Sentinel Returns is a remake of the classic Atari ST game, The Sentinel. Don't remember it? Neither do we, but let's hope that doesn't stop production on the game. With a revamped musical score by director John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape From New York) and existential gameplay (you must absorb energy from objects around you, and create new objects to protect yourself), the game might he a sleeper hit. Some of the people who worked on this game also worked on Alfred Chicken and Zoop. You can't get more existential than that.
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I don't know about you, but I find that games where speed is the overriding factor can be more frustration than fun. Such is the fate of Sentinel Returns. The entire game is driven by stress-inducing timing in order to conquer the Sentinel and become King of the world. You must find fuel, build various objects, transfer yourself between "robots," and hope you get it all done before the Big Guy or one of his minions scans you and sucks you dry.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The object of this game is to create levels and robots that will hopefully elevate you higher than the Sentinel. Along the way, you will meet several sentries that engage you in a drain-or-be-drained fight. When you finally cut a swath through the dominion and become higher than the Sentinel, you can drain it of energy and win the level. The catch is that everything you build drains you of energy. Now, you can absorb energy from objects around you such as trees or from the defeated sentries. But you either have to be very meticulous in your energy use or hope there is a lot around for you to swallow. And remember ... you are being scanned for constantly. If you are found, you can be drained faster than a swarm of hungry mosquitoes on a hot July afternoon. If that happens ... you guessed it ... you have to start over.
The controls and interface are initially a pain. It took me quite a while to figure out how everything worked, and how to move properly about the game area. The controls are not intuitive and are actually somewhat confusing. Also, I found that the game can be rather picky about the type of mouse used. It seems that more unusual mice such as Altra's Felix are not compatible with the game. If you can't get your mouse to work, trying loading the default Microsoft mouse driver.
One plus is the fact that there is a lot of repeat game play. There are over 650 different levels and thousands of bonus levels. Once you get the hang of the controls, you could be playing this game for a very long time. And if you do manage to clear all the levels, you can ask up to three other people to join you in multiplayer action.
This is one of the areas where Sentinel Returns garners points. Based on the four elements of Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire, the visuals create a rather alien world that induces the desire to get out of your current position. In fact, some areas will make you feel like you are working in a skewed alien zone where you are the main course. The game works well in several resolutions, and the movement remains fairly smooth and seamless. Definitely a good aspect to the game.
Okay ... major plus for the soundtrack. Scaremaster John Carpenter created the eerie ambience with an excellent use of scare tactic music. If you are lucky enough to have a high-end sound system, you can easily get spooked, much less shaken by some sub-woofer thumping effects. Even if your system is less than stellar, the sound effects and music niggles at you to dart a glance over your shoulder ... just to be completely sure that nothing is creeping up on you.
Minimum: Windows 95 or above, P120, 16 MB RAM, 1 MB video card, Native Glide support for 3Dfx based cards, DirectSound compatible sound card, 3X CD-ROM drive, 45 MB free hard drive space, mouse
Recommended: P160, 32 MB RAM, 2 MB video card
Not nearly enough! Just your typical insert with the CD and some online help. With a game as speed-driven as this, it would be nice to have very clear, concise and prolific documentation.
If you thrive on split-second timing, this is an excellent game. (I might suggest that you cut down on the caffeine intake while you play, though.) The visuals and audio are great and there is lots of return gameplay. Be ready for an initial bit of frustration, but it's worth it in the end.
In Sentinel Returns, you must absorb energy from trees to build boulders and ascend the Sentinel's tower (while avoiding his gaze). Unfortunately, this feeble strategy/puzzler wannabe will appeal only to diehard fans of its PC predecessor.
SR has appalling graphics: Its land is drab and pixelated; its trees are blue rods; and a bland energy bar flashes different colors to present threats (as opposed to just a smidgen of animation). The weak cursor-based control structure will force you to buy a PlayStation mouse if you want any serious gameplay. Everything's inexplicably offset, however, by a moody score from none other than Halloween's John Carpenter. If only Michael Myers would treat this game like his sister.
- Use hyper space to jump away when the energy bar flashes. If the Sentinel absorbs what you're standing on, he'll iust re-create it as trees.
- Speed is very important Once you get near the Sentinel, build quickly and absorb him, even if he's stealing your energy.