- Developer - Interceptor Entertainment
- Publisher - Apogee
- Platforms - iOS
- Device tested - iPhone 4
- Price - £1.49
Though the franchise is now doomed to be remembered as "that rubbish game that took 15 years to come out", there was a time, back in the early nineties, when Duke Nukem was king.
The original priapic space marine, before his first-person shooter days, Duke Nukem starred in a pair of side-scrolling shooters for MS-DOS, the second of which has just been revamped by Interceptor Entertainment for iOS. You can get it from the App Store now for £1.49 and despite some fiddly controls it's well worth it just for nostalgia value.
The core gameplay of Duke Nukem II couldn't be more familiar if it was wearing your own face. You walk Duke side-to-side along a 2D backdrop (in the iOS version's case that's done using a virtual on-screen joystick) and shoot baddies as they appear in waves. You can also jump, handled on the iPhone by tapping the screen and collect items like keys and passcodes to unlike doors as you progress. It's extremely basic and instantly recognisable to anyone who's played any shoot-'em-up ever.
What's distinctive about Duke Nukem, even to this day, is the dumb, boisterous humour of the whole thing. Duke Nukem II is written like a bad B-movie, with hammy 8-bit cutscenes informing a half kind of plot about Duke being kidnapped so aliens can transplant his brain into a supercomputer which they'll then use to destroy Earth. It's born of the same frat-boy mentality which in the nineties gave us id Software and DOOM, all muscles, guitars and guns. It's not necessarily the gameplay in Duke Nukem II that's nostalgic (you can download plenty of modern side-scrollers from the Xbox Arcade) but the cheap and silliness of it all harkens back to a time when videogames were made by five young men in their garage. It's good that things have moved on from that but still, it's nice to throwback occasionally.
The only real downer is, yes, the touch screen controls. Like a lot of re-releases (GTA 3, Max Payne) Duke II's buttons don't translate well to the iPhone's screen. Walking in particular can be incredibly awkward, especially when you consider that the same virtual analogue stick is also used for aiming Duke's gun in the air. Often, you'll find yourself at a dead halt because your thumb's slipped on the glass screen and Duke's stopped to aim his rifle.
But that's a small complaint and you get used to the controls after a while. It's not big, it's not clever; 20 years after release, it's certainly not original, but Duke Nukem II on the iPhone is a simplistic and rose-tinted walk down gaming's memory lane.