Review by KingBroccoli

"The keenest adventurer you're ever likely to meet...... (((PUN ALERT)))"

Commander Keen is a fun little platform shooter that is set completely on the planet Mars! You take control of a ten-year-old kid, who just happens to have the last name Keen, this kid is a bit of a genius and has managed to construct a spaceship of his very own. On his very first trip in his ship he lands on Mars, and disaster strikes! His ship is raided and four vital accessories are stolen from it by these creatures named ''vorticons'' you must take Commander Keen through a whole series of levels and recover these parts! If you fail to complete these tasks the poor kid will be stuck on the red planet forever, so you better get out your pogo-stick and your gun and get started, because these items certainly aren't going to recover themselves.

The graphics are bright, colourful and exceed the standards that one usually receives from a shareware game. Despite their age they're very pleasing to look at, but they certainly won't be knocking the socks off anybody anytime soon! Your character is reasonably pretty, especially the outrageous costume that he has on, it looks exactly as if a toddler designed his very own spacesuit, which is just a perfect thing! He's a pretty small person that Commander Keen, so he doesn't have an extravagant amount of detail, but he makes do with what he's got! The designs of the enemies are pretty simple but they look very nice, those nasty vorticons resemble wolves standing up on two legs, so they obviously didn't waste too much imagination on those things! You've only got two different types of enemies to worry about, you've got your friendly looking thing that's just two legs, a pear shaped body and a singular eye, he wanders about with a grin on his face and really only wants to play with you! The second design is a far more dangerous looking one; it's a luminous green thing with a big snarl, two eyes and a couple of tentacles dangling here and there. They drove fear into my heart when I was much younger, but they have lost their ability to make a person fear by now. The characters are generally pretty cool, a little bit more detail would have been nice, but you'll have to make do.

The backgrounds are rather simple; they stand out very nicely and are pretty clear. Most of them are just made up with a single colour, with an object or two plastered onto it. The colours they have chosen blend well with each other, and it creates a whole lot of scenes that aren't eyesores one tiny little bit. The most you'll get in the way of detail is a generic pattern, or a sign or two with ''APOGEE RULES'' plastered onto the walls. There are some scenes where they've made use of lighting (which is really just basically making one section a bit brighter than another in an old game like this) well, where you can emerge from the shadows into apparent brightness and looking pretty darn spiffy while you're at it. The backgrounds complement the characters nicely, and look okay on their own, a respectable job overall.

As a whole, the graphics aren't overly impressive but will prove to be satisfactory for the entire length of the game. It can all get a little bit garish at times, but only for reasonably small sections! There's a little bit of variety in the graphical scenes, enough to stop you from wrinkling up your eyelids in disgust. Overall it's a graphical package that won't make too many enemies, it's just a collection of nice vibrant pictures appearing on your screen!

The sound of Commander Keen is absolutely shocking; it has absolutely no noticeable redeeming features. It's tough to think of positive things to write about it, probably because they don't exist! First of all, there is no background music whatsoever. If a person tries to tell you that Commander Keen has background music, you just tell them that they're big fat liars, because there is none at all. You get a few little bars of random notes when you die or finish a level, but that can hardly be described as music!

The sound effects are there in quite large numbers, but you'll wish that they were as transparent as the music. Every single one of the effects sounds scratchy, and just plain old irritating, considering that there is a constant rumbling sound that plays whenever Commander Keen walks, you're in for a lot of pain and torture. You have to admire the insistence of the developers to make the sound effects as abundant as they are, it might have been done to cover up for the lack of music. But if you're going to put a lot of sound effects into a game then you have to make them sound good! Having a whole lot of sounds that sound absolutely terrible and will annoy everyone that hears them is just not on. A terrible job has been done in this area. Overall, this package of sonics is one of the worst I've had the displeasure of listening to, improvements could have been made all over the place!

The gameplay is fairly simple, but still a lot of fun to have a go at. You start off on the world map, and have to manoeuvre your way around to the level you wish to try out. Some of these levels will prove to be long and challenging, others will be short and rather pointless, and there are four levels that are ultimately rewarding (finish them and you'll probably get a part for your ship in the process). All you start the game with is a gun with no bullets in your hand, and a crash helmet on your head, from there you'll have to win your way through all the levels until you're able to escape!

Commander Keen has a few small tricks up his sleeve that make him able to withstand most of the assaults from the various enemies. You've got yourself a bit of a ray gun, every time you get a pick-up you'll get five bullets that can be fired by it. Most enemies will only take one bullet to put them out of their misery, but the pesky little vorticons will need four or five shots to be taken down. The other object to be added to your inventory is a Pogo Stick, it's helpful for avoiding attacks or reaching higher jumps. Both of these things are vital tools if you hope to make it to the end of the game intact, use them wisely my son.

Controlling your character can be a rather tiring task, the controls are easy to remember with arrows to move around and a combination of ALT and CTRL to complete any other action, the big problem is the responsiveness of Commander Keen. Jumping from ledge to ledge or just generally jumping around the screen at any time is made very difficult! You'll often find yourself going just that little bit too far because of the over-responsiveness of the controls; it's a pretty bad problem and the cause of much fuss and consternation from those that have played it. You're pogo stick can prove to be a little bit unwieldy, you'll find yourself having even more trouble measuring those jumps properly when you're bouncing around like a kangaroo on heat! The controls could have definitely used a bit of refining.

The level designs are reasonably simple, they're not the biggest levels I've ever come across but they do require a little bit of work to finish off. There are quite a few keycards in the game, up to four in every level. They're all a different colour, so you'll have to do a little bit of hunting and gathering to find your way to the end of the level. There are quite a few things you have to look out for, these might include snapping flowers on the ground or green tentacles dangling down from an upper level. Most of the levels are pretty straightforward and shouldn't take more than two or three times to perfect your journeys through each of the levels. They're not too imaginative, they're not too hard, but they should provide sufficient entertainment to you.

Overall, the gameplay is pretty typical stuff; you won't find yourself doing anything you haven't done countless times before. Despite the lack of originality it also doesn't have too many flaws, so it makes the game a bit more playable than some of the other comparable games out there. It's gameplay that the younger kiddies especially will love, but should give out a good time to must that play it!

The lifespan of Commander Keen would be mid-range, a game can take a reasonable amount of time to play through if you're going to finish ALL of the levels. Of course you don't really have to play them all, only the ones where you need to fetch the spare part and the ones blocking your path need to be finished, so you can fly through the game a lot faster should you have the appropriate knowledge. The replay value is fairly high, you'll finish the game quite a few times which makes the lifespan of the game fairly lengthy. It's not a game you'll find yourself just brushing past!

The fun factor would be somewhere between medium and high, there aren't too many irritating things to really irk you, but there's nothing about the game that stands out and makes it more fun than any other. If you're looking for a good generic time, then this is definitely a game that you should try out, it's altogether pretty bland and won't have you ringing all your friends and shouting in their ears how much you enjoy the game. You won't get so much satisfaction from finishing it, as the ending is pretty lacklustre and it's not the hardest task going around, just nice and average!

The challenge of Commander Keen is pretty light on, the vorticons offer up a little bit of trouble towards our hero, and there's one level in particular that can be quite troublesome, but on the whole there isn't too much dangerous stuff in the game. The very last enemy is a bit of a blighter, as not only will he jump around like the other vorticons and make it impossible for you to pass him, but he also happens to be immune to your puny bullets. You actually have to think a little bit to take him out! Shock, horror, gasp indeed.

Commander Keen is a game that offers up a limited amount of fun for a limited amount of time, it sounds a bit like an offer from McDonalds! It's biggest problem is its lack of originality, it doesn't really have anything in it (other than an amusing spaceship name) that makes it any more playable or enjoyable than anything else out there. It is looking rather dated now, so if you're looking for a game a bit like this, just keep moving on, it might give you what you're looking for but there's bound to be something else that will give you what you're looking for with higher standards. A commendable effort, but it doesn't quite have the follow through.
- Nice level designs
- Cute little enemies
- Commander Keen is just like you or me, he's a perfect role model for the kids of today!

- No originality
- Too little challenge
- Ordinary longevity
SOUND - 2/10
OVERALL - 6/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 12/04/00, Updated 12/04/00

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