Retro Sample Week: Duke Nukem 2

(This is part of my a special week in which I sampled several smaller or more niche retro games from my GOG library. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Welcome to Retro Sample Week here at Bio Break! Sometimes even I need to take the titular break from my normal routine, so instead of chatting about MMOs and the like, all this week on the blog I’ll be sampling various retro games from my ever-growing GOG library. My library is up to 199 titles so far, thanks to various sales, giveaways, and personal weakness. And while I have been gamely (pun intended) working my way through many of them over the past few years, there’s just no way I’ll be ever able to do playthroughs on all of these. So I thought, why not do one week where I take on a game a day, dip into it, write up some impressions, share some screenshots, and move on? I might not get the full feast, but at least I’ll get the flavor of it.

First up on the docket is Duke Nukem 2 — yes, Duke Nukem 3D actually had two prequels in the early 1990s that are much lesser known today (although they were reasonably popular at the time). Following my series on DN3D, I thought it might be interesting to look at least one of these games. I even remember playing this a bit back in the day, because Apogee’s shareware marketing was all over the place.

As you can see, Duke Nukem originally was a 2D sidescrolling shooter. Nothing super-fancy, but there was a lot of action and some of the personality that 3D would take and run with. I always liked the attention to detail that Apogee put in its levels — it was on par with the SNES and often had delightful background bits if you slowed down to look.

Can I just say that I love that this game has this screen? It’s so nice to actually get a visual of all of the control keys and not merely a list.

Right away, I can identify a few pros and cons. On the plus side, the weapon feels really powerful (and you get to have a machine gun-like rapid fire right out of the gate), the music is tense and exciting, and things are blowing up left and right. On the minus side, you can’t aim diagonally and the screen is too small, with dangers and enemies just off screen that you have to deal with.

So the story, such as it is, is that Duke was captured on an alien world and put into a cell. Somehow he escaped and carnage ensued. The movie right have already been signed away, sorry!

It was definitely nice to get out of the prison area, since the overworld is less cluttered. Also, there’s steaming turkey, which is the universal video game symbol for health and afternoon naps.

You can see the DNA for Duke Nukem 3D here, particularly in all of the different weapons and gadgets. It’s definitely a run-and-gun experience that rewards the most trigger happy of individuals (and you don’t have to worry about running out of ammo). The first level was remarkably short, and other than finishing it and pursuing a high score, there aren’t any additional objectives or way to develop Duke. He’s pretty (pause for effect) two-dimensional as it is.

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