30 Years of Keen Dreams

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Soul Monster
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30 Years of Keen Dreams

Post by Soul Monster »

While we don't have the exact date as to when Keen Dreams was released, we know it was sometime in the late summer, and I felt that it would be nice to create a thread in celebration of the game's 30th anniversary.

It's crazy. The first time I played it it was only like 10 years old. I don't know how the rest of you feel about this game, but for me it holds a lot of nostalgia. Considering this was a game they clearly just made to burn through a contract with Softdisk and use it as a vehicle to test the Galaxy engine, I say it's still pretty good. It's certainly the most unusual game of the series, but I think that's part of the charm.

Anyway, Happy 30th Anniversary Keen Dreams!
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Re: 30 Years of Keen Dreams

Post by Hisymak »

Well, I must admit that I personally never finished Keen Dreams regularly (without cheats). During my childhood, when I played Keen games the most, the game was just too hard to me - especially more limited movement (no pogo stick) and not-permanently-killable monsters and a weapon that was harder to hit the monsters with. As a kid I also never understood what was the objective of the game - collect enough bombs and kill the boss in the castle. So if I was even able to finish some levels, I did not bother collecting the bombs so I got softlocked anyway.
Therefore it's not that big nostalgia for me like the real Galaxy games were, but it's still nice to refresh memories about this game and get to know about its role in the Commander Keen history.
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Re: 30 Years of Keen Dreams

Post by proYorp »

Oh wow. I'd eagerly anticipated the 30th anniversary of Commander Keen (Vorticons) for a few years (under the impression that it would mark some kind of plot revelation -- whatever happened to that?), and am well aware that the 30th anniversary of Goodbye, Galaxy! will be sometime this year, but somehow it completely slipped my mind that Keen Dreams would have a 30th anniversary sometime between them. :dopekeen



I remember when I first got Keen Dreams. A friend was telling me all about this new game they got where Commander Keen has to "fight mashed potatoes." :D To be honest, I didn't believe it was real. Later that day, I was recounting the conversation to my dad who told me that it was, in fact, a real game. "But you said there weren't any more Commander Keen games! :O " I said in shock. I had already been given the other 6 games at this point I believe, and to my disappointment had not been able to procure the next episode with the promised "battle for the universe" despite my repeated begging. That very day, or at least sometime that week, my dad downloaded a copy of Keen Dreams (gotta love shareware! Not that the fact would have made much difference :mort ) and installed it.

It was weird. No pogo, no raygun, this was a completely different game. And my goodness, why does hitting the ceiling kill Jump Cheat. I was also very confused by the bomb collecting, and most of the time either didn't pay attention to them as anything more than odd point items or didn't find how to get to them. Good thing I was playing with cheats, otherwise I'd never have gotten to the end back then.

One thing that struck me personally about the design of Dreams was the wooden log platforms in the sky, as seen in the first level. Some time before this, one night I'd had a dream that I was waking up in the middle of the evening for some reason, and most of the house lights were off. Having gotten up (in the dream -- I think this might be the first meta-dream I remember having) I went into the living room and found my dad on the computer-TV combo we had at the time, playing a new Commander Keen game, with wooden bridge-like platforms against a sky background. I don't remember in detail what was in the game, but I remember that once we got Keen Dreams in real life, I was astounded by the similarity to the game in my dream. I was very amused by the fact that my dream predicted Keen Dreams. :D

Well, you can bet that next time I saw my friend, I told them all about getting the new Commander Keen game, as they flopped over in an expression of excitement and surprise. (Incidentally, I know exactly what year it was that we got Keen Dreams, because I remember that when I met up with my friend again, it was at a family wedding. Coincidentally, it was also Dreams-anniversary-ish, in the summertime. Also of note is the fact that while we were waiting for the ceremony, we kept busy passing doodles of Robo Red and other favorite characters.)

After I shared my experience, my friend launched into a detailed explanation of several -- maybe dozens -- of other Commander Keen games (all of them numbered, because ya gotta have the chronology). I don't remember most of the details, and I think I got pretty lost in the explanation, but I remember something about staring at the ceiling lights as they said something about lightbulbs in the game (I think this particular game idea took place inside of a lighting fixture :crazy ). Perhaps this saga of C.K. adventures was significantly more imagination-based than reality, but, well... Keen games with lightbulbs are a thing after all. :lol

And that's the story of how I got Keen Dreams -- possibly one of my most in-depth childhood memories.
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Re: 30 Years of Keen Dreams

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Keen Dreams was the other Keen game I had as a kid besides the Keen 6 demo. :D I got it from my brother on a floppy and played it on an old IBM laptop we had at that time I recall. I believed this was the 7th game in the franchise, not sure where I'd gotten that from, but I think maybe the game folder was named "keen7" :crazy Didn't seem that weird to me that there was no pogo, my only disappointment was with the lack of music. On the other hand however, the cool main menu with the BwB cursor and mouse support seemed really amazing, the cast of enemies was unique and lively and I particularly liked the aesthetic of the levels. Another cool detail was the progress bar in the level entry message window. I didn't realize back then that Keen's sprite in Keen Galaxy served the same purpose while also looking snazzier. :)
There was a savegame with most of the levels already finished, which was what I played a lot of the time. My favorite level was Grape Grove (hope I'm remembering the names right) as it seemed very unique and I was enticed by its world map representation, and to get to that I first had to get through Rhubarb Rapids, a massive challenge for 3-4 year old me. I don't remember whether or not I had discovered cheats by that point.
Anyway, fond memories. :) It's all a bit blurry because soon after we got a modern PC where my bro helped me emulate all the Keen games instead.
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Re: 30 Years of Keen Dreams

Post by StupidBunny »

Good old Keen Dreams

I don't remember exactly when I first played it, my dad got it at the same time he got all the non-shareware Keen games (which was a very, very long time ago). It was always kind of the "other" Keen game to me, the one I enjoyed from time to time but never got engrossed in the way I did with all the others at one time or another. The disconnected plot about fighting medieval vegetables in Dream Land felt out of place in Keen's sci-fi universe and meant that the enemies lacked the novelty and creativity of the other games, even if they were still pretty funny (always liked the screaming grapes). But the game as a whole felt kind of half-baked compared to the others: Keen 3 might have been woefully undertested but it still effectively built out the world of Vorticon VI, whereas Tuberia was just kind of...green and gray and brown without much of a personality to it. The lack of a pogo stick and ledge grab mean that the player has less control over Keen than at any other point in the series, and the larger sprite size means that being unable to look up or down is a much bigger handicap than it is in Vorticons. I admire that they tried something different with the Flower Power thing but it lacks the satisfaction of running around bolting enemies with the stunner or rayguns. Plus it's kind of grating that the game can become unwinnable if you screw up in your fight against King Boobus.

Still, I don't mean to completely fart on the game. As a contract-filler and halfway point for/proof of concept of the Galaxy engine, it's perfectly adequate, and were it a standalone game it would probably stand on its own as being pretty good, a goofy game about a kid hurling magic grenades at veggies and killing their enormous potato lord is a fun concept and one that they honestly executed well. The problem is that it's a Keen game, being inevitably compared to other Keen games, and it speaks to the creativity, fluidity, charm and sheer genius of the other games that Dreams ends up as the lesser black sheep of the series (at least of the id-developed ones, of course.)
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Re: 30 Years of Keen Dreams

Post by Quillax »

Wow, Keen Dreams is 30 already!? Man, I just played that on Windows 98 a while ago (the whole game, on one sitting!) and it's such a fun game! It's quite different from the typical, space-adventurer we all know and love -- it doesn't have a pogo nor a gun of any sort, and it doesn't take place in outer space either. Despite all that, however, it still has the colorful graphics, well-designed levels with lots of exploration and platforming, quirky characters, a keen sense of humor, lots of good fun, and it showcases the wonderful talents of the id masters that made the other Keen masterpieces! And because of all that it's still a Keen game in my book! :) And without Keen Dreams, we probably wouldn't have one of the most famous Keen songs ever made! :dopefish :dopefish :dopefish

I have some fond memories with this game. I remember at least one friend coming over in a birthday party and we played Keen Dreams, all the way to the end (with cheats, probably -- there was a time when I couldn't stand to play without cheats)! I also remember it being more difficult to mod than any other Keen game -- one mod had the graphics all messed up when imported, because I didn't know that you were supposed to start the mod through a special kind of batch file until like last year or so. Maybe that's why so few mods of Keen Dreams exist? Granted, it's also the least popular (id-developed) Keen game and, if I remember correctly, has some major memory limitations. I had never bothered with level editing -- all I really touched were the graphics so far. XMAS 2010 is a pretty good mod, though, which also holds many good memories! Keen Dreams Plus is also a lot of fun and makes a lot of great improvements!

I still hope National "I Hate Broccoli" Day will become a real holiday someday! :lol
proYorp wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 7:36 Oh wow. I'd eagerly anticipated the 30th anniversary of Commander Keen (Vorticons) for a few years (under the impression that it would mark some kind of plot revelation -- whatever happened to that?), and am well aware that the 30th anniversary of Goodbye, Galaxy! will be sometime this year, but somehow it completely slipped my mind that Keen Dreams would have a 30th anniversary sometime between them. :dopekeen
Yeah, I could've sworn Tom Hall said he would reveal the plot for TUIT on Vorticons' 30th anniversary. Or did he? Maybe it was just a rumor? I'm not really so sure now. Maybe he meant the 30th anniversary of Galaxy? :begging I guess we'll just have to see...
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Re: 30 Years of Keen Dreams

Post by proYorp »

You know, I've been meaning to bump the Keen's 30th Anniversary thread to talk about this, but since this one is up I may as well bring it up here. (Though it's more off-topic here? I am not sure if the bump rule or off-topic takes precedence. :confused )


Anyway, yeah, what happened? I know I read about the planned plot reveal ages ago (I mentioned it in one of my first posts) but I can't for the life of me remember where I read it. It must have been on here somewhere. Does anyone remember what the source for that was? :confused

I really want to know if we maybe misunderstood which 30th anniversary it was. It's also entirely possible Tom just forgot or decided against it I guess. I think there were other dates that were given for plot revelation in the past, which obviously passed without fanfare.
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