Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Sentinel: 10,000 Levels

I wasn't originally going to do this game this week. But then the first game it was like, oh, no, its not an FPS. How horrible. Then the second title was MP-only. That one actually is a shame, because it was on the Macintosh, and it was the first old-school Mac game I'd be playing. I really wanted to talk about Mac-emulation. Amiga emulation is hard, but it feels easier than Macintosh, at least to me. Still, I have to admit that isn't going to make me lose any sleep. Currently, I'm still filling out a complete list of shooters, and I plan on making it public when I get to the year 2000. Not the number, since I'm at roughly 1991 and I've got over 2.5k games. Really puts those people who say they've played everything of value from olden times in perspective.

The Sentinel, published by Firebird Software in 1986 is a proto-FPS. Its set in a sort of cat and mouse game with the titular machine, he rules 10,000 worlds and you're going to stop him. You don't have to go through all 10,000, more on that when I beat one. The manual is a bit long-winded, it assumes you understand how to use the mouse. Which is fair in 1986, but I'd like a simple control list. I don't know if I can actually physically move in this game, and the manual is more concerned with telling me how I can absorb things and avoid The Sentinel. I know enough to be able to figure out most of this, but I don't think I could figure out the the buttons.

The way you take out The Sentinel or his buddies is you have to get high enough to see the ground he's on. Sounds simple. Well, obviously its not. You don't actually move in this game. What you do is spawn a clone, then you can inhabit that body. Oh, and you should absorb your old body in order to get the energy back you used for this one. Very pro-transhuman. Probably the first time I've seen that. You can also spawn boulders and trees. Trees are useful for cover and boulders are the only way you can get any height in this game. That's stupid, but its 1986.

Later levels will bring on meanies and sentries. The Sentry being the other title of this game, because that's great. They all drain your energy whenever you're in their sight. In order to escape, you can press H. This causes you to teleport somewhere of an equal height or lower, because you can't take the easy way out. The manual tells you outright this can screw you.
So my first experience with the game was okay. I spend a lot of time absorbing trees, because I need energy. You can only create things if you have the energy, which functions as your lifeforce. What is with '80s games and drawing life and attack from the same part? There's not much to tell on this level, because everything just sort of happens and I'm still processing what I think of this game. I don't know if the game just went screwy or not, but when I killed the first Sentinel, I couldn't absorb anything else, and I thought I was stuck until I hit the H button. This gives me the code for Level 4, because I had 4 points of energy left. I'd have a lot more if you didn't screw with me game.
Also this game is one of those when it comes to selecting levels. You know the kind, you win a level, it kicks you back to the start, then it makes you put in the code to advance. I suspect there's not going to be a cool end screen. Shame, because so far the mood this game is putting forth is very interesting. Mysterious music, weird landscapes.
Level 4 of 10,000. I wonder if anyone was crazy enough to actually play all 10,000 of these. I know someone certainly got there. This feels more like a puzzle game than an action shooter. Its kind of a stretch, I guess, but in order to absorb the energy of anything, you need to click on the ground. This includes The Sentinel. Plenty of games have you attack something's weakpoint, and I don't think this is any different.
This level doesn't proceed any differently than the last. For something I just called a puzzle game I sure don't feel like talking about puzzles. So far the plan of getting as many trees as I can before reaching the end is going so-so. Whenever The Sentinel is looking at me before I go into a clone, he turns my clones into boulders, then boulders into trees. This makes sense since that's in decreasing order of energy to create/destroy one. The same thing happened, so I guess the idea is to take out any pesky players who save trees for later. Sneaky. You can absolutely screw yourself at the last minute if you press H before reaching the top, which is just intentionally screwing with the player. And once again, it kicks me back to the start when I win. There's no way the ending to this is going to be worth it, is there?
This takes me to Level 11, where the game starts throwing some crap at me. Two sentinels and they start spawning meanies. The level starts off in a really awkward position too. I win, barely, having rushed to take out both sentinels. The final one was attacking me before I managed to take him out. Either the game is easier at this point or some of the manual was lying, because after a certain point you automatically teleport away. When I ascended to his post, I had two energy left. Putting me at Level 13. Considering I have to reach Level 9,999 (the first was 0000) I may speed this up a bit. I may be cheating myself, but its a hard sell that all 10,000 of these levels are necessary.

This Session: 1 hour 30 minutes

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