First impressions

This topic contains 7 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by DavidN DavidN 1 year, 2 months ago.

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  • Tijn
    Tijn
    Keymaster
    Podcaster
    #690

    So to be completely honest… my first impression of Commander Keen wasn’t very good. First of all the game doesn’t have any music! What?! When I started playing, I noticed the jumping seems to break the momentum when you’re running, unlike Mario for example. This makes it feel quite slow and not very smooth.

    But! After a bit of a disappointing first session, the game started to grow on me in succeeding sessions. Finding the gun made the game a bit more fun. I like there’s limited ammo, so the gun is really more of a last resort than something you use all the time without thinking. But the game really started to be more enjoyable when I found the pogo stick. Now the jumping becomes a lot less clunky and more fun!

    I’ve only played a couple of levels, but I’ve already found 3 out of 4 parts for my space ship. Is the game really that short? I guess I’ll find out, because I intend to beat the game 😀

    wan
    wan
    Participant
    Podcaster
    #691

    Just finished episode 1!

    While I got used to the controls, I still can’t forgive the average and sometimes unclear graphics, nor the punishing level design. I can understand smooth scrolling was new on PCs at the time, but this is still a game made 5 years after the original Super Mario, so I’m surprised with how amateur some aspects of the game felt.

    The pogo is what gives the game some kind of charm though, and helped me stay interested to the end. The ending (final level + cutscene) is the highlight of the game to me, and made me want to try the later episodes.

    I’ve given a try to episode 2, which already looks a bit better. Now that I’m used to the controls and the way levels are designed, maybe my expectations are more suited to enjoy them.

    Now Derphilip suggested we try the “Goodbye, Galaxy” game, which is apparently the best in the series. The art already seems way better despite the game being released only a year after, so I might quickly switch to that one.

    Tijn
    Tijn
    Keymaster
    Podcaster
    #692

    Holy shit, wan! I’m very much impressed 😀

    DavidN
    DavidN
    Participant
    Podcaster
    #693

    Ah, I grew up with Apogee and id’s games, so there’s so much I can say about this one 🙂

    I’m trying to think back to the first time I saw episode 1 – it was after I’d already seen episode 4, so I remember thinking it looked a bit primitive as well. This is particularly true if you compare it with something like Sierra’s King’s Quest V, which came out the same year and looks absolutely spectacular. Shareware games lagged behind the curve for a long time until the landmark release of Doom, and Apogee would stick to EGA for a shockingly long time – well into 1992 at least. It’s important to remember, though, that this was the first side-scrolling platform game that the PC had ever seen – nothing approaching a Mario-style platformer had been possible before id worked out how to massage the graphics support of the time to do it efficiently, so this was a major milestone. (But yes, fair point that this was already a whole five years after Mario.)

    From what I remember, episode 2 was the best out of the trilogy, with new elements like turning the lights on and off affecting the behaviour of enemies, and puzzle-like parts with clearing bonuses to route the little robots you can stand on to where you want them to go. The level designs really are punishing throughout, though – just one slip (or running into a really fast enemy you couldn’t see coming like the ninjas or jumping Vorticons) can set you back an awfully long way, and for less frustration, the game could really do with mid-level saving (something that was added in Goodbye Galaxy).

    The quality noticeably drops in episode 3 and the levels tend towards very large copy and paste mazes – see the cave levels in particular here, and the way that the large apartment-style map’s upper left portion is mistakenly completely walled off! It seems like they were in a rush to finish it.

    https://www.commander-keen.com/level-maps-3.php

    But still, it’s always going to be one of those games I admire from childhood, even though it might have rough edges today 🙂

    Tijn
    Tijn
    Keymaster
    Podcaster
    #702

    Yeah, rnlf also mentioned on IRC that the side-scrolling thing is a very significant step forward for DOS.

    I never realised at the time that this is very different from how for example Prince of Persia or Another World/Out of this World work. To me, all these games played very similar and by comparison, Commander Keen definitely isn’t the best looking one.

    I never was a big fan of the platformer genre in general, but thinking about it for a moment, I did play more DOS platformers than I thought I did. Apart from the already mentioned Prince of Persia and Another World, I especially enjoyed Blizzard’s Blackthorne, Jazz Jackrabbit and the Disney platformers (Aladdin and The Lion King). Those games can compete with the best console platformers imho, but of course they were released years later than Keen.

    So even though Keen might not make the best first impression compared to contemporary games in the same genre, it did pave the way for scrolling DOS games. We have to respect that I suppose, haha.

    Tijn
    Tijn
    Keymaster
    Podcaster
    #703

    Hey, I did it \o/

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    wan
    wan
    Participant
    Podcaster
    #705

    Congrats Tijn 🙂

    The screen shows another issue I’ve had with the game, being the cheap advertisment lines like Commender Keen endorsing his own game meh

    I lack culture on shareware games (in particular it’s the first episodic DOS game I play) but I was surprised by how in-your-face the advertising is.

    @davidn: The level design brings a lot of die-and-retry to the game indeed, and that kind of stuff didn’t age very well. On episode 1 the issue was reasonable enough not to kill my entusiasm completely 😉 I still have to try to next games to compare!

    DavidN
    DavidN
    Participant
    Podcaster
    #708

    I had a go at Episode 2, and like I remembered, the presentation improves a bit 🙂 There are now backgrounds other than plain grey – they’re a bit monotonous but they’re there, and there are places with simulated lighting cutting through darkness. In general it feels more interesting than episode 1. It also has the feature of some levers that the overly curious can pull in order to lose the game instantly – a trap I fell into in the early 90s 🙂

    But the die-and-retry style of gameplay really ramps up as well, mostly due to the new enemies – there seem to be far more with projectile weapons, and your speed of movement (particularly that short delay before you jump) makes it very difficult to get out of the way. Some of the enemies are also ridiculously fast and difficult to see coming – the puppies (I don’t know what they are but that’s what I always called them – they’re small, fast and blue) are very erratic and unpredictable, and they don’t hurt you but they stun you for long enough to be zapped by a nearby enemy. The lack of look up/down controls hurts as well, as you can often drop down straight on to enemies that you couldn’t even see.

    Shareware games used to advertise each other all the time, as corny as it looks today – it was the way to get the word out before the Internet as we know it 🙂 You might notice that the game “The Fight For Justice” advertised in the episode 1 help file – which they just made up on the spot, nothing about it had ever been coded – eventually became Quake!

    The shareware titans even put friendly jabs at each other in their games 🙂 http://legacy.3drealms.com/fanstuff/keenstory/page6.html

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