This page lists questions and
links to solutions for various problems we've encountered for our
Commander Keen games.
Click on the question you wish to see the
answer for. If you don't see your answer on this
page, please check out our Email Support Page.
Joe Siegler's explanation of the
history of the Keen series:
The seven Commander Keen games were all
written by id Software. They are:
1) Marooned on Mars ---\
2) The Earth Explodes | ---> Invasion of the Vorticons
3) Keen Must Die ---/
3.5) Keen Dreams
4) Secret of the Oracle --\__ Goodbye Galaxy
5) The Armageddon Machine --/
6) Aliens Ate My Babysitter
Episodes 1-3 are collectively called
"Invasion of the Vorticons," and are published by Apogee
Software. This series of Commander Keen was released on December 14th,
1990, according to Tom Hall, then Creative Director for id Software.
Episodes 4-5 are collectively called
"Goodbye Galaxy!" and are also published by Apogee Software.
This series of Commander Keen was released somewhere around June of
1991. There was also a special CGA edition of Keens 4-5. The CGA
version is functionally identical to the standard EGA version of the
game, but with CGA graphics. Apogee discontinued the CGA version in
In April 1998, episodes 1-5 were
bundled together on a single CD and sold as a unit for $49.95. This is
now the only way any of these Keen episodes may be purchased.
Episode 6 is a stand-alone game which
uses the Keen 4-5 engine and is entitled "Aliens Ate My
Babysitter." From its creation in 1991 until 1996, it was
distributed by FormGen, and Apogee merely resold it, like any other
retailer would. In 1996, FormGen was bought by GT Interactive and did
not continue to distribute the game. Therefore, Apogee was left with
what stock they had at the time. In August 1997, that stock ran out.
As of now, the only way to get Keen 6 is as a part of "The id
Anthology" package, but that CD, for some reason, only has the
CGA version of the game. There was a playable demo of Keen 6 that
FormGen distributed at one point. It was released to various online
services as #6k-demo.zip and k6demo.zip; it may or may not still exist
in some remote part of the Internet.
Keen Dreams has an interesting story.
This is referred to as the "Lost Episode" of Commander Keen.
I like to think of it as "Keen Episode 3.5." The reason is
that Keen Dreams falls in between Vorticons and Galaxy both in terms
of technology and story line. Before the id guys actually formed id,
the majority of them worked at Softdisk, a computer software publisher
in Shreveport, LA. The founding members of id Software left Softdisk
to do the Vorticons series of Keen for Apogee Software. However, they
were contractually obligated to deliver another game to Softdisk, and
since development had started on the Galaxy series, they threw
together a Keen game for Softdisk, and Keen Dreams was born. This game
is not sold by Apogee Software, nor does Apogee have anything at all
to do with it. You'd need to contact Softdisk for any further
information regarding Keen Dreams.
Episodes 1, 3.5, 4, and the three level
demo for episode 6 are the only ones that you are legally allowed to
upload and download anywhere. Episodes 2, 3, 5, and the full version
of episode 6 are commercial software, and should not appear on the
Internet or any other online service, or should otherwise be sold
except for authorized sellers of the games.
In December 1996, id Software published
a package called "The id Anthology". This product contains
every single game that id Software ever made, as well as some others
that were made by id people for other companies like Softdisk.
Included in this package are all seven Commander Keen games. As a side
note, for some reason, the person at id Software who put the package
together put in only the CGA version of Keen 6. For more information
on the id Anthology, contact id Software (Apogee has nothing to do
with the id Anthology).
Here are the online filenames as
currently available from Apogee for the various Keen games from
Apogee. Some forums may have a '#' appended onto the filename.
Keen 1 -> 1KEEN.ZIP
Keen 4 -> 4KEEN.ZIP
Keen 4 -> 4KEENC.ZIP (CGA Version)
I've seen the 3 level Aliens Demo
available with the filename #6K-DEMO.ZIP and K6DEMO.ZIP. I've seen
Keen Dreams available with the filename KDREAMS.ZIP. However, neither
of these are Apogee products, and I cannot vouch for the files' names.
If you played Keen 5, you may have
noticed a screen that said something to the effect of, "Join us
in December 1992 for the greatest Keen adventure yet." There was
a picture of Keen smiling, with a Santa Claus hat on. At the time, id
Software was intending to do a third series of Commander Keen,
tentatively entitled "Commander Keen: The Universe is
Toast." However, other projects came up (Wolfenstein 3D, Spear of
Destiny, and later, Doom). There are no serious plans now to do more
Keen. The main reason for this is that id Software owns the rights to
Commander Keen, and any new project would have to be either done by
them (extremely unlikely), or at least approved by them. At this time,
there are no Keen games under development by either Apogee, id, or Ion
Storm (where Tom Hall and John Romero now work as of 1997), and if and
when there ever is more Keen, it will be state of the art of whatever
technology is current at the time.
On a different note, Commander Keen,
and artifacts from the Keen games have found their way into other
games. Commander Keen is listed in the default scoreboards of a
handful of Apogee games, mentioned in the instructions of one, and has
made a few more prominent appearances, which are listed under the
"Cameos" section of this FAQ. Also, see the section on
"What's B. J. Blazkowicz's relationship with Commander
Keen?" for information on that.
Finally, you can visit the Keen:
Vorticons page of the Apogee WWW pages to see the original, rejected
title screen for Keen I. The direct URL for this is http://legacy.3drealms.com/keen1/.
For Jerky Motion / Video Problems
The problem that you are having can be
solved by first going to the configuration menu from the main menu.
From the configuration menu goto the options menu. In the options menu
there is an option that states SVGA Compatibility Mode. Select this
option, and it should solve your problem. If it does not then in the
same menu there is another one that is "Fix Jerky Motion"
Please turn that one on.
If you cannot solve the problem after
using both of these options, it means your video card is not
compatible with the game, and you'll need to contact your video card
manufacturer for a possible update for EGA video modes. If your
game does not have "Fix Jerky Motion", please contact
us for an update.
Lock ups in Keen 1 - 3
The problem that you are having is most
likely caused by a conflict between the game and a TSR or device
driver that you have loaded into memory.
The easiest way to solve this problem
is to boot your system clean or boot from a system diskette. If you
have MS-Dos version 6.0 or greater you can boot your system clean by
hitting the 'F5' as soon as "Starting MS-Dos" appears on the
screen when you are booting.
If you have MS-Dos version 5.0 or
earlier you can create a system diskette by create a system diskette
and solve you problem by following the steps below:
1. Place a blank diskette in the
"A" drive. If you have high density disk drives, you will
need to use a high density diskette.
2. At the dos prompt (c:\) type in
format a: /s.
3. The computer will then say
"Insert new disk in drive A" and "Press any key to
continue." Verify that you do have a blank diskette in drive A,
and hit a key.
4. The computer will then format the
disk, and transfer the necessary system files over to the floppy
diskette that will allow you to boot from that diskette.
5. After the disk is formatted it may
ask you for a volume label. If it does just hit enter to continue.
6. When the computer asks you if you
would like to format another diskette answer N for no.
7. When you return to the dos prompt
reboot your computer, and leave the disk that you made in the drive.
8. After the system boots, the system
will ask you for the current date and time. Just hit enter for these
questions, and you will be at the a>.
9. Change to the drive that you have
the game installed to (usually C:).
10. Change to the directory that the
game is installed to and then run the game.
To restore your computer to its
original settings after you have finished the game, take the diskette
out of the drive and reboot your computer.
If the above solutions do not work, you
can try a couple of command line parameters that may allow you to run
the game. When you type in the command keen1 to run the game add a
space and type in the command line parameter before pressing enter.
The command line parameters for Commander Keen: Invasion of the
/K Forces Keyboard Mode for Joystick
misdetection/incompatibilities. NOBIOS Disable bios usage for systems
with incompatible bioses.
Following the instructions above should
allow you access to the game.
Help with the Gravis Joystick in Keen 4&5
To get the Gravis Gamepad to fire
within Commander Keen: Episodes 4-6, you must first configure your
joystick to four button operation (please see joystick manual for
details). Then from the configure menu, go to the options menu. Within
this menu there will be an option for "Two-Button" firing.
Make sure that this option is turned off. Then, from the configuration
menu select Use Joystick 1, then Use Gravis Gamepad. After selecting
Use Gravis Gamepad, the game will ask you to hit the button the
Gamepad for each function of the game.
Help with doors
The problem that you
are having with Commander Keen, is in understanding how to open doors.
The doors that you open with the up arrow, or pressing up on the
joystick, are doors that appear flush against the background of the
level. These doors teleport you to another area of the level. The
other type of doors require that you have a gem to get through these
doors will have a gem holder in front of them that matches the color
of the gem that you need to pass through the door. These doors block
passage ways until they are opened. Once opened they will allow you to
pass, and you will not be able to close them.
How to get to
the secret level in Episode 1
need to go to the "east" side of the planet. After coming
out of the transporter you will see an ice city. Pass that city and go
downwards. As you move downwards, you will pas one dome and then a
second one. Below and to the right of that second dome is a white
city. Enter that city. Near the very end of the level, where you see
the four doors (each door requiring a key card), where are two
corridors directly below that area with the doors. One corridor
contains the red keycard, and the other contains the yellow key card.
Go to the corridor containing the yellow key card. As you enter that
corridor, you're going to see a hole in the floor, and below that
floor are two braziers on either side. Jump down that hole, and be
certain to veer either to your left or to your right so that you do
not land in the brazier below you! Use your pogo stick to jump the
wall to your right, and will be find yourself in an area where there
is a cannon shooting ice cubes: Use your pogo stick and jump into the
path of the cannon and if you do things correctly you will be encased
in ice and land on the other side of the wall to your right. Be quick,
though, so that the robot doesn't get you! Get clear, and move to the
transporter to your right. That transporter will take you to the
How to get to
the secret level in Episode 4
What you need to do to get to the
Pyramid of the Forbidden (The Hidden Pyramid, the one with the hand on
it) is this. Go to the room that has 12 inchworms in it and make sure
you have the yellow crystal with you. You'll need it. Over to the
left, is an open passageway with some inchworms to the left of it. All
the way to the right of this bottom room is a door that needs the
yellow crystal. Behind this door is a switch. Flip this switch, and
the door all the way to the left will close over, allowing all the
inchworms to gather together.
You'll need to get all 12 inchworms
together in one spot (it doesn't matter where). When you get near
them, they will follow you wherever you go. However, don't let them
get offscreen, or they'll lose track of you. Move slowly. When you do
get them all together, a foot will form above your head. Jump on the
foot, and it will take you to the hidden pyramid. It is necessary to
flip that switch behind the door because if you don't, you can't get
all 12 inchworms together, as a couple of them will be trapped to the
left of that open trap door.
I'll also mention that while you're in
the hidden pyramid, you won't be allowed to play any other levels
until you finish that one. When you finish the hidden pyramid, the
foot will be there again. Jump on it, and you'll be transported to the
outside of the Pyramid of the Moons again, and you can continue with
To get outside the pyramid of the
Moons, you need to go all the way to the left of the room where the
inchworms are. There will be four guns in the ceiling shooting down.
To the left of them is a hole in the ceiling you can jump into. DO
that, and there is a pole in there (that you can't see) that you can
grab onto. Save your game, since it's easy to die in here. Follow the
passageway and you'll see a door. You can go into that door if you
want, it's a free Keen. Come back through, and jump into the ceiling
above that door, and follow a passageway in the wall, and you'll come
out to a doorway with a bunch of ice cream cones in front of it. Go
through that door, and you're outside the pyramid.
However, if you exit this level before
going to the hidden pyramid, you won't be able to get to the hidden
pyramid, since this level (Pyramid of the Moons) will be considered
finished, and you need it to get to the hidden pyramid. It is possible
to get back inside the pyramid once you go outside, but be careful
where you go.
How to get to
the secret level in Episode 5
Stand in the archway near the end of
the level in the "Gravitational Dampening Hub". You will not
be able to see yourself in there. You'll need to do the down jump
maneuver, which is holding the down arrow, and pressing jump. You will
fall into the floor below you here. You will then need to walk to the
left, all the way as far as you can go. Since you will not be able to
see yourself, the only way to know it's working is if the screen
starts moving. If, when you start moving left, you appear again next
to the arch, you didn't do the down jump maneuver right.
Anyway, once you walk to the leftmost
part of the level, you'll fall all the way to the bottom of the level.
Once you stop falling, walk to the right, and you'll appear again.
SAVE YOUR GAME HERE! The passageway that you're in leads to a
teleporter, which will take you to the secret level. There's no more
secrets along the way here, but there is a LOT of stuff that will kill
you, which is why I say to save your game.
Also, there is a bug with something in
the secret level of Keen V. Once you get there, if you look around
hard enough, you'll find a transistor that you're supposed to pogo on
and break. Sometimes you'll not be able to break it. We've never found
why this happens. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won't. The only
different thing that happens if you break it is that one of the end
game story screens changes. Depending on whether you break it or not,
one screen at the end will either say the Shikadi ship either got away
or blew up depending on whether or not you blew it up.
How to get to
the secret level in Episode 6
This is the easiest one of them all.
Right before the final level of the game, when you're on the world
map, you'll see a somewhat large blue towering looking thing that
looks like a cross between a hut and a mouth. Anyway, if you look
beyond it, you'll see a yellow fence. If you walk through the mouth,
and out the other side, you'll come to the fence (don't enter the
level. Going in the mouth and pressing space will put you into the
level). Stay on the world map, and wait there a minute or two. A
spaceship will come around, pick you up, and will take you to the
secret level. When you're done with the secret level, wait for the
ship again, and it will take you back. Also, an english translation of
the Galactic Alphabet is in a hidden area in this level.
Keen 3 Boss
To beat the Mangling machine, you must
shoot all 6 space amoebas (spinning purple things) to zap the arms,
then shoot the machine's heart. Watch out for the lasers and the meeps!
On the floor, you will see 3 bricks that aren't like the others. These
are places you can stand and not get crushed by the arms/legs. You
must use them all and this requires good timing. Don't try to cross
the entire floor without waiting.
finish Keen 5
To solve the last level of the game, The Explosion Dynamo, you first have to find the large machine with a glass ball in the center. This is the actual Explosion
Dynamo (aka QED), and your goal throughout the game has been to destroy it. Just like the other machines located within the game, you accomplish this by destroying the glass ball in the center of the machine. However, you cannot destroy it by pogoing on the top of the ball. To destroy the machine you must go to the upper right hand corner of the level and get an exploding cube to follow you. You must lure the cube near the ball, and get it to explode. If the fragments from the cube hit the ball, they will destroy the ball, and you will end the game.
note that if you explode all the bombs without destroying the QED,
you will be stuck, and will be unable to finish the game if you did
not save your game at a point before this.
General Hints on Keen 4 & 5
Episode 4: Secret of the Oracle
Border Village: Getting to the free
Keens in level 1: Go into one of the houses that has a pole going
underground. Go underground to where the statue of the giant slug is.
On the right and left of the slug statue, there are slim pools and
torches. Just above the left torch, there is a hole in the ceiling. To
get up and into that hole, you must stand on the left edge of the left
slime pool, and do the impossible pogo trick up and to the right. Once
you are in the hidden area, you will see a platform that you will be
able to pogo off of and get the free Keens.
Pyramid of the Moons: Getting to the
platform in the middle of the pyramid in the middle of the room and to
the outside of the pyramid: Go to the room that has twelve inch worms
in it. On the left side of that room there are four guns that are
shooting straight down. Just to the left of those guns their is a hole
in the ceiling. Pogo up into that hole and grab unto a pole that is
hiding in the middle of the hole by pushing the up arrow key. This
will bring you to a room that has a door that leads to the door in the
middle of the pyramid. Above that door there is another hole in the
ceiling with a ledge on the left. Jump up and grab the ledge and that
passage will take you to a small room with a door in it. That door
will take you outside of the pyramid.
Getting to the Forbidden pyramid: Find
the room a lot of inch worms in it. There are twelve inch worms in
that room. To get to the forbidden pyramid you must get all twelve of
the inch worms to follow you to one place within that room. When all
twelve inch worms get together a giant foot will appear. (twelve
inches make a foot) Jump onto the foot and it will take you to the
Chasm of Chills: The slug that hold a
secret is the slug in the second hole. On the right side of the hole
there is a secret passage.
Hillville: Getting the hidden items. If
you look at the background of Hillville, you will notice a little
sparkle of light that occur every so often. These lights are called
the "flashes of insight". These flashes are actually
platforms that you can stand on and follow to different hidden items.
Pyramid of the Shadows Getting the
seven free Keens. Right above the Oracle member that you save, there
is a secret passage way. The only way to get into the passage way is
from the right side of the pit that contains the oracle member, you
must do the impossible pogo trick up and to the left, and go into the
hole that is in the ceiling. On the left edge of the hole there is a
ledge that you can grab a hold of and pull yourself up. Now just keep
walking to your left and you will fall down to another area, where the
free keens are. Getting out of this area alive is next to impossible,
but to do so you must get to the far left side of the hidden room, and
jump up and to the left when you see the platform move into the secret
passage. If you successfully land on the platform, you must then
immediately look down so that you will not get knock off the platform.
Episode 5: The Armageddon Machine
To get the nine free Keens in level 1,
go to the upper left hand side of the level. In the upper left hand
side, there is a gun that is shooting straight down. Below the gun
there is a moving platform. You do the impossible pogo trick from that
platform, and jump up and to the left into a hole in the ceiling next
to the gun. Once you are inside the secret area, you will need to do
the impossible pogo trick again up and to the right, grab a hold of a
ledge that is up there, pull yourself up, and walk to the right.
Although you will not be able to see yourself, you will know that you
are successful when the screen starts scrolling to the right. If you
keep walking to the right you will fall through a chute that will take
you outside of the space station. Once there, leap off of the edge,
and you can get up to nine free lives.
To get to the secret level from within
the gravitational damping hub you must go to where the exit door is
for the level. In between the exit door and the sign that says EXIT
there is an archway. In the middle of the archway where you cannot
see, there is a hole in the ground. Stand in the middle of the archway
and look down and jump. This will lead you to a secret passageway that
will eventually take you to the secret pyramid.
The symbols that are spread trough out
the Commander Keen games is the Galactic Alphabet. The translations of
the alphabet can be found in Commander Keen game 3 and 6. The sign
tell some hints, but most are just there for looks.
The Life Water Oasis
Once you start the level called Lifewater Oasis, you might find the
reason that it was called that. In the lower areas you will see a lot
of water bottles, or the lifewater oasis.
There is no way to get to the lifewater oasis. It's unreachable via
normal gameplay. IE: without cheating.
It wasn't supposed to be that way, though. After the game had been out
for some time, it was discovered that this area is unreachable.
sound in Keens 1-3
because there isn't any! All the sound in Keens 1-3 is PC
Speaker sound. Keens 1-3 were written in 1990, back when most
games didn't have any sound card support at all.
Characters for Keen 6
you start Keen 6, it presents you with a game character and asks for
the name. Here are the "answers" for that section.