Commander Keen 5: The Armageddon Machine

Watch on YouTube As a kid, I only ever played the shareware versions of most games. For the most part, this didn't matter -- I never beat them anyway -- but it means that there are follow-on parts to many games that I have never played. Commander Keen 5 is among them.

The Keen game engine was originally built in hopes of attracting the attention of Nintendo to create a Mario for the PC platform. After failing to attract Nintendo's interest, they created their own character: Billy Blaze, the Football-helmet wearing, blaster wielding, earth-saving child who acts as protaganist for the series.

Episode 5 finds us taking the advice of the Oracles from Episode 4, and working to prevent the Shikadi from destroying the Milky Way Galaxy. As such, he has attached his ship to their Armageddon Machine, the Omegamatic, and is working to prevent them from destroying the universe. It is the second and final part of Goodbye, Galaxy.

I enjoy Keen 4 and 5 (as well as Keen Dreams) a lot. I've put a lot of hours into them, so the nostalgia value is strong, but even ignoring that, they're just fun games: I enjoy the platforming, I enjoy the challenge of the game. I will say that the easy mode in Keen 5 felt a bit straightforward -- though I played sloppy (as a result of setting myself up with many lives via the B-A-T cheat code), I still had an easy time completing the game in under 4 hours. However, I also realize this is a side effect of how I play on stream, and I think there's plenty of additional play time in this game for someone who isn't playing to complete in a limited time.

The earlier Keen games feel a bit cheap, but Keen 4, 5, and Dreams are great, fun platformers from the DOS era that would feel right at home on a modern console today. Their characters have become part of the iD software mythos -- from Wolf 3D to Keen to Doom; from the Dopefish to Keen himself, they are part of the video game culture that is worth playing through.