This is the first Keen game I owned, and possibly the first platformer I owned. It’s a special game for me. While my friends were playing Mario and Sonic on home consoles, I was playing a game among the greatest PC platformers… right up there with Jazz Jackrabbit and Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure. This is the last in the Commander Keen 4-6 trilogy, and it is my personal favorite Keen game.
It appears the rights to publishing Keen 6 are with FormGen, which explains why Keen 1-5 are packaged together on Steam. Keen 1-5 were published by Apogee Software. Similar to Keen 4, the game starts on a planet. The story text isn’t in this game, but the title says it all: you’re out to save your babysitter (who actually wasn’t eaten, or perhaps was eaten and came out whole). This time you are collecting soda, popsicles, pizza slices, ice cream sundaes, and root beer floats, all of which add to your score for different amounts. Moths are like the water drops in Keen 4, and collecting 100 gives you an extra life.
Switches are much bigger. No longer a dot on the wall, they are like giant light switches. There are a fair number of moving red and yellow platforms as well, and blue bridges in some levels. With these things there are a fair number of puzzles, like knowing when to extend a bridge, or have a platform start to move, both of which occur with the flip of a switch. Also, this game probably has the most door/key puzzles of any Keen game. The keys are colored gemstones, and there’s a corresponding slot in front of the door.
The music is fine. I think Keen 5 has the best music, then 4, then 6. This is from the SoundBlaster days, which sounds a bit like the sound chip inside of the Sega Genesis. There is a fair amount of visual variety between levels, much better than Keen 5’s similar looking spaceship levels. There are five optional levels. These are mainly to boost your score. Keen 6 has sixteen levels total.
Although no game in the 4-6 trilogy has a final boss, Keen 6 has a rather puzzling final level. It’s a great conclusion to a series I didn’t know much about until there was a Steam sale one day. Beyond the six main games, there is “Keen Dreams”, released between Keen 3 and Keen 4, and as I understand, it’s mostly a tech demo. Then there’s the real oddity: Commander Keen for Game Boy Color, the only Keen game not on MS-DOS. I’d be curious to try both (I really haven’t played either) but these six reviews should give you an idea of what the series is about.