ZX Computing

The Sentinel

Publisher: Firebird
Machine: Spectrum 48K

Published in ZX Computing #38

An intriguing and original release from Firebird

The Sentinel

In a land far away where pure energy is the only source of power the Sentinel rules supreme. Now you aim to challenge this master in a battle that will rage over 10,000 landscapes that are amazingly crammed into 48K!

Each landscape is a world of its own, built out of plateaus, peaks and pits. On top of the highest peak stands the Sentinel. You begin at the bottom of the deepest pit.

The Sentinel from its lofty throne slowly rotates and scans the landscape beneath it for anything with a surplus of energy, such as you. The Sentinel absorbs the energy of living things and recycles it into the lowest life form which is a curious conical tree that it scatters around the barren landscape. You can absorb these trees to collect the energy to defeat the Sentinel.

The Sentinel

You are in fact a robot that can't move but can duplicate robot shells from energy and transfer to them. You can then reabsorb the old robot shell thereby reclaiming the energy. Using this method you can move to any plateau you can see below you, and can rise up levels by building boulders on top of plateaus then the robot shell on top of that. You can stack boulders to any height (although you can only see the top of one boulder) and build up to the highest level. However, a boulder costs two units of energy and a robot three which tends to limit your excursions. If you think you're in desperate trouble you can hyper space (cost three units) but you'll end up at an equal height or even lower plateau.

If the Sentinel traps you in its deadly gaze, it will gradually absorb your stored energy until you either transfer to another robot, hyperspace or die. If it spots you but can't see the base of the plateau you're standing on, it will try to flush you out by converting the nearest tree into a meanie. These snake-like creatures also rotate and if it sees you before you can absorb it or get away then it'll force you to hyperspace. This will cost you three units and will probably land you in the gaze of the waiting Sentinel.

By landscape thirteen things are getting a little trickier as the Sentinel has now recruited the help of a Sentry. This is a mini Sentinel that also stands on a tall peak and absorbs anything caught in its gaze, creates Meanies to flush you out and of course guards the Sentinel. In later landscapes the Sentinel recruits more and more Sentries which must be destroyed before you can tackle the Sentinel. By now the landscape is also getting glatter with less cover in which you can hide from the energy-draining gazes of the Sentinel and his Sentries. In one landscape you begin in the centre of a wide open circle surrounded by nine peaks containing the Sentinel and eight Sentries!

The game is a mixture of tactics, energy collecting and reactions, as you escape Meanies and the Sentinel. Your first task is to find the Sentinel (or Sentry) before they find you and gauge the direction and speed that it's rotating. You can then aim to stay on its blind side while you absorb enough trees for your assault. To absorb the Sentinel and complete the landscape you must get above it by standing on boulders and absorb it by homing in on its base. One landscape down, only 9,999 to go!

You don't actually have to complete every landscape as, on completion of one, you're given the eight digit code for your next one. The next code you're given depends on the amount of energy you have left once the Sentinel has been defeated. The more energy you have, the more landscapes you skip. Soon you will have pages and pages of eight-digit codes corresponding to the game's landscapes. This means you can start any game at any landscape you like as long as you have the code. It's best to keep all the codes you find as you may get stuck on a particularly tough level that you could leapfrog by redoing a previous level and aim to finish it with more energy.

The Sentinel is an absorbing mix of gameplay demanding strategy and skill to solve it. Original, addictive and massive, what more could you possibly want?

A Monster Hit.