Duke Nukem II

In 1991, Apogee Software developed and released Duke Nukem, the start of a sidescrolling action series, being shareware with only the first episode available free and the remaining episodes buyable for a certain price. Two years later came its sequel, Duke Nukem II, whose shareware demo provides an enjoyable taste of the game.

Like its predecessor, the first Duke Nukem sequel features sidescrolling gameplay, with the titular protagonist able to fire his weapon left and right, and, new to the second installment, upward. Duke can obtain different weapons during exploration of the first episode’s eight levels, and has a life meter that means Game Over if it runs out unless he’s passed a level’s checkpoint, in which case he gets another chance if he dies. Mercifully, life-restoring items come occasionally by destroying boxes that litter each level, and the end-episode boss is definitely beatable if the player keeps track of its pattern, with adjustable difficulty also accommodating players of different skills, and the gameplay in the end being pretty much flawless.

The game’s control scheme is pretty easy to get a handle of, the only real flaw being that the player can’t save their progress midlevel, having to start the current level from scratch regardless of when they save while progressing through it.

The story that comes prior to starting a new game and after beating the first episode is pretty decent, although the pacing doesn’t work given the lack of developing cutscenes in between or in the middle of levels, although the narrative is by no means bad.

The music and sound effects, as one would expect from an Apogee game, don’t leave too much room for improvement, being fairly pleasant to the ears.

The graphics are also much better than in the first game, with human characters including Duke during cutscenes having better skin tones, although there is slight pixilation with the visuals.

Finally, the shareware demo is short, taking less than two hours to complete. Overall, the demo of Duke Nukem II hits most of the right notes with regards to its gameplay, control, aurals, visuals, and replayability, although there are some areas that leave room for improvement such as the lack of story during the episode between levels and the inability to save midlevel progress. Regardless of these flaws, those into sidescrolling action games will likely have a good time, with iPhone and iPad owners able to rejoice at the sequel having a port to the iOS.

The Good:
+Solid sidescrolling gameplay and control.
+Nice aurals.
+Polished visuals.
+Great replay value.

The Bad:
-Progress can’t be saved midlevel.
-Story only occurs at beginning and end.

The Bottom Line:
A great sequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: MS-DOS
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 10/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than 2 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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