Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Video Game Tribute #19 - Commander Keen

There was a time when side-scrollers were king and PC reigned supreme over consoles such as SNES, Genesis and Turbo Graphics 16. Ironically, not many side-scrollers thrived in the PC kingdom. Titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World were still the masters of their trade... Fortunately there was a company known as "id Software" which was on the up and up and they were determined to bring Side-Scrollers to the seductive ways of MS DOS. Their crowning achievement? Commander Keen.

Now was Commander Keen the greatest thing since the World Wide Web? Of course not. And odds are, most people don't remember this game (because unlike myself, most kids around that time had a Super Nintendo and were rocking Super Mario World while I was stuck with Mind Sweeper). But for the PC-gamers of the time, this game satisfied the basic side-scroller needs: Easy controls, challenging yet simple gameplay, cartoony graphics and a storyline just vague enough to keep you from questioning its validity... What was this storyline you ask? Well I'll tell you... It stars Billy Blaze, a boy-genius who has built a spaceship. When his parents go to sleep at night he hops in his spaceship, throws on a football helmet and becomes COMMANDER KEEN. Keen uses a pogo-stick to jump higher than normal (which I find odd considering the kid built a freaking spaceship... He can't make rocket boots??) as well as an Alien Ray Gun in earlier episodes of the game. Later episodes he gets a little more kid-friendly and uses a "Stunner" which knocks his enemies unconscious... He is a kid after all, this ain't Wolfenstein 3D! Interesting note however, Commander Keen is apparently the grandson of B.J. Blazkowicz, the protagonist of the Wolfenstein games.

What I can't seem to stop thinking, though, is that Billy Blaze (Keen) might be a little crazy in the head... Typically with plots like this, it turns out the kid is daydreaming or playing make-believe. To further this concept, there's an episode of the Commander Keen series titled "Keen Dreams" where Keen is sent to bed for not eating hid Veggies and ends up dreaming that he's trapped in some kind of vegetable kingdom where he has to use "flower power" (Copyright Infringement? Anyone? Mario?) to defeat his enemies and get home, blah, blah, the kid's a whack job! Why was this adventure in his head and not the others? Was this somehow less believable than a kid with a 314 IQ building spaceships and fighting aliens?? My theory? He wears that helmet because he suffers from mild retardation. As a matter of fact, I'd say everybody needs to go to Borders before they all close down and buy a copy of "I AM THE CHEESE" by Robert Cormier. Read that book and just TRY and tell me that Commander Keen isn't in some insane asylum riding a bicycle in circles and blasting aliens in his head.

He is the Keen,
~ Mark

1 comment:

  1. Haha, I remember that game. My youngest brother used to call it McCander Keen.