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Commander Keen 1: Marooned on Mars

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Name: Commander Keen 1: Marooned on Mars
Year: 1990
Publisher: Apogee
Developer: ID Software
Platform: PC
Genre: Action
Total rating: 65.7% - rated 18 times
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Submitter: Res
Added: May 22 2004
Warez status: Freeware

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Game review

Author: Bokkie
Date: May 05 2005 - 11:31
Score: 65 points
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So this is where it all began. 15 or so years ago ID software released this little platform game about a kid called Commander Keen and I don't think even they could have imagined where it would end and what a legend they had created.

The concept was not revolutionary by any means. Platforms games were an old story by that time. "Jet set willy" and the "monty mole" games had created the genre years before and many others had followed, but something just clicked when it came to Commander Keen.

Even looking back in retrospect on the whole series, it's hard to say exactly what made Commander Keen 1 so great. However for the sake of CGN I will give it my best shot.

Maybe it was the story that sucked us in?
Here was a kid, much like we were then, who had an IQ in the upper limits and a cool secret identity. Barry Blaze, ordinary schoolkid, by day, Commander Keen, intergalactic superhero, by night.

In this, the first story, Billy gets stuck on Mars when the evil Vorticons steal his space ship pieces and has to travel around the whole planet looking for them so he can get back and stop the Vorticons from blowing up earth.

Riveting storyline right? Well... ok, so maybe it wasn't brilliant but to give it some credit, not too many games included real stories linked into the action in those days. Here you were actually on a mission linked to the plot and not just wandering around from level to level like a nerd at a hot party.

The story of Keen 1, while not mind-blowing is certainly passable and definitely adds a little extra to the whole game.

Maybe it was the gameplay that got us hooked?
Like I said at the outset, Platform games had been around for a while by the time Keen hit the shelves, so we were already used to the idea of running, jumping and shooting like a wild thang while collecting all the goodies we could. And apart from the pogo stick thing, (hint: you have to find the pogo stick on one of the levels before you can use it), which enabled you to jump extra high when you needed to, not much was different from the basic idea of the platform genre.

But Keen was still fun, despite not bringing anything new to the table. The bad guys were cute, the levels well designed and it was awesome to just bounce around on the pogo stick, seeing how many new places you could reach.

There was also an element of choice in that you could bypass some of the levels if you wanted, and this was also a new idea in a time when game developers wanted you to sit through everything they had designed. A nice touch that gave you a slight feeling of power.

Although Keen 1 didn't think up too many things that were really different from other platformers, it did present those things in a way that was easy to play and enjoy, making it's gameplay truly addictive.

Maybe the graphics and sound made Keen a legend?
Graphics were pretty good for their time. Cool little details in the characters and levels made Keen different from the boring pixels of other platform games of the time. There are animations everywhere. Bonus items that sparkle, aliens whose heads bob up and down and dangerous plants that flap. This makes you think that ID put more-than-average effort into making Keen 1 look as good as it did.

Sounds? As much as PC speaker sounds annoy me, I must hand it to Keen 1 for getting some sound effects out of the built in beeper. There are wierd scraping noises for when you enter a level, funny beepy noises for when you die and exciting scratchy noises for when you finish a goal. Hey, at least they made do with what they had, right?

Well-planned graphics and a good bash at sound effects added heaps to the joy we got from playing Keen 1 but good graphics alone do not a legend make.

So for the very obvious answer as to why Keen 1 is a true classic we need to take into account everything. Others had done it before but Commander Keen got it all right. There was a story to amuse you, fun gameplay to attract you and decent graphics to stop you falling asleep which all add up to a really great game that set the pace for the six Keen games that followed. Ok, maybe it isn't the best game in the series but it is still highly enjoyable. It's a pretty small game and works in XP so download it and see how it all started.

Finish all the levels, collect all the pickups and find the bonus area as well. That'll keep you out of trouble for a couple of days...

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By Omehenk - Aug 27 2011 - 23:53
i agree, time to play it again, thanks for making this.
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By Sweathog - Mar 23 2009 - 01:36
This brings back memories.
Playing these as a kid, great game.

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