Overview: Originally a European-only release, Sentinel is a game with a many obstacles to your enjoyment. First, you need to have a light gun, because there is no joystick set up like Crossbow or Alien Brigade... you know, good games. If you do get the light gun, then your need an old CRT style
television for it to work properly. Any CRT larger than 20 inches is going to need a significant
amount of space, because they have massive rear ends (hey now... wussup girl?). Then, if you're in America or Canada, you have to track down an aftermarket NTSC copy of the game that will work with your country's television. Whew! "So, Silverback, if we go to all this trouble to
experience Sentinel on the 7800, we will have a lot of fun, right?" Well... lets talk about that. The game's story makes little sense... all you need to know is that geometric shapes are mad at your yellow ball of light, and you must protect it with a pistol. Things get weirder and more disappointing from there.
7800 Rank: Unranked
Genre: Light Gun, Shooting
Say This Planet's Name Three Times Fast
Unique Gameplay/ Nice Scrolling Backgrounds
Off-center Atari gun/ Monotonous Gameplay
I Wonder How Much Loft Apartments are Going for in Alptaurus?|
Graphics: Being a late release, Sentinel has some of what you would expect in terms
of impressive graphics. Starting with the positive, I really like the multilevel scrolling of the
backgrounds where the ground, first background layer and upper background layer all seem to
scroll independently of one another. There are also some cool 3D spinning effects on a few
enemies and the background designs themselves are varied and interesting. But my biggest issue
is the generic, "just use whatever shapes we can" enemy design. I mean, you're protecting an
artificial sun that is gathering energy from these planets and civilizations to "save the universe".
There was plenty of opportunities to have human and alien opposition in the form of soldiers,
planes and tanks, ground to air missiles, space ships, and whatever else that would be level
appropriate. You could've had really cool tribal and ancient civilization enemies to the forest
level, etc. But instead you fight circles, triangles, pyramids, and rectangles. The backgrounds
and scrolling cant save the boring enemy sprites. It just feels like no thought was put into
anything beyond the few good graphics, and because of that Sentinel just becomes boring to look
at. Especially during longer play sessions.
Sound: Make sure you pay attention to the switches on the console. My first time playing
Sentinel was quiet and disappointing. But then I remembered that playing with the difficulty
switches on the console turned audio on and off for some other games, and this one was no
different. The song that plays is okay, but feels bland and generic after a while. The sound
effects are present but made no real impression either way. If each planet had it's own song that
played then I might give Sentinel a pass, but listening to that same tune over and over was
enough to make me turn the switches back to off.
Gameplay: I personally love light gun games, and I forgive the repetitive audio and bland enemy
design if the game itself is fun. And while I initially found some enjoyment with Sentinel, I
eventually came to be quite frustrated. On the standard difficulty, I feel that this game is too
hard. Your energy gets sapped quickly and its hard to recover it once it is lost. The "easy" difficulty felt like a
much more manageable challenge to me, but the enemies still overwhelmed me frequently and
quickly. The only difference is that on easy, I could recover my lost energy faster. The bosses
are similar to the normal enemies in the sense that they are just shapes for the sake of needing baddies, but they at least make use of unique patterns and challenges. The boss fights were the
best part of each level in my opinion. Like Crossbow, you are playing protector (or... Sentinel... how 'bout that?) with your gun. Evil shapes keep trying to ram this tiny, marauding sun, and you are riding shotgun to stop the impending geometric nightmare. Shooting the sun acts as a smart bomb, the only real caveat to the pew pew pew monotony. The gameplay feels half-baked, with levels dragging on after the fresh vibe wears off each new level. Another positive is that because the info bar and this huge sphere takes up a majority of the screen, so your inaccuarte light gun only needs to focus at like 60% the screen, making this an easier task than trying to cover the wide open mess that is Meltdown.
Originality: The idea and motivation in story is pretty unique here. You have to power up an artificial sun by shooting enemies and absorbing their energy. It sounds like a neat idea to me. But the execution is purely bare bones. There are reasons to own the Atari XE light gun on the 7800 (in my opinion) but this just isn't one of them.
Value: To be honest, it took me a long time to see the (laughable) ending in this game. There is a
ton of challenge to be had, and if you want to beat Sentinel on anything other than easy, your
going to have to make a large time commitment. So I guess there is value in longevity here, but
you'll probably be placed in a straight jacket before you get your money's worth. So sure, they
made a light gun game that can give you many hours of play, but it's not anything really worth
playing. Alien Brigade and Crossbow can provide time better spent with the light gun on the
Overall: Sentinel is a unique idea in theory for a light gun game. The backgrounds look good and the background scrolling is well done in my opinion. But the boring enemies, annoying sound, and frustrating/ monotonous gameplay keep this one from being a worth while experience. And I haven't even brought up the constant screen flashing that is sure to cause migraines at best, and seizures at worst. With better enemy design, individual stage audio tracks, and player power ups, this could've been a fun game in short bursts. That is to say, Sentinel has a lot of potential, but it can be best catagorized as wasted potential. As it stands, I would only recommend Sentinel for collectors who need it all on the 7800. Everybody else could give this a pass and not miss much.
CV's Panoramic Froo-Froo: 3.0 out of 5.0 (Weak)
Video Game Critic: F
This review was graciously written by Atari 7800 Forever contributor Silverback.
I would like to thank Atari Age for the use of their screenshots in my reviews.