Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

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Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by KeenRush »

I don't recall if I've ever mentioned that this mod has been under work. I don't think I have. It was supposed to appear much earlier but never did because I couldn't work, and now when Keen's 30th anniversary started to approach I knew I had to have it finished and released. The grind almost killed me but here it is...

Commander Keen: Sunset
a mod for Keen 1, which was released 30 years ago today

:dopekeen Download here:
To play, extract files to a new folder. Open in DosBox and run play.bat.

This mod was a collaboration by me and proYorp. I focused on programming and the levels. All the better graphics are by proYorp -- you'll see the difference...

I suggest checking this mod out. I worked so hard on these levels to make them playable to most people, and during the process I made almost every level again from scratch three or four times. These are the best levels I've ever made. I also went crazy with the programming side and patched in several things never seen in Keen mods. Just check it out! 8)

Tell me what you think!

Happy 30th, Keen! :birthday

SPOILER ALERT! These screenshots reveal some new game mechanics (but not all of them!) seen in the mod, don't view them unless you want to be spoiled!
My newest mod - Commander Keen: Sunset: viewtopic.php?t=8568 | codename H.Y.E.N.A.

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Nisaba »

the colour palette is outstanding! excellent design choices
"We have come to conquer you all and bring you lots of candy!" | about me | my current project: play Keen mods on a GameBoy |

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Roobar »

Oh wow!

Mind = blown!


That is without a doubt the best Keen 1 mod of the year!

Also, welcome back KeenRush! What a comeback indeed :).

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by DarkAle »

Happy to see you again :D
Even if I don't like Vorticon style, I must try this mod
Commander Keen in... Robot Attack!
Episode 13 viewtopic.php?f=4&t=6802
Episode 14 in development viewtopic.php?f=2&t=6837

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Benvolio »

What can I say.

Modding will never be the same again.

Gaming will never be the same again.

Nothing will ever be the same again.

(actual analysis to follow...)

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by shikadi »

You extensively messed with keen this time. :O Is this all possible with just patching?
nothing usefull here

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by c64cosmin »

You should have seen my face when I entered the levels, are you sure this is not written from scratch? :D

It is really great what you folks achieved here, I will return to play it more. It is quite challenging, but doable.
Props to the red color effect in this passage ways. That also left me baffled, is it an OR bit drawing or something like that?

Luckly had some baklava around to enjoy after playing this. Thank you so much for this!

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Benvolio »

Okay let me talk about this mod a little. (I will disclose that I have not completed the mod by a long shot - I'm not really all that good at playing mods). And it goes without saying that the amount of text I have written is riddled with spoilers.

I love most everything about this. There is so much ingeniousness, so much hard work and so much love for Commander Keen and its category of game. The game is not completely polished or smoothed over - there is a slight roughness and readiness to it both visually and in terms of the gameplay experience. This is characteristic of KeenRush's work and it works well here. It makes the player's brain work harder.

The presentation is quite old school which is refreshing. The classic titlescreen layout is well utilised, and right away you can see how beautiful the palette choice is (you know how highly I value Keen:Vorticons palette patching). A no frills menu screen serves to leave as few barriers as possible to getting stuck in. The story is entertainingly written, with just the right irreverant tone. Unless I am missing something, the storytext leaves me slightly unsure what to expect my objectives to be. I get the feeling this is fully intentional. This level of confusion then carries forward into the gameplay itself and makes things actually more entertaining.

Something that people often don't mention is the font in a Vorticons mod. I want to praise the font you have used as it is one of the more legible ones. The orange on brown colours take away a bit of that legibility but nevertheless the lettering itself is one of the easiest on the eyes that I've seen in Vorticons. If I was slightly more meticulous I would check if it's been used in previous KeenRush mods - I suspect that it has.

Anyway onto the worldmap and this is where the mind-blowing begins. I won't catalogue every instance where unprecedented programming has occurred in this mod, but for those who haven't played yet, be aware that we are seeing things here, in every part of the game, that has never been seen before in Keen. Suffice it to say the map is one of the most beautiful I have seen and it really truly evokes the image of riding into the sunset with a vividness seldom achieved in EGA. I am a fan of the fully open map design. It is obviously not what is traditional (based on the original Keen games) but it is fitting for a mod with so much variety and novelty of gameplay experiences to offer. KeenRush's mods have always had very good map overworlds, in terms of facilitating continued player engagement. Crucially an element of choice prevents burnout from more difficult levels. It works well because the number of levels is sufficiently small that no levels fall by the wayside - I find myself stumbling back into familiar challenges rather than forgetting about levels that I need to work on. It goes without saying that unlimited lives are crucial for this type of mod.

There are obviously a few broad categories of levels here - 1) classic platforming, (let me give a subcategory 1b to Luma Lightbug) 2) overhead adventuring and 3) riding on "Skippy" levels. I like how there is not a predetermined learning curve prescribed for each of these - the player is free to practice and perfect the skills required for these at their own pace, i.e. by alternating between each level within the category rather than having to progress from easier to harder versions.

Let me talk slightly more extensively about the levels in their broad categories.

1) Classic Platforming

This may be the closest to original Keen gameplay yet it introduces so many novel mechanics that I've lost count. The graphics and colour scheme are beautiful. They have that classic KeenRush look and feel (A New Dope is probably the most closely resembled in colour scheme terms). The minimalism allows you to enjoy the challenges. Parts of the platforming aesthetic really remind me of the graphical style of XkyKeen2 (one of my favourite mods) so that's a nice, if coincidental, thing to observe. Long story short these levels are nothing short of thrilling. If I'm not mistaken, they draw on some of the programming of Fall Up but conceal similar effects behind the scenes creating some scenarios that I've dreamed of for decades. The sprites are all incredible and frankly, there are *so* many of them, it boggles the mind. I don't really want to spoil any of them but a certain character in particular elicited some true guffaws of admiration and amusement.

1b) Luma Lightbug

This is amazing. Truly beautiful use of colour and obviously the stuff of dreams. For players, I recommend playing in a dark room to maximise the atmospheric impact of what we're seeing here (the only warning I'd give is this could theoretically trigger migraines). For some reason this strongly evokes memories of "James and the Giant Peach" which was one of my favourite books as a little kid. In Keen terms, what this is, is an advanced (and frankly much improved) version of the "Land of Nothing" from Extinction. I can't really criticise your choice of level design. Of course the long drops are disorientating and create momentary frustration. But frankly it's a game and the player needs to put in a bit of work and in this case it's mainly concentrating and applying a little of ones spatial awareness. (Those lacking spatial awareness are more than free to jot down a little map for themselves on paper as they explore the level).

2) Overhead Adventuring

These levels are visually the most beautiful in the game. The enemy sprites are so amusing and fun to work around. This category of 2d gameplay was never as good as platforming but what you have done with it is truly enjoyable. I get a real OrbKeen(beta) atmosphere from this. But with your amazing palette working wonders and really immersing me in the shadowy passages and chambers.

3) Riding on "Skippy"

The always-moving mechanic is something I think we saw first in Herry Jerry's The Banana Mod. In Sunset, this is employed in a beautiful way, with large scale given to the player and hazards. It is not easy and requires the player to build up a memory of the level rather than reacting to the layout as it is revealed. Luckily this is manageable as these levels are not too gratuitously huge. Although I would praise the implementation of the mechanic of these levels, they remain my least favourite of what's on offer here. However their presence itself just brings the variety of Sunset to the next level.


Rather than try come up with some words of my own to describe the difficulty of Sunset, let me quite c64cosmin in saying it's "challenging, but doable". I think KeenRush and proYorp have done a very good job in calibrating the difficulty of the new environments to have the player feeling intimidated - not to the point of hopelessness - but to the the point of taking each level seriously. Then one's reward for pursuing the level with multiple attempts is often better-than-expected success. In other words, it feels like the success in a level is earned, but is not covetously withheld from the player for an unacceptably long time.

Overall I think this is an incredible achievement and contains enough material to make several mods - heck enough material to make several early 90s game programmers' entire careers. To have it all packaged into one mod was obviously a conscious decision of the modders and frankly it works - not necessarily perfectly - but certainly achieves the objectives of thrilling, entertaining and just generally being beautiful.

Thank you so much KeenRush for sticking with Keen and with us and for applying your huge talents as an all round game developer to this cool niche community that clings onto existence decade after decade. Please keep modding - even if the next one is in 2025 or 2030. It truly is a worthwhile pursuit when you keep the standard this high.

Of course proYorp also deserves immense credit- the exact contributions they made we don't precisely know but I will take KeenRush's word for it that perhaps some of the pixel art with the highest levels of finesse would be attributed to proYorp.

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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by Grandy02 »

This is amazing! I first entered the level Ways of Water, and jumped over the first two water pits, as I thought it's deadly, as usual. But then Keen fell into the water - and was able to swim! The first "wow" moment. Other ones followed, such as the lightning bug, the overhead dungeons, the Skippy riding - just wow.
You two did an awesome job. Indeed, it''s a great achievement. :)
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Re: Commander Keen: Sunset (K1 mod with new game mechanics)

Post by TheBigV »

When I got to the first level with the Luma, I questioned if I was actually playing a source code mod.

It's impressive how KeenRush managed to make this multiple genres within the limits of a patch mod.

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