Commander Keen Episode V: The Armageddon Machine
Review by Snow Dragon
"Classic platforming by the numbers, with enjoyable results"
Picking up where Commander Keen Episode IV: Goodbye Galaxy left off, Episode V puts the young hero Billy Blaze, a.k.a. Commander Keen, back on the Bean-With-Bacon Megarocket to blast off and locate the Shikadi, a group of beings made entirely out of energy who plan to destroy the galaxy. In terms of pure fun and old school gaming enjoyment, there are few who rival the little kid in a football helmet with a ray gun.
All of the action takes place on the Shikadi mothership, and you, with only your ray gun and trusty pogo stick, must stop them from utterly obliterating all carbon-based life in the universe. A basic plot this may be, but Commander Keen is not a basic hero. With just the arrow keys, Control, Alt, and the spacebar, Keen can pull off a variety of smooth tactics. He can leap entire stories with a combination of Ctrl and Alt (jump and pogo) at the same time, or jump and fire downward at the slugs and robots below. These seven main buttons combine to make Keen's movement and attack seamless.
However, ''seamless'' isn't exactly the right word to describe the graphics. Even though the PC had relatively good processing power back in the early nineties when this title was released, everything is done in black outline with pixelated shading effects that remind one of digital vomit. A feast for the eyes Keen is not, but a feast for the mind it is. This game, like many of the other Keen titles, is chock full of secret compartments and rooms with candy, ammo, and extra men. There's even a secret level to be found. It hides itself very well, as does most everything. Note to other developers: many secrets almost always equals a great game. Because of its myriad hidden elements, Commander Keen V is a good platformer for all who have experience in that field.
The music is so MIDI that it's annoying to a large degree, but it and the sound effects (which are pretty funny - when you shoot a slug, it sounds like a muted fart) can be turned off. The menus are easily navigable and are made to appear on Keen's radio wristwatch. If you look there, you'll find Paddle War, a portable version of Pong that plays to 21 points. Including this little featurette was an original idea on the part of ID and Apogee, but it almost upstages the game itself, especially if you would rather play electronic table tennis than save the world.
Young ones will love Keen V because it's not too much of a challenge for them and has only a minor learning curve. Old gamers will appreciate its cartoony style and reminisce about the age when a game only took up about ten kilobytes on a hard drive. Therefore, the game has value for every one, whether the replay or sentimental variety. Keen hasn't aged a day since his debut, and that's true in more than one respect. This game - along with most of the other Keen titles - was largely available as shareware. If you can still get it in that format, I'd recommend installing it and giving it a spin. If you don't like it, then you're a bitter old codger who probably has your groceries delivered weekly to your doorstep. Well, maybe not, but that must be your mentality, at least.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/20/02, Updated 05/20/02
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