Back In My Day #01

So, yes. I had a yellow bicycle helmet, and a pogo stick. And my garden had plenty of slugs. As a young boy I saw no reason why I myself could not be Commander Keen. It was my dream.

Sadly, physics got in the way of my becoming a space-exploring, alien-slug-killing superhero. I didn’t bounce very well on the pogo stick – the spring was a bit rusty, but I was determined. I still failed, though. And all the slugs I found were either green or brown – I certainly couldn’t find any yellow ones.

I’d been playing Commander Keen (4), you see. The one with the slugs.

Commander Keen is also a boy. He wears a yellow helmet, he’s a whiz with a pogo stick, and he kills yellow slugs. I thought he was the coolest kid ever to live.

Now I’m a bit more mature, and I can look at Commander Keen in a different light. Most people boast that the first game they ever played was Manic Miner or something similar. For me, it was Commander Keen. Or ‘Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy‘, to be awfully precise.

The fact that the game was ever so slightly weird didn’t come to my attention until quite recently, when I picked up a copy of the game over the internet. Bouncing mushrooms and yellow slugs with poisonous excrement aside, though, it’s a sound-as game.

For the uninitiated, Commander Keen was a platform game developed by id Software in 1992. The main protagonist, as described above, had piloted his spaceship across the universe and to a far away planet (which had lots of yellow slugs and bouncing mushrooms and stuff on it – but we really needn’t go into all that again). As Commander Keen, it was your job to run around shooting the aforementioned slugs whilst collecting various different types of sweets and rescuing a load of suspiciously similar-looking wizard-type blokes from their definite peril.

Pogo-sticking wasn’t Keen’s only trick. He could also wear a special scuba-suit which allowed him to breathe underwater. One level, from memory, involves jumping into one of these suits and legging it from a giant space-fish-thing, the much revered dope fish, in order to get to another stranded wizard-bloke.

It was all very fun – and the lack of a ‘do not try this at home’ notice provided several welcome hours of extra enjoyment.

The game in question, which is, I believe, Commander Keen 4, also came with a version of ‘Pong‘ (paddle war, they called it). It had no relevance to the game itself, but was a nice little extra.

The conclusion? Simply this: Commander Keen was the first game I ever played – and I love it to bits. Without the reminiscence value, one might consider the game as ‘old’ and ‘rubbish’. But really, it isn’t. It still has a place in my heart – and will do long after Tomb Raider 23 has reached the budget shelves.