DOS - 1989
Description of The Sentry
One of the most original games of all time, The Sentinel is one of Geoff Crammond's early games, and quite an unusual one for him as it is everything but a racing game. The PC version, like most other conversions of Commodore 64 classics, came and went off the shelves unnoticed by most gamers.
So what is so original about the game? Almost everything: concept, gameplay, and even replayability-- and in the process, it combines elements from more than a few genres to mesh into an addictive whole. The Sentinel can best be described as an "energy management" game. You, the player, exist on an alien island floating in space, and you must navigate your way to the summit of the island. Success will allow you to move to a new, more difficult island. Each island is similar to a chessboard, but have many different levels, effectively hills and valleys, of various sizes. The “floor” is chequered. Your movement is performed by creating a replica of yourself and “beaming” across to it. You would then typically absorb the husk of your old body, thereby losing no energy.
It is possible to ascend one level at a time, in this way, and so access the island's summit. But it's much more complicated than that: each island has a Sentinel, the bad guy who stands on the summit, and rotates 30 or 40 degrees every few seconds. If he can see the square on which you're standing, he will start absorbing your energy, which depletes rapidly. Now on the island, many of the squares have trees on them. A tree is the lowest unit of energy. You can make trees (although the purpose is obscure), boulders (which are equivalent in energy terms to two trees), or even replicas of yourself (robots, which are worth three trees). The Sentinel is programmed to start absorbing from anything it can see that is useful. This is bad news for you, but the good news is you can absorb trees and boulders, and, ultimately (when you can see the square he is standing on), the Sentinel himself. Usurping his position of course means that you are now standing at the summit, which completes the level's objective. Boulders are particularly useful, because you can use them to make an artificial platform on which to stand.
Overall, The Sentinel is a superbly ingenious, well-crafted game that is incredibly addictive, full of some very exciting moments to liven up an otherwise abstract exercise, such as when the Sentinel starts using Sentries to help him. The Sentinel might not appeal to anyone due to its very abstract nature, but with great gameplay and thousands of islands, it's a forgotten masterpiece that will occupy your times for weeks on end.
Also check out the remake from 1998 by Psygnosis called Sentinel Returns, which upgrades the game with vibrant SVGA graphics, great sound effects, while retaining all the addictiveness of the original.
Review By HOTUD
Comments and reviews
Steven 2019-07-16 -1 point DOS version
Is it just me or is this version glitchy? When you scroll around quickly the screen goes black? Does anyone know of a fix or the right settings?
BenRedic 2017-12-02 1 point
This is a fantastic game! I had it on tape on the C64, and later on the Amiga. Recently I have also played the BBC version, which can be played in your browser at http://www.bbcmicro.co.uk/game.php?id=609.
My favourite version, though, is the Amiga version, which is sadly missing from this site. It remains faithful to the 8 bit versions, but it renders faster (obviously), the mouse makes cursor movement much more comfortable, and the Amiga version also features an atmospheric in-game tune by David Whitaker. I believe this is the only version to do so, and this IMO puts it ahead of the DOS and ST versions.
Other recommended games if you like this:
- Archipelagos (https://www.myabandonware.com/game/archipelagos-l9) a 1989 Amiga game which borrows heavily on the Sentinel mechanics.
- Sentinel Returns, official sequel from 1998. I have it on a CD somewhere. Features soundtrack by John Carpenter. A somewhat moody and darker affair, but still faithful to the original. For the ultimate experience, play the CD version with a Voodoo graphics card, which I sadly no longer have.
- Zenith. Fan-made attempt at remaking the game for modern PCs. Can be freely downloaded from http://johnvalentine.co.uk/zenith.php?art=index
Either way, this is a game you NEED to experience!
mymoon 2012-02-29 0 point DOS version
played it on c64/amiga/pc/psx & played various remakes. still a cool game to play.
Navalguijo 2011-11-26 1 point DOS version
One of the best games ever...I own the pc version also...more dark but funny anyway...
Thanx for the archipelagos tip ;)
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