Xeen is stripped-down in the manner of Biokid or Blork Carnage, which may on reflection be a bit of a PPP calling card, with for most of the game a single regular enemy type, a minimum of counter work (even extending to HP bonuses), and fairly straightforward level elements. What makes it amongst PPP Team’s better games is the way that those elements are combined into an environment, and the accurate-feeling look, tone, and flow that they create.
Both the decor and the architecture of the levels subconsciously lead the player forward like stripes in a Half-Life corridor. In the early levels, light and shadow created by block patterns draw attention to and propel the player along the intended path. Platforms placed just outside the player’s jump height, multiple key colors, hidden passages, and Keenesque useless-yet-tantalizing trinkets also attract, divert, and frustrate the player’s attentions at appropriate moments, creating a psychology not unlike Tom Hall’s original designs.
Speaking of jumps, there are a few quirks of design. In Commander Xeen, vertical jumps are higher than diagonal ones. Not the most intuitive decision, but as far as RSD’s engine goes, the jump physics are about as clean as variable jumps get.
The other main mechanic is weirder. To shoot, the player needs to collect gun icons. The game is generous and enemies are few, so running out is rarely a problem. Yet when the armory does empty, Game-Maker’s quirks get in the way again. Due to limits on button-mapping, the character uses different buttons and animation sequences to shoot left and right. Each of these animations is married to a different counter. Although the gun icons refill both counters, the act of firing only diminishes one counter at a time. Thus if the player fires to the right more often to the left, soon there will only be left shots, er, left.
These hang-ups are minor. The high vertical jumping does have parallels in games like Super Mario Bros. 2, and the level design does seem to take the different heights into consideration as an advanced technique. If you remember that you can rocket straight up, several tasks will be easier than the layout at first suggests.
The game is short, satisfying in its rewards, and gentle in its punishment. You only have a single hit point, so avoidance and caution become big elements of navigation, adding a bit of strategy and mild puzzle solving to some areas. When you do die, the game plays a few awkward notes and the character looks a bit sad; then you start the level over. Although as with every Game-Maker game you can save and load at will, here the design compels the player to tough it out and just try again.
1st episode: Xeen must find the lair of a mad Vroticlon who wants to control the Earth's moon.
2nd episode: Xeen must save the imperiled galaxy from the X342 Destructo Ray of Bik Bazaa-R.
And then, 5 more episodes of Xeen... All based on the adventures of id Software's Keen.
Use the numerical keyboard.
- / and -: fire
- F1: Info
- F2: More info
- F3: Toggle music
- F4: Toggle sound
- F5: Save game
- F6: Load game
- F8: Use joystick (not now)
- F9: Calibrate joystick
- F10: Game-Maker info
Xeen was realized by Piet & Pypein from PPP Team Sft.
Original Keen by id Software.
Prior to this archive's online presence, this game was only available in small-scale distribution amongst the close associates of PPP Team.
Along with several other PPP Team titles, this game was added to the archive on September 25, 2010. It was provided by Sylvain Martin, after contact through his blog and social media -- who in turn was located through a link on cly5m's Game-Maker page.
Interviews / Articles
- Commander Xeen (354.7 kB)