Sentinel Returns

Moby ID: 2135
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

Enter a surreal world where you must battle the Sentinel and his sentries over 650 chequered, 3D landscapes. Energy and movement are completely redefined in this unique blend of arcade and strategy elements. You, only known as an intelligent presence, move about the landscape by teleporting between robot "hulls". Any object in your field of vision can be absorbed for energy, as long as you also see the square of the landscape that the object is standing on. By aiming at any square your can see, and spending energy, you can create a new robot hull and teleport your presence to it, or you can create neutral objects: trees to block yourself from the Sentinel's gaze, or boulders that can be stacked. You gain height in the landscape by creating a robot on top of a stack of boulders, until you can see the Sentinel's square at the highest point in the landscape and absorb him. The problem is that the Sentinel slowly rotates and ruthlessly absorbs anything in his field of vision that is more potent than a tree, including yourself. In later levels, his sentries will threaten you with absorption from several directions.

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Credits (Windows version)

Original Concept
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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 71% (based on 35 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.4 out of 5 (based on 11 ratings with 2 reviews)

The same, but different

The Good
The first 'Sentinel' came out in 1986 on the BBC Micro, and the twelve-year gap until this remake (it's not a sequel) was something of a record; even back then, it was unique, alien, as if broadcast from another world. No other game from 1986 could have been re-released at full price in 1998, with no changes to the gameplay at all.

The concept was simple and complicated at the same time, and took place on a series of solid-filled polygonal landscapes which filled the screen. As a nameless, immobile robot, your mission was to absorb each level's 'Sentinel', something you could only do by looking down upon the square on which he stood; to reach a sufficient height to do so, you had to magic boulders out of your limited energy supply, which you could replenish by dematerialising trees. After planting a few boulders, you could plonk down a new robot body, teleport into it, and absord your former self, with each step slowly ascending the landscape. The catch was that, if the Sentinel saw you, he would drain your energy away and kill you. He stood on his plinth, and slowly rotated, so you have to move around the level in a spiral fashion. Complicating this was the presence of sentry robots, which you had to absorb or avoid.

The original was quite a slow-paced strategy game, very tense. Sentinel Returns has exactly the same gameplay - the graphics and sound have been updated, but the gameplay is the same, literally so. With one big difference, however; because you can scroll your view around with your mouse, and there isn't a limit to the speed at which you can scroll around - the original was quite ponderous - it's more of a fast-paced blast than a slow-paced crawl. It's actually more enjoyable, and is an improvement on the original, which had 10,000 levels - of which you could see perhaps the first 100, before losing interest.

The Bad
No bad things. However, as with the original, it eventually becomes samey and tedious; the landscapes blur into each other, and the concept isn't complicated enough to stand up to sustained play. The lack of any updates at all is commendable testimony to the original game's bizarre purity, but I'm sure Geoff Crammond or whoever could have come up with something new - power-ups, anything.

The Bottom Line
In brief, it's a curious alien puzzle game, 3D chess meets "what's the time, Mr Wolf", with quantum physics (as 'Sinclair User' put it back in the day). If you're a fan of the original you will love this; if not, you'll be baffled. It's interesting to compare it with David Braben's contemporary 'Virus 2000', which also updated an original game from the mid/late-80s by a legendary games programming figure; Braben's update added all kinds of bells and whistles, but was no fun at all. This is hugely entertaining, but only in short bursts.

Windows · by Ashley Pomeroy (225) · 2005

An addictive, nail-biting strategy game full of tension and brain hurting puzzles.

The Good
The 600+ levels of strategic puzzles make the game a challenge to anyone who wants to finish it. The music plays extremely well with the game, which put me on the edge of my seat while still trying to destroy the 'Sentinel'. Very fun, a good game to buy if wanting to play something more challenging.

The Bad
I would have preferred a few more landscapes as it only has about 5, but none the less, its still a great game without it.

The Bottom Line
Enter a surreal world where you must battle the Sentinel and his sentries over 650 chequered, 3D landscapes. Energy and movement are completely redefined in this unique blend of arcade and strategy elements. You, only known as an intelligent presence, move about the landscape by teleporting between robot "hulls". Any object in your field of vision can be absorbed for energy, as long as you also see the square of the landscape that the object is standing on. By aiming at any square your can see, and spending energy, you can create a new robot hull and teleport your presence to it, or you can create neutral objects: trees to block yourself from the Sentinel's gaze, or boulders that can be stacked. You gain height in the landscape by creating a robot on top of a stack of boulders, until you can see the Sentinel's square at the highest point in the landscape and absorb him. The problem is that the Sentinel slowly rotates and ruthlessly absorbs anything in his field of vision that is more potent than a tree, including yourself. In later levels, his sentries will threaten you with absorption from several directions.

PlayStation · by jonny banks (2) · 2003

Trivia

"Sentinel Returns" is based on the game "Sentinel", a classic 8-bit micro game written by legendary Geoff Crammond (REVS, Grand Prix), which was initially released for the BBC microcomputer. The gameplay is virtually unchanged in this sequel, though modern hardware definitely adds some spice and speed to the highly original and surreal concept.

The music ("Earth" and "Air") is written by John Carpenter, famous horror movie director and music composer.

"Sentinel" and "Sentinel Returns" are games you either love or hate, due to their uniqueness and surreal nature.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Robert Schmidt.

PlayStation added by Corn Popper.

Additional contributors: DreinIX.

Game added August 12, 2000. Last modified August 7, 2023.