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Sentinel, The

Entry updated 15 January 2014. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1986; vt The Sentry in the US). Designed by Geoff Crammond. Platforms: C64 (1986); Amstrad, AtariST, BBCMicro, Spectrum (1987); Amiga (1988), DOS (1989).

In The Sentinel, topography is everything. The player adopts the role of a "synthoid", a Robot in a three-dimensional chequerboard landscape overlooked by its eponymous guardian. The Sentinel's gaze slowly scans across the game's small world; if it catches sight of the player, it will begin to absorb the synthoid's energy until it is destroyed. In an almost nightmarish touch, the player cannot move. Instead, they can make new synthoid shells and transfer their consciousness to them. In order to defeat the Sentinel, they must create boulders on which to build higher synthoid bodies, until they can look down on the guardian and absorb its energy. Gaining height while avoiding the Sentinel's deadly gaze is an almost Chess-like exercise in strategy, played out under strict time limits. As soon as one Sentinel is destroyed, the player moves to a new landscape, where the game begins again. Playing The Sentinel is a curiously compelling experience, absorbing and surreal in equal measure.

Related works: Sentinel Returns (1998 Hookstone, PS1, Win) designed by Geoff Crammond is a revised version with similar gameplay to the original; the visual design is eerie and disconcerting, blending metallic and organic elements in a darkly threatening world. There are three freely available remakes of The Sentinel: Sentry (1998 Momor Productions, Win; 2005 Phone) designed by Emmanuel Icart; Zenith (2006 comp-sci, Win) designed by John Valentine and Sentinel (2006 Win) designed by Georg Rottensteiner. [NT]


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