Windows - 1998
Description of Sentinel Returns Windows
When it was first released in 1987, Geoff Crammond's genre-busting masterpiece The Sentinel immediately acquired a cult following and achieved considerable commercial success.
Definitely one of the most unique games ever made, The Sentinel combines quick action, strategic thinking, and puzzle solving into an addictive experience. More than ten years after the original release, Psygnosis released Sentinel Returns, an excellent remake of the original that, unfortunately, remains largely unnoticed and unknown.
Sentinel Returns is basically The Sentinel with a much-needed graphical and aural facelift that make the experience even more captivating. Your goal is to usurp the Sentinel, a being that guards the alien chessboard-like world to which you have been sent. To unseat the Sentinel, you must rise to a position both higher than and with a direct view of the Sentinel in order to drain his energy. You raise your position by building boulders, installing robot hosts on those boulders, inhabiting the robot hosts, and then scouring and draining the surrounding territory of energy sources.
The game is played from a first-person point of view, and the interface is simple. Players need only learn a couple of mouse clicks and three or four keyboard commands before diving in. Although the submergence is initially simple, each level naturally becomes progressively more difficult.
One weakness of the game is the fact that the levels are more or less the same, only with different background graphics. On the other hand, if you enjoy a good challenge, the game's progressively harder levels will be too absorbed in the game to notice its repetitiveness.
Like its 1987 predecessor, Sentinel Returns is a true genre buster. Success requires quick wit, good aim, careful planning, and the ability to deal with positional puzzles. It is very innovative, and incredibly addictive once you get used to the controls. The moody music (written by scaremaster John Carpenter) and eerie new-age terrain will grow on you after a while. Make no mistake about it, though, Sentinel Returns is a difficult game that might frustrate a lot of people. The player is rewarded for perfect moves: you gain advantage in later levels from not only defeating the Sentinel, but from how well you do it.
Strategists who prefer reality-based games may have a problem with the abstract concepts in this game. Although the game's learning curve is isn't flat, anyone who enjoys real-time puzzles that require some hand-eye coordination will be able to quickly pick up the concepts.
With over 650 levels to conquer and multiplayer options, Sentinel Returns will keep real-time puzzle meisters happy for a long time to come. Definitely an underdog that was pulled off the store shelves long before its time. Highly recommended!
Review By HOTUD
Comments and reviews
BenRedic 2017-12-22 2 points
Having just recently achieved 100% orchid in this game, I can safely say that I love it.
My first meeting with the Sentinel was on tape for the C64, and the game had me hooked immediately. I also played the Amiga version (basically a straight up port of the 8 bit original). Then some years later I came over this game, and obviously I had to buy it immediately. For some reason I never finished it though, until recently when I got bit by a bug and wanted to play these games.
The original was a pioneer in not only the gameplay, but the use of filled 3D vector graphics. However, due to the low horsepower of the 8 bit machines, only edges of the screen were drawn as the rest was scrolled around. This result was that movement felt quite cumbersome, which contributed to the claustrophobic feel of the original.
This remake brings the original into the 90s, including a CD soundtrack (by John Carpenter) and 3DFX Glide graphics. The full scene is drawn in real time as you zip around, and for better or worse this game feels much smoother and faster than the original. Apart from that, the gameplay remains indentical. There is "only" 651 levels here, as opposed to 10000 in the original, but after finishing all of the 651 you get access to unlimited random levels.
A couple of technical notes about running this game today: I have tried running it in Windows 7 without much luck. Windows 10 works better for some reason. Just set the compatibility mode to Windows 95, and the game runs basically without a hitch. But I wanted 3DFX graphics, so I started looking for ways to emulate that. I then came over an emulator called PCem, which allows you to emulate a Pentium class computer, and it even emulates 3DFX Voodoo cards! So I got this set up and installed Windows 95 and this game on it. It worked great, except that the mouse pointer feels quite a bit sluggish. But it was perfectly playable. Then I came over NGlide (http://www.zeus-software.com/downloads/nglide), a 3DFX wrapper that works in any Windows including 10. I installed that, and now the game runs like a dream!
A couple of tips for the game itself:
- The manual states that energy is the key to success. I somewhat disagree with this. Energy is the key to survival, but the real key to success is elevation. Once you reach a vantage point where you can start picking off the sentries, the rest of the level is easy, no matter how much energy you have.
- The strategy guide states "NEVER EVER HYPERSPACE", in full caps no less. I disagree with this. When you reach level 400 or so, the scanning rates of the sentinel and the sentries become so high that you often loose less energy just spacing to another point than to look around for a suitable place to build and then transfer. At this point, hyperspacing becomes a key to survival. Besides, when you hyperspace you will be facing your old self, so if you are fast enough you can usually recover some of the energy you leave behind. Also, you may end up in a field full of trees to pick, especially if you have already taken out some of the sentries and you yourself has taken some fire from them.
- A couple of levels will start you off in a position that is seemingly impossible to get out of. At the beginning you have enough energy to build enough boulders to elevate yourself two levels up, but you may find yourself in a chasm that requires you to elevate _three_ levels to get further. The only way out of these chasms is hyperspacing. But if you get spaced to a second chasm that you do not have enough energy to build out of, you will simply find yourself hyperspacing back and forth between two impossible chasms. The key here is to fill one of the chasms with trees, so you can't get spaced back there. Then you can space into a third area, where you hopefully have more luck getting further.
- Other levels start you off in a position where it is possible to climb up, but you are immediately under heavy enemy fire. You may try spacing out to see if you get a start that way, but often the key to get up is simply fast reflexes, trial and error, and patience.
Now, off to complete the 10000 levels of the orignal Sentinel...
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