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Title: Commander Keen 1-3
Rom Player: None
Reviewer: FatSatan

Synopsis: Back in the day, software companies advertised for their games by putting them out in sets of three episodes, and releasing only the first one for free. It’s referred to as “shareware”. This was the case for the Commander Keen series, and many others of Apogee’s (now 3Drealms) games. This trilogy’s collective name was “Invasion of the Vorticons”.

Commander Keen, known to his parents as Billy Blaze, lives the life we all dreamed of as kids. From ordinary household items, he constructed a spaceship (the Bean-with-bacon Megarocket) – wearing the battered football helmet of his older brother and armed with his raygun, he flies around the universe when his parents aren’t watching and upholds justice. He does this by shooting everything in sight and eating candy. What could be sweeter?

Episode 1: Marooned on Mars
Though we don’t know it, Mars is populated by green one-eyed aliens known as Yorps. In fact, one of our exploration vehicles once landed on the tyrant ruler of Mars, thus freeing the Yorps from slavery. While Keen is visiting the planet, a race of dog-like aliens known as the Vorticons steals several parts from his spaceship. Now Keen has to visit the Martian strongholds to find back his lost parts. On his way, he’ll also find the pogostick that allows him to jump higher, which he’ll have by default in later episodes. Almost every stage looks different, there are hints and secrets all over the place, and Keen just kicks ass. Bonuses are soda cans, candybars, slices of pizza and more of such tasty treats. If you collect enough points, you’re awarded an extra life.

Episode 2: The Earth Explodes
As Keen’s spaceship is one again complete and he returns to Earth, he finds a giant crocodile-like spaceship hovering over the planet. Turns out that the Vorticons abused Keen’s absence to ready a bunch of rayguns, each pointed at one of the Earth’s major cities. When fired, they’ll effectively destroy the planet. Keen lands on the spaceship and makes his way through stations to deactivate the rayguns. This time through, you meet way more Vorticon warriors and some Vorticon ninjas, who are even nastier. After collecting bonuses for a while you’ll no doubt start getting hungry, and the ability to stand on sodacans next to just collecting them allows for new routes to secrets. This game’s superior to the first in every way, especially since destroying huge machines is a lot more fun than collecting flashy spaceship parts. Just don’t pull those levers or you’ll be responsible for the destruction of Earth yourself…

Episode 3: Keen Must Die!
In Episode 2, Keen learned that the Vorticons are actually innocent – a mysterious entity known as the Grand Intellect is controlling their minds with so-called mindbelts. Keen decides to put a stop to the Grand Intellect’s crimes by going to the Vorticon homeworld and destroying him. The stages in this game are even better than Keen 2, since you’re constantly in the middle of nature or walking through Vorticon houses. Aside from regular Vorticons, you’ll meet vicious Vorticon moms, and even more vicious Vorticon black ninjas; you’ll be swimming in these last guys near the end of the game, and they’re a real pain in the ass. More tasty bonuses, fewer raygun charges, way more enemies, and awesome stages… can’t beat that. Next to that, the ending is spectacular and hilarious.

The original Keen trilogy makes up some of the most classic games in videogame history. Though I’ve never read the book myself, readers of “a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the galaxy” are said to find many parallels between Keen and the book. If you can’t enjoy these games anymore today, you, my friend, are a spoiled brat. Unfortunately, Commander Keen’s current owner continues to stubbornly refuse declaring these games Abandonware, and free for distribution. Because of that, it can be hard to find these games downloadable online (save for Episode 1) unless you pay for them. If you need help, drop me a line.

Best Cheats: For all three games, press C + T + Spacebar to activate the cheatcode. This will give you lots of raygun charges, all pass keys and the pogostick.

Game Play: 8
Graphics: 7
Music/Sound: 7
Originality: 9
Overall Rating: 8


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