Starting in the early 1990s, Apogee Software made a name for itself with various shareware games whose initial episodes were free to play, although additional episodes came for a price. Among the Texas-based company’s early titles is Duke Nukem, with a patch retitling it Duke Nukum do to a fear of a lawsuit by the creators of Captain Planet, which featured an antagonist named Duke Nukem. However, the creators didn’t register the name, so Apogee did so and was free to use the surname Nukem in later titles, with the demo of the first game providing a good taste of the title.
Duke Nukem features side-scrolling action gameplay where the titular protagonist can fire his weapon left and right at the enemy, but not up or down or diagonally. Occasional powerups allow him to fire more than one projectile at a time, with additional jumping height eventually gained, alongside the ability to hang from ceilings. The gameplay is simple, but effective overall.
Controls in the game are relatively decent, although the player can only save their game in hallways between main levels.
Aside from occasional conversations between villain Dr. Proton and Duke, there isn’t much story of which to speak in the game, although it glues the game together fine.
The aurals are slightly below average given the total lack of music throughout the game, and the sound effects could have been better, although given the technical limitations present in the year 1991 with regards to the effects, the flaws in the aurals are understandable.
The graphics look okay despite weird coloring for Duke Nukem’s skin, the scenery looking fine, if somewhat pixilated.
Finally, the first episode is relatively short, taking a little over two hours to complete.
All in all, Duke Nukem is a flawed but decent beginning to the series based on its demo, given its solid shooter gameplay and control, although pretty much every other aspect leaves room for improvement, what with the lack of in-level saving, the weirdly-colored visuals, the lack of music, and the general absence of plot. Although the first game didn’t set the gaming world on fire in its time, a few of its sequels, including Duke Nukem 3-D and especially Duke Nukem Forever, would gain greater infamy, what with the latter’s legendary time in development hell.
+Simple but enjoyable gameplay.
+Decent level design.
-Limited firing range for Duke.
-No in-level saving.
-No replay value.
The Bottom Line:
An okay shareware game.
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 3/10
Playing Time: Less than 2 hours