I always hated "water" levels in Sonic
games, too. In fact, because of it, whenever I'd play the Chemical Plant Zone, I'd bash against the spring just before you got to the platforms that would cause the level to rise, and just skip right past all of it. Ugh. Still gives me nightmares.
Anyway! I have to say, this is one of those pictures that just captures your attention immediately; it hews close to the spirit of Sonic, yet at the same time, is something new and different. The style is wonderful.