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Programming wizard and 8-bit pioneer Geoff Crammond was one of the first programmers to bring solid-filled 3D graphics to the home computer with his 1986 game The Sentinel. Due to the technical limitations of computers at the time, The Sentinel has some unusual gameplay mechanics that make for a surreal experience. Playing as a telepathic robot called a Synthoid, your robot warrior cannot move, save for looking around the landscape. To progress, you make copies of yourself and then transfer to them. While you’re getting to grips with this, the menacing Sentinel is forever gazing over the landscape. Should he spot you, he will start to drain away your energy, eventually making it impossible for you to clone and transfer yourself. While not to everyone’s tastes, those who had the imagination and patience to get absorbed into the game world found themselves enjoying a uniquely challenging and atmospheric experience. In 1998, Psygnosis decided to revive the classic formula on more modern hardware, giving new players a chance to discover the surreal gameplay and old players another opportunity to outwit the insidious sentinel.
To install Sentinel Returns on more modern versions of Windows, you will need to use the compatibility options on the installer. Insert the CD-ROM into your computers optical drive and then open “Computer” from your Start Menu or Start Screen. Locate the “SENT_RET” icon that represents the game CD, right click on this and choose “Open”. Now, locate the file called “Sentinel_Autorunner” (or “Sentinel_Autorunner.exe”). Right click on this file and use the compatibility options to run it in Windows 95 compatibility mode. If you are not familiar with using the compatibility options, see this tutorial.
The game should now install. However, if you still see a message that reads “Operating System could not be detected. Please restart the setup”, try the following options:-
- Make sure you are running an administrator account, rather than simply using UAC to install the game on a standard account.
- Create a short-cut on your desktop and point it to the “Sentinel_Autorunner” file on the Sentinel Returns CD. Set the compatibility options for this shortcut to run the game in Compatibility mode for Windows 95 and to run as an administrator.
- Make sure that compatibility settings are set for all users.
Once you have overcome this particular obstacle, the game should install without any problems.
Using Glide Wrappers to improve visual quality
The Sentinel Returns uses the old 3DFX graphics cards. Once the cutting edge standard for gaming PC’s, these graphics boards have long since been consigned to history. In order to get the best quality visuals, we are going to need a Glide Wrapper. This software will convert the old 3DFX graphics into OpenGL, something that will work on all modern PC’s. This step is optional but highly recommended. In our testing we found that the nGlide wrappers worked the best, these are also very easy to configure. Simply visit this page, click on the “Download” button and then run the installation file. The software requires no further configuration.
Running the game
Start the game by launching “The Sentinel Returns” from your Start Menu or Start Screen. Before diving in, click on “Setup / Multiplayer”. The game options will now open, on the Graphics tab, change the “Rendering Engine” to “3DFX Voodoo” and the screen mode to “800×600”. Turn the Rendering Accuracy all the way up too, as per the screenshot below.
Configure the other game settings according to taste, then click on “Save Settings” and then “Exit” when you are done. Sometimes after reconfiguring these options, it is then impossible to launch the game and the launcher program won’t exit. Don’t panic, simply start Task Manager and end the “Sentinel.exe” task, then launch the game again from the Start Menu/Screen and just click “Play Sentinel Returns”.
Unfortunately, we were not able to get The Sentinel Returns to run perfectly on our Windows 8 machine, we encountered the following issues:-
- CD Audio does not work – Even when enabled, the CD audio sound track would not play.
- Mouse sensitivity is too low – Moving the cursor around the landscape is particularly sluggish and changing mouse sensitivity in the game options doesn’t seem to make any difference.
Can you submit a fix?
Know how to get this game working better? Help the community by submitting a comment and letting us know!