Is this an Anniversary worth celebrating?
Players are greeted with a giant emblem upon booting up the iOS version of Duke Nukem II. It reads, “Duke Nukem II, 20th Anniversary.” While I did not play the game at the time of its release, I was excited to try out a title whose publisher saw fit to release a celebratory anniversary edition of.
I am sure that there are individuals with some degree of nostalgia for Duke Nukem II, but considering the game was originally released into a world where games like Super Mario World already existed I can’t imagine its reception was overwhelmingly positive at the time. Even if the game was beloved by many when it first came out, this is a title that Interceptor Entertainment feels is still worth your time and money.
Duke Nukem II is a poor platforming action title. The virtual controls work well enough, until the player is thrown into situations where they must transition between hanging from rails and running on platforms. I don’t know how many times I fell to my death on the Rocket level.
The game plays like a clunky mix of Mega Man and Donkey Kong Country. With those comparisons, I am speaking to the shooting and collecting aspects of Duke Nukem II. The platforming here is simple, and the levels are riddled with an abundance of enemies, powerups, and collectibles. Unlike Mega Man, the shooting feels imprecise and enemy patterns are boring. Players generally stumble across collectibles, unlike titles that require the player to explore or perform tricky platforming sequences to gather special items. Nothing about how this game plays feels precise. The amount of distractions on screen becomes a nuisance, and the controls don’t facilitate rapid ducking or jumping.
A large window surrounds the game screen – something reminiscent of the Game Boy Player for Gamecube. I don’t know if this was done to preserve the aspect ratio of the original game, or to add a constant reminder of what game you are playing, but the net effect of the border is to further distract the player. This wasn’t as big of a problem for the Game Boy Player, because the player isn’t using the screen itself to control the game. The window is also rounded at the corners, and combined with the on-screen controls it feels as if the game screen is being cut off.
There are much better platformers available on iOS. If you are hungering for retro platformers, go check out the Wii Virtual Console. Classic doesn’t always imply quality, and Duke Nukem II’s 20th Anniversary is perhaps an anniversary best left unnoticed.
Duke Nukem II is available as a Universal download for $1.99