Review by King Broccoli
"A game that is keen to impress, but falls short..... (((PUN ALERT)))"
Commander Keen 3 is the final chapter of this saga in which you have to deal with those nasty vorticons and their insidious plots. Chapters 1 and 2 built the game up a little bit, and this one finishes it off with all the drama and fast-paced action that one would expect. It turns out that Commander Keen has got a day off from school (it snowed the night before you see) and he's decided to rid the world of that vorticon nemesis once and for all. Our intrepid adventurer flies to the home planet of the vorticons in search for the one known as the ''Grand Intellect'', what follows is plot twist after plot twist until the gripping finale where good and evil finally come face to face. This game improves over Commander Keen 2, but still doesn't quite manage to top the original!
The graphics of the game are passable, but not by very much! They improve over the second instalment much in the way that one improved over the first, that is making things a lot clearer, paying more attention to detail and just generally making it a little bit prettier. The character designs show a small amount of imagination, but it's always better than none at all, you'll be going up against three or four different enemies that only cover a small portion of all the different shapes and sizes out there, but it's the thought that counts of course. Commander Keen has looked exactly the same through the first duo, and his design has remained exactly similar, he's got himself a simple T-Shirt and shorts combo with general safety things such as bicycle helmets and elbow pads to help keep him alive. A little bit of variety wouldn't have hurt, but the people at the Keen household obviously have a slack attitude towards the washing of clothes. You've been taken to the home planet of the vorticons (as you may have already read) so there is going to be a whole lot of creatures that are very wolf-like in appearance. In previous games you probably met the males of the species and the babies, which are just basically big and little werewolves, so you probably won't see anything groundbreaking. There are two new species, they look different from the others, so that's good enough for me (although portraying the females as lumbering fire-breathing monsters was uncalled for). The end boss is a let down, not showing too much creative design at all, you'll have to see for yourself though!
The backgrounds have a small amount of variety in them, a lot of them will see you navigating your way through what could only be described as a vorticon block of apartments, which is pretty much just a series of interconnecting rooms swarming with those pesky wolves. All kinds of different shades of purple and pink seem to be a favourite tool in the ''tool-box'' of the developers. They've decided to plaster it all over the walls of these places and in many spots where one would have thought it to be impossible, thank heavens for a little bit of variety in the settings! You will be treated to scenes such as the picturesque outdoors, where bright green plant life all sorts of naturey things will adorn your screen, or you could be cast down into a deep and dark cavern, where scrolling is painful to the eyes! There are a few different colours in the overall scheme, and they make the graphics never too boring to see.
Overall, the graphics are nothing much more than a reasonable effort, at times they can be quite nice to look at but at others you'll tear your eyes away due to some horrible mistakes. They're the sharpest that any visuals from this first trilogy have been, and have enough variety to make them a bit more watchable than the others. They don't even really show the limits of the really old PCs that they were designed for, but you won't complain TOO MUCH.
Okay then, the sound is just like the sound you hear in Commander Keen 1 and 2, nothing has been added or taken away from it. This of course means that the standards are terribly low, it's one of the most inferior audio packages I've ever had the displeasure to listen to. This also means that there is no background music for you to listen to, maybe a few little bars should something overly important happen but not enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the next chord.
There are sound effects in Commander Keen 3, quite a lot of them in fact! Unfortunately they have been royally screwed up and are just downright shocking. When Commander Keen walks it sounds like two pieces of corrugated cardboard are being rubbed together, and it appears that all of the other effects have been based on that sound (they're very scratchy). You'll wish that the effects had taken a leaf out of the book of the music, and just didn't turn up, but they're there and you'll have to deal with them harshly. Overall, this is a game you'll soon by turning the sound off on. Even if you want to keep it on, chances are a friend in the next room or a neighbour in the next house will want you to turn it off. Not a good way to accompany these semi-fine graphics at all.
The gameplay of Commander Keen 3 is just like the gameplay of Commander keen 1 and Commander Keen 2 which is just like the gameplay from countless other games out there. Those people that are quick to take in data should have realised that the gameplay of this game is lacking in originality. All that sets it apart from the other games is the set up of all of the levels and the enemies in them, everything else is pretty much a carbon copy. While the commander might have appeared slightly versatile at the beginning of the series, he's just lost all the spark that he used to have, all he can do is jump, shoot and bounce around like an idiot on a pogo-stick. All of these tricks are available from the start, although you'll probably soon run out of bullets because of major deficiencies when comparing the shots available to all the enemies out there. The pogo stick is of course a vital tool in your mission, because for some reason on the vorticon world if you want to get from one town to another you'll have to scale walls that a normal jump can't handle. This all thanks to a vorticon government that certainly cares about the comfort of its people for sure!
The level design doesn't break down any barriers to give you something groundbreaking; it in fact doesn't complete any cliché except for that one about elderly dogs and modern techniques, you should however find these levels up to reasonable standards. The people responsible for designing them have opted for height rather than width, so there is going to be a lot of big drops in some of the levels and definitely a lot of mundane platform jumping. Some levels will require backtracking (even more than you'll normally do after all those big falls, BOO) to go and fetch a key card and open yourself a door. But most people should find these levels to provide a decent amount of fun should they take their time and not make any silly mistakes.
The enemies out there will make life very difficult for Commander Keen, so much that he'll soon end up losing a whole lot of it. Life bars have been thrown out the window for the whole series, but unlike Bushido Blade where it was done for realism, it seems to have been done here just so the game can be a pain in the ass. Basically, if a vorticon touches you then you will die, if a female vorticon shoots you with a fireball you will die, if a baby vorticon touches you then you will be incapacitated for a few seconds which is enough time for a vorticon to touch you and make you die. There are enough of these foes to ensure you're never safe, tread carefully young grasshopper as your life depends on it.
Commander Keen is not like your average ten-year-old child, this one has the ability to respawn whenever he is dealt with harshly by a vorticon (quite a neat trick). It also turns out that Keen can only do this four times giving him a total of five lives, but if he can scrounge up twenty-thousand points then he gets another chance! Quite an interesting little boy is that Commander Keen, but I assure you that no matter how many points you get it's never enough to prolong the appearance of the GAME OVER screen for too long. To reach the scores you will have to pick up the aptly named ''pick-ups'' that litter the courses, of course you're just delaying the inevitable.
In the earlier games in the series you had a whole lot of things you had to do to finish the game which meant that you had to play all of the levels to find out which ones were necessary. In this game you only have to get to the grand intellect, which means you can actually skip a lot of the levels if your heart desires! The Grand Intellect himself is a very tough cookie, he takes a lot of punishment and is only beatable when you find his weaknesses! Of course while you're looking for these spots you'll be attacked by all kinds of shooty things and nearly be repeatedly squashed into the ground, but of course with all of his weapons it's still a fair fight because you have a POGO STICK (sarcasm intended).
Overall, the gameplay of Commander Keen 3 isn't for those who get frustrated or bored easily or for those who crave originality. It's a game that can sometimes track down weak spots in a persons psychological make-up and attack that certain area, this of course makes it a game that isn't exactly always a hoot to play. It builds on the foundations set by its prequels slightly, without ever threatening to do anything overly outrageous, a person can still get a small amount of fun out of it if they're lucky though!
To be honest the lifespan is pretty darn short, this is attributed both to the length of the game and its replay value. Okay, so the game is not overly large, with persistence and constant saving and restoring you will eventually make it to the end, this can all be done in a few short hours (not that these hours have to be any smaller than any other hour). Once you finish this game you will not want to finish it again, ever, as long as you live, so I guess both of these things add up to a very minuscule lifespan. It's a pity, really.
The fun factor of this game is also actually quite low, aggravating and irritating are two words that don't quite mean the same but have a general premise (it's not an entirely good one either), and they both also describe this game pretty well. You will find very little enjoyment from this game, it's too bland and too hard to ever make you get a feeling of elation. There is a little bit of satisfaction from finishing it, basically just because it's such difficult thing to do, but the ending is worth a viewing or two! Overall, there is not enough fun to be found here at all, I'd actually rather be given a poke in the eye with a stick for Christmas than have a good go at this game.
I'm sure the point has been drummed home to you a lot in the previous areas of this review, this game is very hard. That's all there is to it, you'll be pulling the hair out (ON YOUR LEGS!) constantly out of much fuss and consternation, given to you by THIS GAME!
THE FINAL PARAGRAPH
A fitting end to a trilogy that didn't set any standards or offer anything different. These three games are probably best played in conjunction with each other (which was actually the way they were designed) as they're all just basically level add-ons for each other. What you've got in all of them is just the same bland stuff, that just seemed to get harder and harder with each next instalment. Out of the two trilogies of Commander Keen this would probably be the weaker of the two, the 4 - 6 group is a much better bet if you really have uncontrollable desires to control Commander Keen. This game in particular is one that gives out a few decent gaming moments, but is still held back by some nasty flaws in its design. There are better platform shooters out on every console, go get one of them instead!
- The first trilogy is ending!
- Improved graphics over the others
- Actually, bouncing around on a pogo stick is kind of fun
NOT SO GOOD POINTS
- The second trilogy is about to start!
- The sound is the same rubbish, BLEH to it I say!
- Too hard, no fun, short lifespan.........it's all you need to know
GRAPHICS - 7/10
SOUND - 2/10
GAMEPLAY - 5/10
LIFESPAN - 2/10
FUN FACTOR - 3/10
CHALLENGE - 1/10
OVERALL - 5/10
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 12/13/00, Updated 12/13/00
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