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Bethesda revives ‘80s PC series Commander Keen as a… free-to-play mobile game

PC gamers of a certain era fondly remember Commander Keen, one of the most technically proficient side-scrolling action series to land on MS-DOS. Fans of its creators, id Software (perhaps better known for Doom and Quake), have always wondered when the relatively cutesy series might see a revival since its halcyon PC years of 1990-91.

That day was Sunday, as announced by Bethesda at its E3 press conference. But fans may not have seen this version of Keen coming.

The new Commander Keen, as shown in the above gallery, will “soft-launch” on iOS and Android “this summer” as a free-to-play platforming game. Gameplay specifics were not clarified either at the press conference or the game’s brand-new announcement site, but this smartphone game appears to revolve around tapping on smartphone screens to direct players’ upward hops (recalling ’80s arcade games like Ice Climbers) and activate attacks.

Every screen provided by Bethesda has a massive item selection menu on the screen’s bottom, and these colorful icons appear to activate limited-use items. This Candy Crush-like system may very well be the hook through which Bethesda monetizes this version of Keen, since the reveal did not hint to any cosmetic economy of outfits, dance moves, or other common stuff found in smartphone and console F2P games. (Pre-registering for the game at Bethesda’s site does come with a giveaway of an outfit for the Keen siblings.)

This version of Commander Keen follows Bethesda’s other recent forays into mobile gaming, particularly Fallout Shelter and Elder Scrolls: Blades. The latter has been loudly criticized since its April early access launch for its F2P economy and deluge of momentum-slowing timers. A Bethesda representative clarified at the E3 press conference that this version of the series is being handled by a Bethesda development team, not id Software.

Listing image by Bethesda

ARS T

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