Developed by: id Software
Published by: Apogee Software
Feeling Like: DOOM Prequel
The amount I have to say about Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy is limited. It’s exactly what you expect a side scrolling platformer that was only available for DOS in 1991 would be. Controls are fine, some casually antagonistic enemies, music that wouldn’t stand the test of time, an abundance of secrets and levels, excellent use of a pogo stick and a lack of true violence so as to offend the parental units. Nothing out of the ordinary.
What IS out of the ordinary is the developer who made the Commander Keen games, and when. Yes, THAT id Software. Unarguably one of the most influential development teams of all time, id Sotware would go on to make Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, Doom 2 and Quake, among others. It’s hard not to overstate their impact. They are wholly responsible for popularizing multiplayer online shooters. The Call of Duties, the Battlefields, the Overwatches and scores more all owe their very existence to Carmack, Romero and the few other intrepid young programmers who, in the early 90s, forced lightning into a bottle more than a few times and became exceedingly wealthy and infamous in doing so. Deservedly so, I should say, so I will.
What a strange precursor to some of the most gory, scary, gun-filled games ever. You play a little boy who is off to rescue some oracles or something. I don’t feel it’s necessary to explain the plot. To say Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy was the first step towards creating Doom would be like saying the invention of swords was integral to the creation of sliced bread. Medieval warfare would be so much more interesting than Goodbye Galaxy, anyway.
Aside from the Dopefish. He’s one of the funnier end bosses I’ve encountered, miraculously not feeling cheap despite his one hit kill. Or, in his case, one gulp swallow. It’s one of the few water levels I’ve ever enjoyed too and it took a bit of a risk making it the last stage in the game. Props to id.
But really, how in the royal hell did they go from Goodbye Galaxy to Doom in two years time? Thankfully, this is answered in one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Masters of Doom by David Kushner goes into joystaking detail about how John Romero and John Carmack grew up, met and created an empire. It’s chock full of fascinating tidbits and stories, regardless of if you’re a fan of video games or not. I cannot recommend it enough. If the one takeaway from #456 is being alerted about Masters of Doom, then it will be entirely worth it.