Commander Keen 4: 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.
Credits (DOS version)
Average score: 85% (based on 4 ratings)
Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 98 ratings with 7 reviews)
The fourth game in the series was the first to use the new graphics engine. Very slick, and much more controllable. Now if you just missed a jump, Keen could grab onto the edge and pull himself up. Very nice.
This game is a classic - the pyramids, the tar-pits, the secret passages, the slugs - and the inch worms were great. Good story and good puzzles - an all time classic.
I didn't much like the underwater bit.
The Bottom Line
A classic - if you're old enough to appreciate it.
DOS · by Steve Hall (329) · 2000
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!!
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 (10502) · 2003
This was the first 'modern' Commander Keen game, and is fondly remembered by people of a certain age. Whilst the first three games had tiny sprites and decent, but uninspired gameplay, this and the follow-ups were excellent and are still fun today (certainly the most fun you can have on a PC with just 700k). The mixture of Mario-esque gameplay, a pogo stick, some utterly cheesy Adlib music, and an engaging amateurishness fits together perfectly. The difficulty level is pitched perfectly, too - it gets progressively harder, but deceptively so, and although you can save and load as often as you like, you tend not to as it all seems initially simple.
For what it is, this game is perfect - Nintendo-style platform games are extremely rare on the PC, and the cute graphics and bouncy music haven't really dated (compared to something like 'Puzzle Bobble' they're positively advanced).
The Bottom Line
A fun, nostalgic early-90's PC-based shareware platformer by soon-to-be-Doomsters.
DOS · by Ashley Pomeroy (225) · 2000
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.
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.
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
Related Sites +
All-you-can-eat Commander Keen
Excellent fan site for the Commander Keen series.
Beyond the Pogo
This is the ultimate Commander Keen fansite. You'll find almost anything Keen-related here.
Commander Keen Fan Site
A fan site which includes game reviews, screenshots, downloads, media and more.
S&F Prod.'s Commander Keen Page
This is the only place where you can find sound players, add-ons, Keen2Dopefish patch, cheats, hex cheats, extras, links and things alike for Commander Keen.
The Official Dopefish Home Page
Everything you always wanted to know about the big green fish from Commander Keen 4.
- MobyGames ID: 219
- Wikipedia (en)
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Tomer Gabel.
Game added August 15th, 1999. Last modified August 29th, 2023.