Sentinel: Descendants in Time
Beni is a tomb raider, but donít expect him to perform back flips, kill various species of wildlife or wear revealing clothing. Unlike that other tomb raider, Beni solves complex puzzles in a first-person view and he doesnít even have any weapons. In fact, no matter how hard you try, Beni canít even die! Sentinel: Descendants in Time is an adventure game in the vein of Myst, so action junkies need not apply. However, adventure fans will definitely receive some great entertainment that wonít break the bank.
Playing as Beni, you are forced to venture into a legendary (not to mention very dangerous) tomb after a generic evil guy kidnaps his sister. The generic evil guy refuses to let her go unless Beni brings back riches from the catacomb, which houses remnants from an ancient civilization. The setup is a bit weak, but what follows unexpectedly turns out to be a riveting narrative.
While wandering the tomb a defense sentinel known as Dormeuse reveals itself to our heroic tomb robber. Donít expect this sentinel to be armed with swords and guns. Instead it has taken the form of beautiful woman. Apparently the personality of a lady long deceased has been uploaded into the sentinel. Dormeuse is an enigma; she coaxes young Beni to continue onward, but thereís also some hostility buried within her. Her main function is to stop intruders and she often engages in debate with Beni over such complex issues as perceived reality, artificial intelligence, and even the ethics behind tomb raiding. The intentions behind Dormeuseís actions makes for a captivating ride that will most likely keep you wondering, and most importantly, keep you interested.
Dormeuse shows Beni seven beautiful worlds from her past life and each of these locations is a breeze to explore since the controls are so simple and intuitive. All you can do is use the standard FPS movement keys and look around and use objects with the mouse. If youíre feeling particularly lazy then you can automatically move by clicking the right mouse button. The minimalist approach works very well in Sentinel by making the navigation seem as natural as walking.
Scattered across the worlds are puzzles; the staple of any adventure game. The puzzles almost all mechanical in nature, so thereís a lot of manipulating objects and switches in one form or another. Each world usually contains one large puzzle that involves making a path to one area, and then once you get thereís another brainteaser or two that must be solved to beat the stage.
Itís usually necessary to find a pattern and then bust out some pen and paper to record the results. The puzzles are all very well-designed and clever, but theyíre far earth-shattering. For example, one of the more enjoyable puzzles has you matching a pattern of colors with different sounds that are played at spread across many locations of the stage. Itís functional and entertaining, but usually not unique.
The only real flaw is a minor one, and it will only be noticed by amateurs of the genre. Sometimes the puzzles are satisfyingly easy, but at other times youíll have to work too hard to find the solution. Of course, most adventure veterans wonít have many problems, but newbies will have a much easier time noticing the unevenness. Thankfully the flaw is somewhat negated by the helpful (and optional) hints that appear at each puzzle. The problem becomes even less evident considering the nonlinearity of Sentinel. When you get stuck in one area, you can just go to another one since there are about three different worlds to choose from at a time. Itís a pleasure not having the game come to a screeching halt just because you canít solve one puzzle.
The worlds where you solve all of these puzzles, to put it simply, are gorgeous. The art direction manages to take a decent graphics engine and craft living, breathing worlds that I just wished I could be explored more thoroughly. Whether youíre thousands of feet in the air in a sky station or traversing through a wintry path surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks, itís hard not to stop and stare for a few moments in-between all of the puzzle solving.
The quality also manages to extend to the voice acting. With only two characters and lots and lots of dialogue it was absolutely necessary to have some talented voice actors and thankfully this is exactly what happened. Dormeuse oozes a mysterious, sexy vibe that would normally be hard to pull off, and Beni comes off convincingly as a slightly cocky adventurer. The music isnít nearly as noticeable as the excellent graphics or top-notch voice acting, but it subtlety adds a lot to the atmosphere with its new-age aura.
Like many games, Sentinelís gameplay isnít its strongest point, but that isnít a putdown. Instead, the stunning graphics and excellent storyline take the spotlight. This game is especially worth checking out if youíre an adventure fan due to the budget price. It may not be the adventure of a lifetime, but itís still one worth going on.
Eight out of ten