Sentinel (Firebird) Review | Amstrad Action - Everygamegoing

Amstrad Action


Sentinel
By Firebird
Amstrad CPC464

 
Published in Amstrad Action #19

Sentinel

This is not a game that can be described as ordinary. It's an original concept that has created a game with 10,000 landscapes and gameplay unlike anything you've played yet. The aim of the game is simple - in each of the 10,000 landscapes you have to depose the Sentinel.

Each landscape is based on a grid system, the blocks forming slopes and plains. You control a robot who can only stand on flat surfaces and not slopes, and starts the game at one of the lowest points on each landscape. The Sentinel starts on the highest point and you have to get above it in order to depose it. However, you can't actually move.

You get around this seemingly impossible drawback by creating another robot which you can then transfer into. This seemingly cumbersome method of getting around does in fact work extremely well and requires strategic and rapid thinking. Creating a robot requires energy - and this is the key to the whole game.

The Sentinel

Each landscape has a limited amount of energy in it in the form of trees, boulders and robots. These can all be created or absorbed by you. At the start of the game the landscape is dotted with trees which you can absorb to boost your energy. You can then build piles of boulders and put a robot on top, raising your position in the landscape. Having created a robot you transfer to it - and reabsorb the robot you just left.

The only problem with this happy state of affairs is that as soon as you affect the energy balance of the land, the Sentinel will spot this and begin to turn towards you. Once it is facing you, it starts to drain your energy. A hasty move is required if you're going to survive. If you haven't got enough time or nerve to make a controlled exit you can always hyperspace to a random square, but that will also cost energy.

The basic energy unit is the tree; a boulder is worth two trees and a robot is worth three. When the Sentinel absorbs energy he redistributes it as trees on the landscape. If you transfer between robots while being drained you can look back to see the Sentinel turn the robot shell into first a boulder and then a tree.

The Sentinel

Your robot can scan around the landscape, much like the Sentinel, but much faster. You can also move the camera view up and down to get a complete picture of the surroundings. The higher you get the more impressive the view becomes, for more of the landscape comes into sight.

If you manage to get above the Sentinel so that you can see the square he stands on, you can absorb him. All you've got to do then is transfer onto his square and hyperspace. This will give you the code number to another, more difficult, landscape.

Later landscapes introduce another development: meanies. These are created by the Sentinel from trees if it can see you. They don't drain your energy but force you to hyperspace to another spot.

The Sentinel

Sentinel is a totally original game a marvel of programming, it deserves many plaudits. It requires quick thinking and a tactical mind to get far. At first you may find things confusing, but once you've grasped how to move around and gain height you should feel more at home. The landscapes vary widely and present many different problems but look superb. My only gripe is that the action can become repetitive despite the immense number of landscapes.

This is a game you will either love or hate. Personally I think it's just the sort of thing the software industry needs to experiment with more. It's worth getting just for curiosity. Most people will get hooked working through the landscapes.

Second Opinion

Sentinel is rather different from the run of-the-mill software produced of late. It has thousands of locations thanks to fractal graphics Although not all sites are particularly stunning, original gameplay and sheer size will mean many late nights.

First Day Target Score

The Sentinel

Depose first Sentinel.

Green Screen View

Perfectly clear.

Verdict

Graphics 90%
P. Landscapes look delightful.
P. Good use of colour and object design.

Sonics 25%
N. Not a lot.

Grab Factor 92%
P. You'll marvel at its originality.
P. Absorbing gameplay.

Staying Power 88%
P. More landscapes than you'll ever need.
P. Might get a bit repetitive.

Overall 90%
Originality like this deserves a reward.

Bob Wade

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