or Henata if the level setting is dark, besides for the final fights which are against an entirely different antagonist. The boss fights are often difficult and require Needles to only attack when the time is right, as mistakes make her lose hearts, and if she loses all her hearts, again, she will lose a life, and will be forced to restart the entire boss act. Defeating the level's boss enables her to move on to the next zone, and each boss (barring the last ones, again) has eight hit points, six on easy mode, twelve on hard mode.
A lot of these mechanics are highly similar to those featured in the Sonic series, but the point of Project Needles is to return the Sonic formula while having it not be frustrating or overall clunky, like somewhat recent releases including Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Sonic Lost World. Needles doesn't earn a lot of new abilities to differ much from Sonic, but it's to keep the game simplistic and fun.
- Directional Buttons: Allows Needles to move left and right. By holding the directions, she'll constantly speed up. By holding up or down, the player can look above and below her. If the player presses down while she's moving, she'll spin into her ball.
- Left Thumbstick: Same function as Directional Buttons.
- Right Thumbstick: Allows Valerie to switch between collected shields.
- Red Button: Enables Needles to jump. She can press it again to do a fast air dash, or a homing attack on enemies. If the player is holding Up and presses the A button, Needles will go into a ball and dash forward in it.
- Green Button: Holding this enables Needles to run faster, and eventually to the point of extreme speed.
- Blue Button: Pressing the Blue button enables Needles to toss a large array of sharp needles forward, hitting enemies unaffected by her ball form.
- Purple Button: Same as the Red button.
- Left Shoulder Button: Toggles on and off the "extreme speed" feature the green button possesses.
- Right Shoulder Button: When Needles is sprung upward by something (like a spring), she can perform tricks using this button, earning "Style Points" in the level she's in.
- Left Inner Trigger: Pauses the game and allows a player to look at their current progress.
- Right Inner Trigger: Pauses the game and allows the player to take a detailed look at Needles, and test out certain functions before using them in her levels.
- Start: Pauses the game.
- Select: Pauses the game, but shows a screen with Needles' current objective and details about the level she is in.
The daughter of Valerie who is often conflicted between good and bad, Needles is the star of this adventure. Noted for her speed that rivals other-universe character Sonic the Hedgehog, and for her amazing talents with her hair, she is popular with the people of her home town, Naxaz. She often works between a sensible crime-solver and a thief under the lead of Valerie. She is the only character in the game who can be played with.
The cousin of Oshelia who is very happy and good-spirited, but yet seeking out the presence of her family, being confused on the timeline of her family. She leads the Hero story for Needles, helping her realize purpose, friendship, and family relationships, as well as love and respect. The player can choose on whether or not Needles should listen to her or betray her, which lead to different boss battles by the game's end.
Guane is Needles' friend (or killed enemy) who is a demon that has befriended her after a somewhat harsh battle over the destruction of a garden. She helps occasionally in the plot (provided the player is doing the Hero story) by providing Needles on where to go or on how to stop Nateah.
Needles' mother who leads the Dark story for Needles, having her rob stores and having her do whatever she wants her to do, and helping her set up her own mini empire, which Valerie hopes to have join up with hers. The player can choose on whether or not Needles should help her or betray her, which lead to different boss battles by the game's end.
Nateah is the regular boss of the game, noticing that whatever Needles does interferes with his plans, and often battles her as Nateah or as Henata in the night time. The player will notice that he will be more on her side in the Dark story, but will still fight her as seeing her as an "evil wannabe". The player can choose to spare or kill him - and take his position of power.
Nighttime Naxaz is one of the game's several zones, and is the first Needles has to go through. This speedy city has many different ways you can run through it - take the action packed, dangerous lower areas on the street levels or stay up high on the rooftops and bounce your way around, going higher and higher up for fun areas to blast through. The city often has barricades that need to be passed through, which can be easily broken thanks to her procupine powers.
Nighttime Naxaz can be seen as a generally more maze like Green Hill Zone - there are loop de loops everywhere, collapsing bridges, and waterfalls found all over the place, it's just in an urban setting. Even the ending sequence of the first act replicates the ending sequence of Green Hill's famous act 1. The corkscrews found throughout Acts 2 and 3 reflect those found in Sonic 2's Emerald Hill Zone, while the flaming background of the Boss Act reflects Angel Island from Sonic 3.
If the player chose the Hero storyline, it looks quite normal, although in the Dark storyline, Acts 2 and 3 will reveal that the background has the city of Naxaz on fire, and bomber jets flying around in the latter. The boss act has more intense flames in the background.
- Act 1: A very basic level that gives Needles tutorials on how to use her most basic abilities, as well as the spindash and wall jump. It's rather straightforward in comparison to the two upcoming acts, but there are still alternative areas the player can take to get power up goodies.
- Act 2: The second act of this zone is way more maze like than the first and requires that Needles finds a way to get from the bottom of the city to the top, and there are many different ways she can accomplish this, including climbing the rooftops or swinging off long metal chains to get up there. The game's first enemies can be sighted here - enemies often leading to goodies when homing attack chains are executed correctly.
- Act 3: The first real level in the game. It's thankfully somewhat more straight forward, but there are still multitudes of ways Needles can pull this act off. There are many death drops near the bottom of the stage, and several crushers in the upper section. Pick your poison, or try to fnid your way to the safe middle path.
- Boss: Nateah appears in the form of Henata and attacks with powerful hand swipes and her sword, trying to bring you down. To defeat her, attack her head eight times to defeat. Halfway, she'll become angry and throw away her sword and try to just bring you down instantly by grabbing you - but you can escape these grabs if she catches you.
- If it wasn't already obvious, Project Needles is incredibly similar to the Sonic series.
- Project Needles is the first game in canon to use Needles.