Here I can give some example of a few other platforming games which I played the most in my life, as well as some other games than platformers, where I find the music being more interesting:
- Jill of the Jungle
- Hocus Pocus
- Vinyl Goddess from Mars
- Wacky Wheels
- Dune 2
- Legend of Kyrandia
- Rise of the Triad
What are my main issues about Commander Keen music:
- The length of the tracks. I always thought that the music tracks in CK are ridiculously short. Well, the majority of the tracks are shorter than a minute, and some tracks are even shorter than 20 seconds, and rather than a music, feel like some audio or sample loops (Too Hot to Handle being the best example). Other games commonly offer music tracks that are several minutes long. Technically, I'm wondering whether limited length arise from the memory limitation (as the game probably does not have enough spare memory to hold longer tracks), or the inefficiency of IMF format (compared to MIDI-based formats, I don't know which is more or less space-consuming for the identical tracks). Or the composers just thought short tracks are enough to serve the purpose.
- Simple and uninteresting instruments. Soundtracks of some other games can be really distinctive and have their own personality, due to use of really interesting and original OPL-based instruments. The most significant example is Jill of the Jungle, which uses really "strong" bell-ish instruments, and some instruments sound quite crazy. Hocus Pocus music sounds "deeply" and features some ear-candy Fat Man instruments. Oh no More Lemmings uses really neat and well-sounding electronic piano and organ instruments. Listening to Dune 2 intro music gives me goose bumps. And more examples like that. While Keen music instruments are... generic, not any special. I was again thinking whether it's limitation of IMF format, but that's not the case. With IMF format you can practically make any instrument you like. And in some Keen mods music I recognized for example some instruments from Doom (Bernie's CK58-59?).
- Simple melodies. The melodies of Keen music sound quite simplistic and with few polyphony (probably not even utilizing full capabilities of 8 available voices of OPL chip). For example Vinyl Godess from Mars provides catchy, rhytmic fast-paced tunes, Rise of the Triad has really nice jazzy tunes that can be definitely listened to as a stand-alone soundtrack. Here, again same issue as with point 1. comes into my mind. However, some of the other games (like Hocus, VGFM) utilize only conventional memory (both say they need 580kB), but provide much richer music tracks. Probably Keen consumes more memory for graphics and other stuff, leaving less for music?
I also wanted to mention, that I feel the same issues I described here, also apply to other games, using IMF music format. Like Wolfenstein 3D or a few other games made by ID/Apogee (althrough music in some other games made by same producers is great). One example I could highlight is Hocus Pocus Beta IMF music VS. Hocus Pocus final MIDI music with Fat Man patches. I'm really not sure whether the Beta IMF music was ever intended to be officially released, or was just some temporary placeholder, but the difference is like day and night. So here comes my question whether IMF format is inherently weaker, or it's just about how well the music is composed.