When it was first released in 1987, Geoff Crammond's genre-blazing 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. 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 ascendence is initially simple, each level naturally becomes progressively more difficult. One weakpoint 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 absorb you too deeply 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've done it. Strategists who prefer reality-based games may have a problem with the abstract concepts in this game.
With over 650 levels to conquer and multiplayer options, Sentinel Returns will keep real-time puzzlemeisters happy for a long time to come. Definitely an underdog that was pulled off the store shelves long before its time. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by: Underdogs