Billy Blaze is an 8-year-old genius who builds a spaceship in his backyard. One night when the babysitter is asleep, he takes off for Mars. Unfortunately when he lands, critical parts to his ship are spread over the planet, and he needs to get them back in order to return home (before his parents).

I never had a Nintendo growing up, so this title became my 'Mario'. I had a friend whose brother would connect to BBS's and download the latest shareware, so we'd meet after church, and he'd often have a 3.5" floppy in-hand with something new. Commander Keen followed a few noteworthy platformers like Captain Comic and Monuments of Mars. This game seemed so much more fluid though.

The game didn't have an end boss though, and I was unsure how to actually finish it. There were the Vorticons in several levels, but one of them elluded defeat since you couldn't shoot him. I figured that maybe I needed to beat all of the other levels, but you only actually needed to beat the main four (plus whatever blocked your path to get there).

Finally I figured it out and got back home before Billy's parents got home. The ending sequence was priceless, as he brought home one of the alien Yorps.


As Billy's parents go to sleep, he looks again to the sky and sees the Vorticon spaceship in the sky, ready to destroy Earth. He gets back in his own ship to confront the alien threat. This game takes place just after the outro of the first and the main map is now the mothership vs Mars. Gameplay is largely the same, where you can choose the levels to play, and only need to target the ones housing the death-ray aimed at Earth, or anything that is blocking you from getting there.

I remember seeing previews after beating the first episode, which was free, and I let my imagination wander. Between the mysterious portrait on the wall, to vague electrical level elements, I had no idea what to expect. But being 11, I had no way of getting them easily.

Luckily, I was able to get them for my birthday. They called the phone number and ordered by phone, as was the custom, and late one night I heard the tell-tale PC speaker sounds of Keen in the next room. My parents were installing and testing it out, but I ran in to see what was up, thus ruining the surprise.

For the final installment, Keen realizes that defeating a single ship won't be enough. He needs to travel to the Vorticon home world and defeat the Grand Intellect. Here, the Vorticons are a bit weaker, but their fat wives are more of a threat. There's also small inflated creatures that die when you touch them, which is a bit of a role reversal.

The final boss is his old schoolyard nemesis, who ranked one IQ point below Keen and decided to destroy the planet over it. Technically this is the only level you have to beat, plus the ones to get there. There's also a Loch Ness monster you can ride around the planet in order to reach hidden levels.

I was never able to beat Episodes 2 or 3, so I had to get my friend's older brother to do it during a cookout. Sorry for making you finish your food extra fast. I just had to know how it ended!