Friday, March 11, 2011

Duke Nukem - Introducing the King

After 14 years of development hell, Duke Nukem Forever will finally see the light of day. To celebrate its release on May 3rd June 14, we on this blog shall play and review as many Duke Nukem games as possible, in order of release. Now, let's start with the original 1991 DOS game, simply called, Duke Nukem.

Before I begin, I should mention the backstory behind the name. The game was originally going to be called "Duke Nukem," but was temporarily changed to "Duke Nukum," since the intended name belonged to a villain in a cartoon, Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Thus, the game was released with the changed name. However, Apogee, the developers, found out that the name "Duke Nukem" was actually up for grabs, so they went back to calling the game what they wanted. This is even addressed on the 3D Realms site in order to settle any confusion buyers may have.

To talk about the actual game, the story is rather simple. Duke Nukem must defeat the evil Dr. Proton in order to save the Earth. The game is split into 3 episodes, each taking place on Earth (Shrapnel City), the Moon (Mission: Moonbase), and Earth's Future (Trapped in the Future!) respectively. Not much else to say, really, although the fights against Dr. Proton are rather easy.

Each episode has a few items, which you must collect each time in order to advance. They are the Super Jump Boots, which allow you to jump higher; the Robohand, which lets you activate certain switches; and the Grappling Hook, which lets you latch onto certain ceilings. Your weapon is a Nuclear Pistol, which can be upgraded during gameplay to allow more shots to appear on-screen at once. In order to reach the next level, you will need Keys and/or Access Cards in order to unlock certain doors or get rid of certain hazards.

Power-Ups in the game include Cola Cans and Turkey for 1 Health (shooting the Turkey makes it Cooked Turkey for 2) and Atomic Health for Full Health, while hazards include spikes, dynamite, and lasers. You can find certain things in a variety of boxes that come in 3 colors: Blue (for bonus point items), Red (for Cola Cans or Turkey), and Grey (for Atomic Health, dynamite, items, or nothing).

I'm not sure what to say about the graphics or sound, since this is a rather old game, so I'll just say they're good for when it came out. There are a couple of small issues I have with the graphics, though. For starters, it's sometimes hard to tell at first what you can or can't interact with, depending on what you expect at the moment. However, it becomes easier to deal with as the game progresses. The other issue I have is with the environments. They work at first when they're on Earth, but it's a little hard to accept when the setting becomes the Moon in Episode 2. However, I just went with it, since it's something best not dwelled upon.

The only actual complaint I have about this game is with the controls. They work well and respond as expected, but sometimes an issue comes up with the timing of the button presses. For example, there's a level in Episode 3 where your timing has to be perfectly accurate in order to ascend a column of blocks. In order to go up, you have to jump and go right at the same time, then immediately go left when you reach the next block. It takes a frame for Duke to turn around, and you have to be careful not to apply too much force to the left key or he'll go right across and fall back down. Once you figure it out, though, there's a feeling of accomplishment when you make it through.

Overall, this is a great game that serves as a good introduction to the Duke Nukem franchise. There are some difficult moments here and there, but it's all about trial and error. If you have any interest in playing this game, I suggest you download the first episode for free off the 3D Realms site to see if you want to play any more. Before you do, I should mention that the game might not work on newer computers, so you might want to dust off your oldest one, up to Windows XP, if you still have it.

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