Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (39520)
Written on  :  Nov 01, 2002
Rating  :  2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars

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The first game in a great series

The Good

When the folks at id Software created Commander Keen, they didn't know that it would be a winner. The game tells the story of Billy Blaze who creates an interstellar spaceship, in which he calls his “Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket” and manages to use stuff lying around his house to power it up. He dons his brother's helmet, transforming him into Commander Keen and flies off the planet. His first adventure takes him to Mars. There are two lifeforms on the planet: Yorps, which are cute and friendly aliens that would not harm Keen, and Gargs, who are ugly and mean aliens who would kill Keen the moment they see him. Keen decides to take a walk and explore the planet. Later on, he decides to return, only to find his vital components of his ship missing. Now he has to go all over the place in search of them.

The gameplay involves you walking around the planet until you find a structure in which you can enter, similar to early Apogee games such as Crystal Caves and Secret Agent. You can go to other structures if Keen can get to them, but most of the time, you have to go to a certain one first. When you enter a structure, the gameplay switches from a top-down perspective to a third-person perspective. The main object of these is to run to the other side of the level, shooting some Gargs that get in your way. You will meet some Yorps, but I suggest that you do not shoot them unless you feel the need of committing suicide yourself. Sure, they eventually become a nuisance pushing you into your doom, but that's no reason to be trigger-happy.

There are some items that you can collect for points. Most of the time, you will be collecting lollypops, but at least when you collect enough of them, they will keep adding up to extra lives, which are useful if you keep dying in a level and wish to try again. The best thing about this game is finally getting the pogo stick, which helps Keen reach high areas. The pogo stick remains with Keen for the remainder of the series.

All the characters, including Keen himself, are drawn nicely. Both the Yorps and Gargs look like the aliens that would inhabit Mars. Nearly each level is filled with strange writing (known as the “Standard Galactic Alphabet”), in which you get to translate in the third game. This writing adds to the game's atmosphere. The locked doors, which can be unlocked by color-coded keycards, look futuristic.

There is no background music while you are playing the game, but the sound effects are nice. You hear Keen's footsteps exactly as you should (both on the map and the normal levels.) The pistol sounds like a cartoon laser gun, and when Keen uses his pogo stick, it makes a nice boing. The sound of Keen dying is good, too. I love the way that Keen looks when he is hit, losing his whole torso, his legs still walking, and his mouth formed into an O-shape.

The controls are easy to use. Only one key can be pressed to make Keen jump, another to activate his pogo stick, and another to bring up the status panel which reveals your score, the number of lives, keycards that you have collected, and more.

The Bad

When you are playing the normal levels, there is always that bland gray background that does not go well with me at all. It can get boring at times.

As I said earlier, you have to press a key to bring up the status panel which shows a lot of information. It would have been nice if that information is displayed while you are playing the game, and do not have to press a key at all.

In order to fire your pistol, you have to press two keys: [Ctrl] and [Alt] at the same time. Since you are jumping or using your pogo stick most of the time, you may accidentally fire your pistol

All these problems are rectified in the future Keen games.

The Bottom Line

Commander Keen is episode one of a great series. It may have the simple plot of retrieving stuff for your gizmo, but it is better than the games that involve you rescuing a damsel-in-distress. This game is ancient, but id did not throw in some timer problems, and that means that you will not have a problem running the game on modern systems. If you like platform games, especially the ones that involve you walking around a map and traveling to your next destination, then you won't go wrong with this one.