When we talk of Duke Nukem, we think of the tough-talking, beer-swilling, gun-totting macho hero from his 3D outing. However, what you may not be familiar with, is his beginnings as a platforming action hero in 1990 in a game released for DOS. Duke Nukem was made by Apogee Software and was released in the shareware fashion which ID Software had made so popular. It was divided into 3 episodes, the first of which was distributed freely through computer software magazines in order to grab the attention of the public. The subsequent chapters were available by mail-order.
The team at Apogee that developed this title was small, dedicated and more importantly packed with talent. The game was mainly programmed by Todd Replogle, the graphics and additional work was done by Jim Norwood, Allen H. Blum III, and George Broussard. Duke Nukem was produced by Scott Miller and id Software’s John Carmack also helped with some minor coding issues.
The narrative of the title is simple but plays out like a sci-fi B-movie. It’s 1991 and an evil mad scientist called Dr. Proton has created an army of robots to conquer the world. As usual, there’s only one man who can stop him, Duke Nukem! The game was divided into three episodes: Shrapnel City, Mission: Moonbase and Trapped in the Future.
Like the story, the gameplay is simple. You take control of Duke and play through thirty levels and eventually face Dr. Proton at the end of the last level. Once you reach the end of each stage you must go through a door that will take you to the beginning of the next level. You go through each level avoiding traps and killing a variety of enemies. You start with just your laser pistol but can collect upgrades to increase your fire rate. Along the way, you will collect items like grappling claws and jumping boots to help traverse the levels. These items are collected by shooting crates but be careful, some of these crates contain dynamite that will hurt you when it explodes.
These additionals helped elevate Duke Nukem from the standard platforms of the time. Playing through this title, I was struck by how pretty much everything is destructible, the player is encouraged to do so in order to amass a large number of points. Also, if you collect the letters D, U, K, E, which are scattered throughout the level. If you collect a single series of letters they can give you 500 points each, but if you collect them in the right order it will give you 10,000 points and an additional 10,000 points per level.
Graphics and Sound
The presentation is incredibly good, Duke Nukem has some enjoyable PC sound effects which boom through the speakers. The graphics are limited by technical limitations, the screen would scroll by moving 8 x 8 blocks, rather than using individual pixels. This performs smoothly and has been used to great effect in various other titles such as Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure and Commander Keen. I love the look of Duke and the settings that your player is placed in.
This was an amazing game at the time and sold around 60-70,000 copies which helped to fund the sequel. If you are looking for a fun platform action title that is satisfying and a genuine part of gaming history, check this out!
This was an amazing game at the time and sold around 60-70,000 copies which helped to fund the sequel. If you are looking for a fun platform action title which is satisfying and a geniune part of gaming history, check this out!
Chris McAuley is a Northern Irish born author, comic book and gaming columnist who has now branched out from talking about comics to helping create them. An acclaimed colourist for 2000 AD and Marvel he has worked on flagship titles such as Judge Dredd, Roy of the Rovers and Hulkverines. Chris also has a commitment to the Indie scene being an inker and colourist for ‘The Lang Way Hame’ a Scottish comic which is tipped for an award later this year. With close ties to heroes of the industry such as the ‘Godfather of British comics’ Pat Mills and Spawn creator Todd McFarlene,