usually don't bother actively participating in the emu
scene in any way, but when I read that you guys are
looking for contributions to your "Game of the week"
column, I just had to give it a try. The reason is simple:
"Sentinel" has changed the way I perceive games.
I first put the disk in my 1541, I had always preferred
games that have shiny graphics, some good music, and
easy gameplay so that I could play them for half an
hour, before I was off to do "80's teenager stuff" (don't
ask). Because of that, "International Karate +", "Z",
and "H.E.R.O." were among my favorites (the only exception
being Mastertronics "Master of magic", which I loved
and completed). Where was I? Oh yes, "Sentinel". Written
by Geoff Crammond, who wrote some of the most startingly
original and technically innovative C64 games (I would
like to do a column on "Revs" in the future, if possible),
"Sentinel" is so radically different that most people
(including me) would've dismissed the idea as "impossible
to pull off on a mere C64".
goes something like this: You are put on a vast checkerboard
landscape, where each piece of the board can have a
different height, forming an array of pedestals and
valleys. You start at the very bottom, and it is your
task to get to the top spot and eleminate the Sentinel,
an entity that continually rotates and zaps the energy
of everything it has in its view. You climb the pedestals
by rotating until you can see the top of a nearby pedestal.
You then build a dummy versions of yourself there, and
transfer your consciousness. To retain some energy,
you should then absorb your old shell. While trying
to make your way to the top and avoid the Sentinel's
gaze, you can absorb rocks and trees to boost your energy
(helpful if the Sentinel zaps some).
it sounds esoteric, but what makes this "impossible
to pull off on a mere C64", I hear you ask? Well, chew
on this: It is in 3D, meaning you are watching the checkerboard
through the eyes of your robot. I have yet to figure
out what kind of graphic engine Crammond developed for
this baby, but it is astonishing for a C64, and totally
addictive. Also, it has 10.000 levels! Yep. You don't
have to play them all, thanks to a brillant way of adapting
to the skill of the player: The faster and more energy
efficient you complete a level, the more levels you
can skip. Let's say you start off in level 1; if you
barely survive and capture the Sentinel with your last
energy, you might be transferred to level 3 or 4. If
you are really good, and gather lots of energy on your
way up, your might be transferred to level 8! And you
get a code for each level you enter, meaning that (in
contrast to most other C64 games) you can always start
where you left off. That's the kind of "user friendliness"
that even some PC games today don't offer.
thing that sets "Sentinel" apart from the competition
is its combination of chess, checkers and realtime strategy
elements. Let me tell you, this sucker can wreck your
life! For me, "Sentinel" defined the term "addictive".
Okay, so it does not have sound, and the graphics look
slightly clunky (even though the scrolling is incredibly
smooth) - so what? This is a masterpiece, and everyone
who wants more than shoot 'em up action should check
was a PC version ("Sentinel: The Return") two years
ago, but I have never played it. I heard it's pretty
mediocre. Odd thing though: The music was composed by
feature film director John Carpenter!
by Torsten Dewi (20 August 2000)
"Games of the Week!"