Review by King Broccoli

"I was very keen to play this game, but it let me down..... (((PUN ALERT)))"

Commander Keen 2 follows on where the first Keen game leaves off, during the end sequence of the original your character notices an alien mothership with all of its weapons pointed towards the Earth! This game gives you the chance to get onto this ship and save the world by disabling all of its big-ass weapons. It offers up more levels, an increased challenge and all sorts of bits and pieces to make it a little bit more complete than the first game in the series was. A kid going to elementary school who hops around on a pogo-stick isn't exactly the kind of person you'd want to save the world for you, but when there's an accomplished gamer such as yourself controlling the kid then who knows how it might turn out! You'll probably end up accidentally destroying the world yourselves, but who really cares?

GRAPHICS
The graphics have some small improvements over the first game, but generally what you'll see here won't be too different from Commander Keen 1 or 3. The characters are improved slightly; all of them except Commander Keen himself for some reason. Keen looks exactly as he did in Episode 1, but all of the enemies you have to fight against are a lot prettier. Some of the enemies are very cute, they're usually very small and work around with big beaming grins on your face. Despite their cuteness you'll still probably spend your first few levels of the game trying to avoid them, and when you find out they don't actually hurt you then won't your face go red! The enemies that are likely to do damage to you are usually just different versions of wolves that stand on their hind legs, the only difference between the different types is their apparel. There's actually a group of baddies that wear a purple mask and cape, they generally look pretty good and have a fair amount of detail. The animations of the characters are pretty basic, you can tell what they're doing but there could have been a bit more exaggeration put into them, most of them are fairly boring! As a whole the characters are done pretty well and shouldn't give you anything to whinge about.

The backgrounds have also had some minor adjustments to make them look prettier! The most noticeable thing is that everything is clearer, the choice of colours has also been improved marginally to make it a more aesthetically pleasing game. Rather than just having plain colours to make up the backgrounds, a whole lot of plain grey crissy-crossy patterns have been used. This is okay for a start, but they've insisted in putting this background into the majority of the levels and it can get pretty annoying to look at. The other colours they've chosen are pretty basic, but match the grey areas nicely! There's a fair bit of bright yellow, red, blue and green, and it makes the game pretty boring after a while. It may be prettier than the first game, but there's a lot less variety in its overall outlook so I doubt you'll enjoy watching it as much. When you're moving across the screen and it starts scrolling, it will often start flickering, which can prove to be a big problem and can be very annoying. The backgrounds will be fun for a start, but you'll soon tire of them.

There's a fair bit of eye-candy in Commander Keen 2. All of the bullets fired have very nice lighting and stuff, there's a lot of things such as flashing lights and fire to be seen in the background. These areas add a little bit of variety, something that the game sorely needed and are the main things that set it apart from the prequel. Overall, the graphics are reasonable, but they will start to annoy you before you've gotten close to finishing the game. It appears drab at times and garish at others, it would have been nice to have graphics that were somewhere in between.

SOUND
The sound is exactly the same as that heard in Commander Keen 1, they've taken the exact same sound effects and everything! One thing they didn't take from the original was the background music, this is most likely because there actually isn't any. Background music would have been a most welcome addition but you'll all just have to go without it for the time being! Doing something silly that results in dying will get you the tiniest little section of something that could nearly be described as a tune, but it's really not worth just throwing your life away to get yourself the only music in the game. A very poor start to the audio section, will it get any better than this? No!

The sound effects of Commander Keen 2 are likely to be some of the worst you'll ever hear, they happen in very large quantities so it's going to be a very painful experience for you. The biggest problem is that they're not very clear sounds at all and sound extremely scratchy, if you took out the annoying scraping sounds from all of the sounds they might actually sound, but what you've got to put up with is absolutely monstrous! There are some areas where there might be a lot of enemies firing at once or something along those lines, this means that you'll be getting multiple sound effects per second and it's one of the worst sounding things you're ever likely to hear on your PC. It would have been far better had they decided to have the same amount of effects as they had music, so you wouldn't have had to put up with their terrible traits! Overall, the sound is just ridiculous, you have to admire their insistence to put so many sounds in the game but it would have been far better off without them. The F2 button (the one that turns the music off) will never look more appealing that it will when you play this game.

GAMEPLAY
The gameplay of Commander Keen 2 is generally the same as the gameplay seen in Commander Keen 1, there are some small differences but the general premise of the game remains. Pick up keycards, shoot a lot of baddies and do the extra things that you have to do to be able to finish the game then just find the exit! In this game there are a lot more levels, nearly twice as many as the first, and they do tend to get a little bit samey. There are a few different types of levels for you to try out, normal levels, levels in which you have to try extra hard as the fate of the world relies on your efforts, and another different type of level or two! You can distinguish each type of level from the others by examining the symbol above the doors in the world map, this is great if you don't want to finish more levels than you really have to.

Commander Keen has all of the same tricks that he learnt in the original game, he's kept his same pogo-stick (something that no real adventurer should leave home without) and his same ray-gun. It's easy to see that there is a lot less ammo lying around for you to pick up and more enemies to blow away, so you'll have to be very careful with your bullet expenditure, they tend to run out very quickly! There are still some problems controlling the Commander, he always has his problem of jumping a little bit too far or sometimes even a little bit too short, controlling him can be a big pain and will only become easier with practice.

There are eight levels that you'll have to finish if you want to be saving the world, you'll find these levels to be like any other just with one special little difference in them. You'll see a picture of a certain well-known landmark from some of the most famous cities in the world, connected to this picture is a whole lot of complicated machinery, which I suppose represents a big gun. You have to jump up on top of this thing and blast the heck out of it until it explodes, when you're knew to the game you might make the mistake that I did, wouldn't you look silly then. Hanging off the edge of each of these things is a lever, a new player will almost always just unknowingly walk up to this lever and throw the switch, this of course blows up the world and gives you a bit of a Game Over. It doesn't help that the button for your pogo stick is the same as the one that throws levers! Wouldn't that be a nasty slip-up for Commander Keen, accidentally killing six billion people whilst trying to get on his pogo stick, the thought alone makes you giggle like a school girl.

There's a fair amount of variety in the enemies that you have to go up against, there's the cute little red thing that won't hurt you but will push you around, and there's also adorable little wolves that will shrink and incapacitate Commander Keen for a few seconds! The enemies that WILL hurt you come in all shapes and sizes, there are big ones that shoot at you, big ones that don't shoot at you and maybe even some little robots that will fire a bullet or two in your direction. There's a LOT of baddies in this game, so your reflexes and timing better be pretty good, as it only takes one hit from a bad guy to kill poor little Keenie. The baddies are definitely going to make things difficult for you, I certainly hope you know the cheats when you have to face off against them.

The level designs are pretty generic, they're not overly long and will require a fair bit of backtracking in a lot of them. Rather than going for wide levels, they're usually fairly tall and make for a lot of repetitive platform jumping. To progress through a lot of them you'll just have to get key cards of all kinds of different colours and use them to get through doors, the levels could have used a little more thought and imagination, as these offerings are fairly boring. The sheer number of them counts for something, but it can just mean that you'll get sick of their mundane designs a little bit easier.

Overall, the gameplay lacks originality or anything that makes it interesting at all. It shows off absolutely no new ideas, so you'll probably get sick of it in a fairly short amount of time. It improves a little bit over Commander Keen 1 in some respects, but it actually degrades in quality in some other areas. It's not the finest gameplay out there, but you have to give them a little bit of credit for having very few major faults with it. The biggest problem is that it has the potential to put the players in a coma without too much effort.

LIFESPAN
The lifespan of Commander Keen 2 is fairly short, the game is a nice length and won't be finished in too big of a hurry, and you'll probably persevere all the way until the end! The biggest problem with the longevity is the lack of a decent replay value, you won't finish the game more than once or twice, and it makes the lifespan appear to be very short. Commander Keen 2 will most likely be in and out of your life within a week, and you certainly won't miss the game once it's gone!

FUN FACTOR
The fun factor is fairly low, there are a lot of things that will nag at you and cause you to get very frustrated with the game. There are a lot of enemies, they make things very trying for a player, and you can find yourself cursing at the game because of it. There's nothing in the game to make you deliriously happy or even just a little bit cheerful, anything that the game might throw at you in the way of entertainment will be quickly yawned off. You can find better fun factors in pretty much any other game out there, even the original Commander Keen offers more enjoyment than this game. You will get no satisfaction from finishing the game either, you'll just yawn at the ending as well!

CHALLENGE
The challenge of Commander Keen 2 is one of its major weaknesses, whilst Commander Keen 1 could have been passed off as being too easy this one could be labelled as far too difficult. You'll play through half of a level and think ''wow, I'm going to do this without any trouble'' and then one of those nasty wolves in masks will come along and kill you on its own. It's impossible to take out those guys because of their quick movements and constant firing, and when you have to face groups of five or six it's just ridiculous. Only the first levels will be passable because of the ridiculous amounts of those enemies that they put into the majority of the levels. Absolutely terrible challenge, you'll be tearing your hair out from start to finish!

THE FINAL PARAGRAPH
Commander Keen 2 is not much of a game at all, offering even less good times than the first game in the series. There are very little to no redeeming features, you'll want to rip the area of your computer out that the game is installed on and bury it nice and deep! This game is far too frustrating to be played by the general public, as it can give out heart attacks to those with weaker bodies. It's really only worth checking out this game if you're a big fan of the other Commander Keen games and you're looking for something a little bit harder than your average game. Facing all those vorticons with only four lives is certainly not my idea of a good time, keep on looking if you want to find yourself a generic platform shooter, this is a game you don't want to mess with!
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GOOD POINTS
- Commander Keen is a very nice and wholesome young boy
- It could nearly manage to bring the pogo stick back into style
- If you think games today are far too easy, this one will bring you back to earth

NOT SO GOOD POINTS
- The challenge of the game is just absolutely ridiculous
- The graphics and sound are more annoying than ever before
- Gameplay that lacks anything resembling originality or depth
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GRAPHICS - 5/10
SOUND - 2/10
GAMEPLAY - 5/10
LIFESPAN - 4/10
FUN FACTOR - 3/10
CHALLENGE - 1/10
OVERALL - 4/10


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 12/04/00, Updated 12/04/00


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