Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Sentinel: Universal Blues

The Sentinel continues to be an interesting, if incredibly strange title. Its one of those games where you actually wonder what's going on outside of the game. This epic battle between me and the Sentinel is interesting, but its a question I keep having. I don't get that with a lot of games I've played here, they're usually quite generic or set in settings I really don't wonder what's going on.

I discovered a minor issue on the opening screen this session. You can't remove a number once you type it in. Considering you can potentially be here for 10,000 levels, that is some poor testing. Anyway, Level 13. Still two Sentinels, maybe one's a Sentry. I start right underneath one. Its really starting to hit me that having 10,000 randomly generated levels is a bad level design practice. Its that same realization I get whenever I see some game advertising procedurally generated level design as a selling point.

I don't know what systems are in place to prevent a player from getting killed as they boot up the level, but I must have broken them somehow, because I was quickly spotted. The starting area really screws you here. You have to put down your boulder and replica before the nearby Sentinel gets you. This level barely gives you the chance to reabsorb your old replica before he attacks. Oh, and then you have to jump to another place quickly. Then you're stuck. You have ten thousand levels, why do you need to pad them out with such insane difficulty? This is not a reasonable difficulty spike, this is the 13th level. I can't say I'm surprised something like this happened though. Whether this is the procedural generation or the humans behind it, I couldn't tell you. I am telling you I'm going to take advantage of codes people have put on the internet.

Level 50, glad we're still on two sentinels. It was definitely an issue of starting location. Here it doesn't quite feel like I've got to rush through things. Still, there's not much for me to talk about. I was lucky here, I had the time to grab some trees. The sound design is interesting. You physically hear the Sentinel move, and you can definitely hear where one is in relation to you. In addition you get a usual assortment of bleeps and bloops more at home on the Atari 2600 than the Amiga. Music's still good, hasn't gotten on my nerves yet.

Level 65, moving up to three Sentinels. This makes me nervous. There's got to be a limit on how many can appear in a level, right? I'm starting to pick up on how to play this game. Taking as many trees as I can is absolutely vital, not just to winning, that's important, but to ensuring I skip as many levels as I can. Three doesn't seem majorly different than two, and in some respects I think its a boon. Each one, having given me 3 energy, also gives me a decent vantage point to see how to take out the other two. Obviously, getting seen or having to hit H is unideal, but I'm starting to mitigate my problems. If I wanted to, I think I could start over and get to a different level than 13. I'm not doing that, but I could do that.

Level 80, code 18452261, back to two? Looking at the map, it seems like there should be a third Sentinel. I also start in legitimately the worst possible starting place. And by that I mean, there's a Sentinel above me, and I am stuck in a single square. Checking the manual again, they only say that pressing H after starting might put you in an impossible situation. It also tells me to return to an earlier save and get a different amount of energy if I'm having problems with one landscape. (and no landscape is impossible) What a load.

Despite that handicap, the level proceeds smoothly enough. The game feels too fast-paced, yet controls are slow enough that trying to effectively figure out where the Sentinels are turning is not ideal. However, with my newfound ability to effectively mow down trees and use of the U key*, I make it. I should say very well, my nervousness at effectively dealing with these things seems misplaced now.
Level 99, code 08568571. Wait, there's only one Sentinel? Is this a trick? In a way, yes. This was more of a tower climb than previous levels. Starting me off in a secluded but quickly enough visible hole, followed by trying to find the key spots to reach the Sentinel's tower. This was the first time the game has tried to be clever with that, as previous levels were fairly simple. Well, I say that, but I still escaped the level with a ton of energy. I think I'm really getting the hang of this.

This Session: 1 hour

Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

*This does a 180-degree turn, or a U-turn.

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