Goodbye, Galaxy!
December 3, 2011 5:23 AM   Subscribe

Commander Keen is series of platform games from the early 1990s, whence the Dopefish. People who grew up with DOS games will find gameplay videos and music quite nostalgic. Over the period 2006-2011, modders released a new Keen trilogy called The Universe Is Toast. Gameplay is a novel mix of eerily familiar and the flat-out weird.
posted by shii (28 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Commander Keen is also the grandson of William "B.J." Blazkowicz

I loved that game.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:46 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fun bit of trivia: Commander Keen started out as a tech demo from id to convince Nintendo to get a license to port Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC.

(Dangerous Dave was a character from their previous games)
posted by ConstantineXVI at 6:07 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I spent a whole lot of time playing Paddle War on his wristwatch (second video link).

The level design is scattered and archaic, seemingly random. The sound effects are weirdly off-key. It's hard to remember a time when this was hot shit, and I was jealous of the kids who owned consoles and could play the good platform games.
posted by HeroZero at 6:15 AM on December 3, 2011


I lost hours to this in the 90's. I seem to remember teleporters and octopi?
posted by arcticseal at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2011


Ah, back in the Keen days we didn't yet have a PC, but I remember sleeping over a friend's house and hogging hers so I could stay up late playing this. Look forward to going through the links, thanks!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:30 AM on December 3, 2011


I miss 2D platform games!

I remember thinking Commander Keen was a poor imitation of Super Mario Brothers, but I did not have a Nintendo and I did have a PC.
posted by callmejay at 7:33 AM on December 3, 2011


I've gone and hunted down those mods. You will need the Keen 4, 5 and 6 executable files to run these (which are still available for purchase from iD), and maybe dosbox as well. These links go to forum posts that have actual instructions and information.

'The Universe is Toast' Episode 7: The Keys of Krodacia
'The Universe is Toast' Episode 8: Dead in the Desert!
'The Universe is Toast' Episode 9: Battle of the Brains!
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:46 AM on December 3, 2011


HA! This is the first Metafilter game post I've felt at home in. Fuck yeah pogo sticks!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:54 AM on December 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, I loved those games when I was a sprout.
posted by pemberkins at 8:21 AM on December 3, 2011


Commander keen is also the source for the font Notch used for enchanted weapons in minecraft.
posted by empath at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2011


I always wanted to see a revival of Keen after seeing Mario 64. I read Tom Hall wanted to get the rights to do a new Keen, but AFAIK, he doesn't have it yet. Come on ID! (Bethesda now, I guess...)

Wait - can you imagine an epic Bethesda Keen RPG? LOL...
posted by symbioid at 9:03 AM on December 3, 2011


AgentCorvid: You will need the Keen 4, 5 and 6 executable files to run these (which are still available for purchase from iD), and maybe dosbox as well.

All it took for me was: download the file for episode 7 from the wiki page linked in the post; run KEEN7.bat in DOSBox; play game. Will that stop things from working later?

I don't have the original files for any of the Keen games although the 5.25" (!) floppy disks from the first trilogy might be in a box somewhere.

Thanks for the great post, shii!
posted by smcg at 9:03 AM on December 3, 2011


smcg: "All it took for me was: download the file for episode 7 from the wiki page linked in the post; run KEEN7.bat in DOSBox; play game. Will that stop things from working later?"

The instructions for episode 9 say something about needing the executable from Keen 5, probably because some patching is going on to change enemies' actions. It's possible that the other episodes don't need them, i guess.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:17 AM on December 3, 2011


The game that necessitated the purchase of a Gravis Gamepad!
posted by JoeGoblin at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like how the Universe is Toast series still maintains the AdLib sound card style audio.
posted by furtive at 10:29 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's how to run it if you're on a Mac.
posted by auto-correct at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is the "flat-out weird" link supposed to be weird in the context of the original Keen games, or weird in the grand scheme of things? Because I watched it and I just saw a lot of standard platforming with a really garish color scheme and off-key music. The monsters were nothing compared to the randomness found in a c64 or Spectrum platformer. I've never played the originals so I have no idea what's "normal" for this franchise.
posted by egypturnash at 12:47 PM on December 3, 2011


call me when they make a new RoTT
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Spray lives
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:03 PM on December 3, 2011


Oh man! Those were the days when the key to success in the video game industry was not world design or AI or art, but cleverness in assembly-language graphics programming techniques. Commander Keen was basically a giant demo for the amazing things you could pull off with VGA register hacking.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:50 PM on December 3, 2011


Wow, I totally remember that game. Only in my mind, the graphics were WAAAAAYYYYYYY better. This is totally giving me flashbacks to the hours I spent vanquishing those stupid slugs.
posted by sonika at 5:06 PM on December 3, 2011


AgentCorvid: Actually, Episode 6 is no longer officially available (and neither is 3.5, Keen Dreams). They can be downloaded online, but I'm hesitant to post links, for fear of, you know, getting banned.
posted by BiggerJ at 5:43 PM on December 3, 2011


Man, the hours I spent edging to the edge of a ledge, jumping up and right and then at a particularly point in midair quickly turning to the left in order to get to the ledge directly above it, again and again and again, in order to get those damn teddy bears!
posted by kjs4 at 6:42 PM on December 3, 2011


Man, just looking at that Dopefish is making me anxious!

I vaguely remember there being an island on the map that I could never get to... either in Keen 1 or 4. My Dad bought me Keen 1 at the airport (?!) one day, and I loved it so much, he bought me Keen 4 at the same place. I think Duke Nukem 1, Episode 1 as well.

And when I say "bought," I guess I mean he paid a vendor for a 3.5" floppy with a shareware title on it. I kind of miss that culture, weird as it is to think about.
posted by bxyldy at 3:31 AM on December 4, 2011


...also, I have no idea how much time I lost to Watch Pong.
posted by bxyldy at 3:35 AM on December 4, 2011


Previously.

Just watched a Commander Keen 1 speedrun with my spouse, who'd also played Commander Keen as a kid. Huh, CK1 means something different now. Anyway, I don't know how my family acquired at least games 1-4 -- I remember most of the Commander Keen 1 levels, and I remember "Sand Yego" from the fourth game. We weren't in the habit of buying games, so maybe one of the guys at my school bus stop gave me some floppies?

Embarrassing childhood recollection: my sister and I would trade off playing, and tell each other to watch out for the slugs' excrement. Remember how one type would fade away pretty quickly, and some would hang around a while? I guess we were playing around the time that one of the Chinese giant pandas was in the news, so we thought it was hilarious to dub the pee "ling-ling" and the poop "hsing-hsing."

Not going to do that again. DOSBox is available in Ubuntu Software Center, yay!
posted by brainwane at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2011


Commander Keen had huge amounts of original creativity in its design and content... puts most AAA games today to shame
posted by Bwithh at 2:08 PM on December 4, 2011


Must be said - Commander Keen was the game iD worked on right before Castle Wolfenstein, the first 3D shooter.
posted by lubujackson at 2:03 AM on December 6, 2011


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