Jazz Jackrabbit’s Poker Broker & Commander Keen’s Trek? WTF


Y’all ready for some nonsense?
Check this out.
This is Commander Keen’s Trek 96, developed
by I have no clue, published by I don’t
know, and released for an unknown operating
system.
Depending on where you look on the box, CYBERDIGITAL
released this in 1997.
Or maybe it was CYBEREX (Cyber.Ex) because that’s
on there too, encapsulated
in a weird globe logo.
“FOR PC,” it states in a yellow starburst,
not giving any indication as to whether that
means DOS, or Windows, or even what kind of
media is inside.
And no, there’s no system requirements on the box or anywhere on the packaging.
Turns out is IS for Windows, it just doesn’t tell you.
This is one of the single strangest boxed
titles in my collection, second only to Jazz
Jackrabbit’s Poker Broker, which is credited
to the same mysterious company, Cyberdigital.
Obviously, each of these releases were intending
to capitalize on the popularity of shareware
classics Commander Keen and Jazz Jackrabbit
by id Software and Epic Megagames respectively.
But the thing is, other than the packaging,
there’s absolutely nothing tying these to
their respective “inspirations” whatsoever.
“If you like Captain Kirk, you will love
Commander Keen.”
Uh-huh, if you say so.
“Be quick like a Jackrabbit with your cuts
and as smooth as Jazz with you bets.”
Wow, that’s a stretch but hey: gold star for effort.
These games are just a clear case of copyright
infringement across multiple companies and
I have no idea how these were even sold in
the first place.
Heck, were they even sold in stores at all?
I bought both of these sealed on Ebay sealed years
ago, and neither one of them had a price sticker,
a UPC barcode, or any indication of being
sold at retail.
For all I know these were handed out by a
guy named Fred behind a
backroad truck stop in Albuquerque.
Opening each box doesn’t reveal much more,
with Commander Keen’s Trek 96 only giving
you a cardboard sleeve and a plastic bag surrounding
a cheaply-labeled CD with the same art as
the cheaply-printed box.
Jazz Jackrabbit’s Poker Broker on the other
hand, hahaha. This CD…
Jazz Jack Rabit.
This is perfect.
The misspelling of their own blatant ripoff
title pairs beautifully against that trademark-less
Windows logo.
And again, more confusion as to who actually
made this.
There’s the Cyber.Ex logo again, but no
mention of Cyberdigital this time.
Instead it says Digital Design Development,
California, USA.
Can’t say I’ve been able to find anything
concrete on any of these company names, mostly
it’s just a bunch of confused people asking
the same questions I am online.
But anyway let’s try these out! And my first order of business with obscure
games like this is
to make an archive of the disc, but even that wasn’t normal in this
case.
My blu-ray burner absolutely refused to recognize
either disc, instead making repetitive and
slightly concerning noises…
*slightly concerning noises, grinding sounds*
But I was able to use an old Compaq CD-ROM
on my Windows 98 capture PC to successfully
make a disc image, although it finished suspiciously
rapidly.
Sure enough, once I looked at the files in
Explorer, it turns out that each CD only holds
a maximum of 1.3 megabytes.
Seriously.
You could fit each game on its own 3.5”
high-density floppy disk and still have room
to spare.
And you’ve gotta love those truncated 8.3
file names, that’s a real sign of quality
right there.
So yeah, I had to try Jazz Jackrabbit’s
Poker Broker first, and well.
It’s pretty darn simplistic, and there’s
absolutely no mention of Jazz Jackrabbit anywhere.
Or even Jazz Jack Rabit, for that matter.
Nope, this is simply the shareware version
of Poker Broker 3.0, developed in 1995.
Fun fact: one of the developers —
and I’ll probably butcher this — Thu Nguyen
is apparently quite the
popular name among poker players.
Maybe it’s just a popular name in general, but
there are an intriguing number of people by
that name on ranked poker player websites,
so I guess it’s only appropriate one would’ve
made a PC game about poker back in the day.
Anyway, Poker Broker 3.0 is just the most
bog-standard draw poker game for Windows you
can imagine.
Place a bet and you’re dealt five cards.
Choose which cards to hold and which to replace,
then you either win or lose that hand depending
on the luck of the draw.
Sometime you’ll be given a bonus card out
of nowhere, which is just “exhilarating.”
But there’s no end goal, no high score table,
no other players, nothing really more to the
game other than a couple options like peeking
at cards and choosing where to cut the deck.
And just think, this was version 3.0 of Poker
Broker, I can hardly fathom how little the
first two versions provided.
I at least hoped for a hastily-cloned Jazz
Jackrabbit as the dealer or something, but
nah, this one screen is all you get.
Well, you also get this screen, but I think
that’s a bug and not a feature.
Commander Keen’s Trek 96 isn’t much better
to be honest, but let’s dive into it anyway.
*shoddy Star Trek theme WAV plays*
Before playing I had to increase the resolution since
it’s one of those games that haphazardly
piles awkward windows onto the screen.
And yeah, this one is once again devoid of
any mention of its namesake — instead of
Commander Keen we simply get Trek 96, a German
game by Oliver Lenzko and Jochen Burkhardt
calling themselves J&O Software.
Heh, yeah this is not the episode for me to pronounce names correctly.
Anyway, it’s a top-down space action/strategy game
that mimics the popular
Star Trek games of the time period.
These actually date all the way back to 1971, originally
programmed on mainframe computers,
and subsequently becoming programming fodder for anyone just
learning how to
code their own games in BASIC or what have you.
One of the more popular variants at the time this one was made
was WinTrek from 1992,
which used a similar selection of windows and GUI elements to update
the classic mainframe game.
But Trek 96?
…hehe.
Other than the use of a few WAV files ripped
from Next Generation, there’s absolutely
nothing noteworthy here.
*klaxon and phaser WAV files ripped from Star Trek Next Generation play*
You use the arrow keys to move around space,
activate a few basic starship systems with
the mouse, and hold down keys like shift and
control to activate phasers using the most
cumbersome aiming reticle in gaming history.
It sucks.
The game over message though, well that is amazing.
“Congratulations!
You have destroyed the Enterprise!”
Haha, what?
Congratulations?!
Is the goal to destroy the Enterprise? I mean, is that sarcastic? I dunno man.
Can’t say I cared to figure out either,
because it always crashes after anywhere from
2 to 5 minutes, seemingly at random.
And that’s Commander Keen’s Trek 96 and
Jazz Jackrabbit’s Poker Broker.
Neither one of them are worth playing, ever,
but at the same time they’re infinitely
fascinating to me.
How this kind of thing ended up getting any
kind of boxed distribution is mind-boggling
to me, largely because of when it came out.
This was 1997, and the idea that some no-name
company from California could pop up and seemingly
get away with blatant IP infringement is ludicrous
to me.
And sure, maybe id and Epic didn’t care
since Commander Keen and Jazz Jackrabbit were
kind of old news by ‘97, but what about Trek 96?
This was a game clearly billing itself as
a Star Trek game and using Star Trek assets
and trademarks unofficially, and CBS is infamous
for coming down hard on any
project that even mention Star Trek.
Maybe they did send a cease and desist to them, or maybe they didn’t,
I can’t
find anything saying either way.
All I know is that these two games are phenomenally
bizarre and I hope that your day now an enjoyably
weirder place to be after having seen them
in action.
And if you enjoyed this video on these things then perhaps you would like to see some of my other videos.
There are new ones are every Monday and Friday here on LGR!
On similar topics and beyond.
And as always, thank you very much for watching.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *