Commander Keen

Id Software built an engine to port Super Mario Bros 3 to PCs on DOS in 1990, but when the deal fell short, they reused their unique side-scrolling technology to build their own game, Commander Keen. The series has remained an MS DOS exclusive besides a brief venture on the Game Boy Color, but now it continues its legacy on the Nintendo 64 in the form of this port by Ryzee119.

To get the ROM for episode 4 (Commander Keen in Goodbye, Galaxy: Secret of the Oracle), visit the download page and use the password wouldyoukeenly. You can also download it from the Github releases.

This version was built by Ryzee119 using a mixture of Omnispeak (an open-source reimplementation meant to copy all the features and bugs of the original game) and Libdragon (a library for N64 homebrew development.

Commander Keen story and gameplay

The included ROM is for only episode 4 of Commander Keen, but you can compile your own by following the instructions laid out on the Github readme. The plot of Secret of the Oracle follows boy genius Billy Blaze on his quest to save the galaxy from a group of aliens called the Shikadi, who plan on destroying and remodeling the whole thing.

The gameplay is also identical to the DOS version in pretty much every way. You can jump, shoot, use the pogo stick and activate switches. You have the same enemies and platforming stages and it all seems to work perfectly. I haven’t encountered any glitches, so the only technical issue would be that the music track only seems to loop once, causing the game to be very silent after about 30 seconds. Also it looks like saving is a bit wonky, I haven’t managed to load up a save file to continue my progress.


The original game on the DOS was meant to be played with a keyboard, so here are the mapped controls:

  • Jump – A
  • Fire – Z or R
  • Pogo – B
  • Main Menu – Start
  • Status Menu – C-Buttons
  • Movement – Dpad or Analog stick

Review and conclusion

Is it keenly possible for Commander Keen to keenly be a keen game? Keenrobably.

This was one of those games from back in the day that I would sometimes see at a friend’s house for a couple of minutes but never really have the chance to dig my teeth into so I never really had a strong opinion about it either way.

Playing it today, it does feel very clunky compared to console platformers from the era. The frame rate is pretty low and the collision detection and reaction speed make it feel quite unfair until you get the hang of it. Also coming from playing Ducktales, I keep on expecting to knock enemies out with the pogo stick only to lose a life an all my progress instead.

However those are all just complaints that still exist in the original DOS version. The port is (as far as I can tell) flawless. The game works as it should and Ryzee119 did a great job at getting the whole thing working together.

Articles across the web

This port of Commander Keen for the Nintendo 64 is a faithful reimplementation of the original game on DOS by Ryzee119.
Article published on N64 Squid


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