Commander Keen 4: Secret of the Oracle

aka: Commander Keen IV, Commander Keen IV: The Secret of the Oracle, Commander Keen in ... "Goodbye, Galaxy!": Keen Episode Four - Secret of the Oracle

Description official descriptions

Commander Keen 4: Secret of the Oracle is a platform game, the fourth in the Commander Keen series as a whole, and the first in the second series Goodbye, Galaxy.

Eight-year-old genius Billy "Commander Keen" Blaze receives an interstellar transmission while working on a Photachyon Transceiver (a radio that can receive signals anywhere in the galaxy). While the transmission is choppy, Billy manages to figure out that the galaxy is once again in danger from an alien race known as Shikadi. In order to get more information about this threat, he sets out to consult the Oracle. But it turns out that the eight Council Members necessary for the Oracle's activation have been kidnapped by the Shikadi and imprisoned in the dangerous Shadowlands. Billy heads out to save the Council Members.

The game begins with a top-down map of the Shadowlands. This is the level select screen, where Billy can walk around and the player can choose the next level they want to enter (though some of the levels are islands located on a lake and require you to find a wetsuit if you want to reach them). On each level, Billy has to make his way to the exit. Once a level is completed, Billy ends up back on the overhead map.

The levels are typically full of enemy creatures, such as poison slugs, deadly mosquitoes or hopping crazy mushrooms. There are also many hazards - pits, cannons, spears. If Billy gets shot or touched by an enemy, or falls into a pit or touches something hazardous, he dies and loses one life.

Thankfully, Keen can stun most enemies with his raygun, although some cannot be stunned at all, and some are only stunned for a few seconds. Keen also carries a pogo stick which allows him to jump very high. Other items to find include: ammo, gems that acts as keys to open locked doors, bonus items which give score, raindrops (100 raindrops give extra life) and the rare Lifewater Flask which gives an extra life.

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Credits (DOS version)

8 People



Average score: 85% (based on 4 ratings)


Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 98 ratings with 7 reviews)

Often considered best part of the series. It's my favorite Keen game.

The Good
The graphics! The first trilogy "Invasion of the Vorticons" had simple graphics that just did the job. From part 4 however, an all new graphics engine is used. This new engine vastly increases the graphics. Instead of the simple graphics seen before, this game has beautiful comic-style graphics that are much better than most of Apogee's platform games of that age. The story continues as eight-year old genius Billy Blaze picks up a help sign from outer space. Once again he transforms into Commander Keen to go on another mission. His mission leads him to the Shadowlands, a diverse landscape on the planet of Gnosticus IV. This diversity makes it my favorite Keen. While most games in the series have more or less similar worlds this game has levels ranging from desert castles and Aztec-like pyramids to forests and caves. There is even a diving level where you meet the legendary Dopefish, one of gaming,s most beloved enemies. This brings me to another strong point of the game: enemies. You will meet many dangerous creatures such as the Poison Slugs, Skypests, Inchworms and many more. Also there are some friendly characters that could be useful such as Princess Lindsay, Bounder and the old and wise men you need to rescue at some levels. Another vastly improved point is gameplay. While the first trilogy had smooth gameplay for it's time, in this one it's even better. Jumping is much smoother now and thank goodness they fixed the annoying CONTROL+ALT shooting method (it's still optional, but what loser wants it anyway?). New gameplay twists include shooting in different directions, climbable poles and clinging to ceilings. Also included are some fun twists such as a secret level, a method to make Keen "moon" you and a pong-like mini-game which are nice. Another new feature that I missed in the first trilogy was sound card support. There's music now!

The Bad
It's a bit too hard at certain points, even when in easy-mode, mostly because you can take only one hit and you'll die. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for some people, though .

The Bottom Line
This has been improved so much from before that even those people who didn't like the first trilogy mat still love this (the same counts for part 4 and 5, since they use the same engine). Of all classic Apogee platform games this is probably the best one. You'll love it, it's brilliant! (This is not a surprise if you know that the same guys made such great 3D-shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D, Quake and, off course, Doom.)

DOS · by Rensch (203) · 2005

Simply Excellent

The Good
Is an game like another, with an excellent gameplay and a lot of extra levels

The Bad
some about music and support to joysticks

The Bottom Line
Excellent, Joyful

DOS · by Sebastian Oliva (3) · 2004

Commander Keen: The Next Generation

The Good
Having completed the ¨Invasion of the Vorticons¨ saga and proving that platformers could exist on the PC, id moved things up a little with Keen 4, and provided a whole new look and feel thanks to a way more advanced graphics engine and improved computing power.

The new engine handles much more resolution and detail, not to mention much faster scrolling and animations. This allows the perspective to get much closer to Keen and his world, and even goes as far as to faking a little perspective and giving an almost isometric look to the levels, which makes them much more attractive and are by-the way fully populated with weird and quirky aliens each lovingly animated and out to get Keen one way or another. Keen himself looks much more realistically proportioned and detailed (complete with idle animations and much more facial detail) but neither he nor his world lose that cartoony look that makes the game so enjoyable.

Gameplay-wise one would expect things to get much more cramped up with the smaller view area, but the layout of the levels adjust to the new engine perfectly, and there is still plenty of room to jump around and collect items in classic Keen fashion, only now there are more invisible platforms and similar secrets as well as other gravity defying trinkets. Keen himself holds his old arsenal of moves from the original trilogy (which weren´t that much to be honest) and adds some new feats like the skill to look up and down to show you more of the levels, and the kickass ability to hang on to ledges when jumping, as well as climbing poles and such, feats that do nothing but improve the already solid gameplay.

Soundwise things go up another notch, with full adlib music support as well as the usual amount of quirky and cutesy sfxs, and the game now sports a much more polished interface that simulates Keen´s wrist-watch computer, complete with a fully functional pong game to pass the time!!

The Bad
Nothing much, except it´s "same old, same old"... the new look and polish definetively makes it feel like a new game, but there´s no denying that things are starting to feel slightly too familiar by now.

The Bottom Line
Looking back I think the best way one can sum up this new chapter in the keen series is that things now really take a turn for the professional. While the gameplay and all had always been solid, the previous games just couldn´t shake that feeling of amateur shareware-ness evident in the production values and misc. elements such as the interface. From Keen 4 on we are on to the next stage of evolution into commercially-viable, fully professional entertainment. Begginers to CK should probably start here.

DOS · by Zovni (10504) · 2003

[ View all 7 player reviews ]



Developer Tom Hall on the creating the infamous Dopefish (taken from the 3D Realms website):

"The Dopefish, upon reflection, is pretty much based on one of two little faces my brother, sister, and I would draw on everything. Except stuck on a fish. I guess they were sort of the emoticons of the seventies. And of course, he's inspired by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That's why they're the SECOND dumbest creature in the universe."

Eat Your Veggies

The song "Eat Your Veggies" in the Well of Wishes level actually was written for Commander Keen: Keen Dreams, but was removed from that game to save disk space. Explains the name, now, doesn't it?


There was a special version released specifically for CGA, as the EGA/VGA version didn't support CGA.

CGA Composite

In 2016 VileR released an unofficial patch that allowed the CGA version of the game to use the CGA Composite mode. This results in CGA 16 colors graphics, as opposed of the CGA 4 color graphics of the original release.

OEM version

The game was bundled with the Gravis PC Gamepad


The opening sequence (with the words floating by each other) is a parody of the opening sequence of the movie The Terminator. When you select "Return to Demo" from the options screen, the story that's shown is an obvious parody of the Star Wars scrolling text opening sequence

Information also contributed by Itay Brenner, Jimmy Sherril, Kirschsaft, Roedie and Tony Gies

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Tomer Gabel.

Additional contributors: Steve Hall, Frenkel, Nico HafO, formercontrib, Neville, Patrick Bregger.

Game added August 15th, 1999. Last modified August 29th, 2023.