Review by Dandude776

"A great shareware successor to the original Keen trilogy"

Overview
Secret of the Oracle is the 4th Commander Keen game, following the Invasion of the Vorticons trilogy, and it is definitely a worthy successor. With more colorful graphics, better animation, a nicer world map, more inventive levels, creative (As in unusual) enemies, and more overall fun. You play as Billy Blaze, AKA Commander Keen, as he blasts off in his ship and ends up in a strange world, filled with old wise men and unusual enemies. Including the greatest enemy ever: The Dopefish.

Gameplay
The game sets Keen off on a large, colorful world map. You begin by fighting your way through 2 or 3 linear ''training'' stages, before being set loose on the map. From there, you have a large amount of stages to choose from, with only a few locked. Your goal is to find and rescue the 8 old men, who are trapped in a wide range of stages from frozen palaces, to caves, to ancient pyramids, to an underwater maze. In each stage, your main objective is to either each the exit, or find an old man, and due to the fact that from the onset you don't know which stages have the men at the end, you'll probably find yourself exploring every level. Most stages are either very linear, go from this side of the level to that side, while others are complex and intricate mazes of switches and death traps. Levels are always filled with obstacles including pits of burning oil, spikes, and trip-wires which trigger arrows to fire from walls, along with enemies such as bouncing mushrooms, blue fire-breathing jelly beans, and of course the Dopefish. Most levels are very fun, however a few are a pain to deal with. Also, the one hit kills can get annoying when you're so close to the end and get eaten by a Dopefish, and the fact that many enemies are either invincible or way too difficult to kill. Finally, some stages have cheap deaths, with pits that can't be seen, and random arrows flying from off screen. The wide range of stages and enemies though, will have you trying a new stage after death, rather than quitting all together.

Graphics
The graphics in Secret of the Oracle are top notch. Great, colorful backgrounds will keep you enjoying the different stages. Enemies such as the Dopefish are very well animated, swimming/hopping around, giving dumb-looks at the camera, and even burping. Keen, the main character of course, is also very well animated, but for some reason I was constantly annoyed that he is a pale white, and that the animators didn't even bother to give him color or anything.

Sound
Secret of the Oracle has some great sound, but as with many older games, they're mostly an afterthought. Some good soundtracks for the backgrounds, although a few stages have really slow, dull music, which sound as if the developers were trying to increase the challenge by having you deal with enemies, pits, and the threat of falling asleep at any second.

Conclusion
Overall, Commander Keen IV is a great shareware game, and fans of the original trilogy would not be disappointed with this sequel. Great graphics, gameplay, and creativity keep you fighting against the forces of evil, the cheap deaths, and the sometimes snooze-inducing music. It's a good download, and will keep you occupied for a while. The only thing overshadowing it is the stupendous sequel, which had Keen traveling to outer space and dealing with Robo Red, an enemy which comes pretty close to dethroning the Dopefish.
Pros
-Great graphics/animation
-Level design is great most of the time
-Awesome creativity
-Wide range of levels/enemies
-Non-linear level selection
-Dopefish!
Cons
-Some cheap deaths, difficult enemies
-One hit kills
-Some slow music
-Episode V is better


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/24/03


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