Commander Keen Episode I: Marooned on Mars
Review by Goodbye Galaxy
"Scouring Mars for household appliances. How awesome is that?"
The first installment in the brilliant Keen series is a classic, for more reasons than one.
You play as Billy Blaze, also known as Commander Keen. This kid genius, with an IQ of 314, was exploring Mars one day when a bunch of aliens called the Vorticons (no relation to Half-Life's Vortigaunts) decide to steal a bunch of key components from your homemade rocket ship, aptly dubbed the Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket. These components include a battery, a joystick, a vacuum cleaner, and a bottle of moonshine. How these are needed for space travel is beyond me...but then again, my IQ isn't nearly as high. Thus you begin your quest to get all of these parts back. It's a quirky story for a quirky game.
The entire Keen series has great level design, and this one is no exception. In pretty much every level, there's no set path that you are supposed to follow. Feel free to explore each and every level...because there's quite a handful of secrets and lots of points to be found. Ah, points...why don't more modern games have points?
One great innovation was the mighty pogo-stick! Need a little extra bounce? No problem. I admit, it sounds a bit lame, but once you try it out you'll wish every game had a pogo-stick (lord knows I do).
You travel to each level via a world map. This is an interesting feature, because it allows you to vist almost any level (after the first one) whenever you want.
The controls could use some work. Running around and jumping felt sluggish. Not only that, but you had to press both the jump button and the pogo button to fire. This was a little bit awkward, but after a while you get used to it.
The graphics were standard fare for the year 1990...nothing hideously ugly. Each sprite has a couple frames of movement, and the game is full of colour.
The sound, on the other hand, was pretty bad. The game didn't use a sound card, rather, it used the PC speakers. No music, just tinny beeps and squawks. Just try to ignore it.
One last interesting item to note is that this game was the first ever use of Shareware, meaning you don't have to pay a cent to play it. The hope was, of course, that you'd like the game so much that you'd pay for the sequels. So....go out and download this game. It's completely free and completely legal.
-The pogo stick really is the greatest thing ever
-Excellent level design
-PC speaker sound
Final Score: 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/06
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