In celebration of the release of Duke Nukem Forever, I thought it would be nice to write about one of the many Duke Nukem games made by not 3D Realms during the 14 years it was in development. This one is the simply titled Duke Nukem made for the Game Boy Color in 1999. Don't let the box art fool you, this game is not a port of Duke Nukem 3D, which clearly would not have worked on the meager hardware, it is actually something of a remake of Duke Nukem II. You know, back from when Duke was one of the PC's better 2D platformers.
Of course, the game is far from a straight port of the PC classic, in fact, it is almost completely different. The story, setting, and enemies are similar, but the graphics, controls, and level designs are all quite new. This Duke Nukem was developed by Torus Games, a prolific studio that has been behind many of those terrible licensed games and ports for Nintendo's handhelds. They occasionally do original titles, like two games for N-Gage, and in recent years they've done some orignal stuff for consoles. Don't get me wrong, what they've done hasn't been all bad. Jackie Chan Adventures for the GBA is a decent beat 'em up for something based on a cartoon, and Duke Nukem Advance, while apparently running on a port of the Duke 3D engine, had all new levels and was pretty good considering the platform.
On top of that, I kind of like this Duke Nukem. It may not be the fast paced, super colorful, jumping and shooting experience of the first two Duke games, but it is pretty fun. The game starts with Duke being kidnapped by aliens, so of course he breaks out and starts killing them. Your main weapon is a shotgun with infinite ammo, but you can pick up machine guns and rockets and other stuff you might expect. You can fire in eight directions, and you can fire while ducking, jumping, and walking forward. The controls are tough to deal with at first because they are so stiff, and if feels like there are a lot of times where damage is unavoidable. Once you get into the rhythm of when enemies will attack and where they will appear it isn't so bad, though.
Once you get used to how the game works it's a nice little platformer. You explore, kill stuff, get keys, and progress to the exit. I guess at its basest level it isn't all that different from Duke 3D and other FPS's of the 90's. Going back to a game like this makes me think about how FPS games evolved out of 2D platformers like Duke Nukem and Commander Keen. Back in those days progress through a level was measured by colored keys and keycards. Since then, the non-linearity caused by keycards has been considered too confusing for the average gamer, and almost all FPS games have turned into completely linear affairs. I haven't played Duke Nukem Forever yet, and even though I haven't heard many nice things about it, I hope it has a more old school approach to level design that encourages exploration.