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Apocalypse Then: Duke Nukem II


On this day in gaming, December 3, 1993, Duke Nukem II was released for MS-DOS. It was a 2D platform game developed and published by Apogee Software, a major company back in the eighties and nineties and still alive today, albeit known as 3D Realms. The name Apogee Software is also still going, but under a separate company known as Apogee Software LLC.

Duke Nukem II is the second game in the series, preceded by Duke Nukem, and succeeded by Duke Nukem 3D, and the fourth game in the series, Duke Nukem Forever, which is  in limbo at the moment after a dozen years in development.

Duke Nukem II was not as popular as it’s sequel, Duke Nukem 3D, and wasn’t ported to any other consoles.

The game consisted of four episodes, the first one being available as shareware, with each episode containing 8 levels, making 32 in total. The story kicks off with Duke Nukem on talk show (supposedly Oprah, seeing as it was revealed in the first game that Duke like watching her show), promoting his autobiography Why I’m So Great in an interview. During this period, the Rigelatins, an alien force, kidnap Duke and aim to use his brain for nefarious purposes. Duke Nukem breaks free from his cell where he was being kept prisoner using an explosive molar hidden in his mouth.

Dn2grIt’s been said that Duke possessed more personality in this game than the first one, and instead of his purple shirt in the first game, he now wears the red wifebeater that people now associate him with, as well as blue jeans and boots. A couple of things about his appearance that changed in the sequel and thereafter was that in this game he wore silver bicep rings and didn’t have on his trademark sunglasses. Duke didn’t talk much either in this game, with the “I’m back!” line in the opening movie being one the only ones uttered in the game. Duke Talk and more adult themes became a mainstay in DN3D and every Duke Nukem game after that.

In the game’s levels you collect weapons, health, powerups, and Duke Nukem merchandise, often found in crates, while proceeding towards the exit. At the end of the level your score is added up. Health includes soda cans, which can also be shot in order to earn points, a six pack of soda, turkeys, and atomic health. This last health item reappeared in Duke Nukem 3D.

Collectable items include glass orbs, Letters spelling NUKEM, and the crystal ball.

I seem to recall other items as well, like sunglasses…

Monsters ranging from robotic spiders, to mutants, and Rigelatin guards as well as others populate the levels and Duke can dispatch them with weapons he finds along the way, like the Laser, Flamethrower, and the Rocker Launcher. You can’t switch between these weapons, and have to use each one up at least a little before collecting another one. If these weapons are used up entirely after several shots, then you will revert back to you normal weapon. The last level, level 8, squares you off against the boss enemy.

The player can jump, climb ladders, use elevators and climb on pipes and girders. If the player stopped while climbing on these, he could hang there with one arm while firing his gun with the other. Duke can also use a sky car of some sort in some levels, which was recreated in Duke Plus, a mod for Duke Nukem 3D.


The music accompanying the game’s levels was composed by Bobby Prince and he once again was influenced by metal music like in Doom, using tracks like “Angry Again” and “Skin O' My Teeth” as the basis for the MIDI soundtrack.

The opening movie in the game has him in a shooting range firing a smiley face in to the target, a scene taken from Lethal Weapon. After that he says “I’m back!”, a line taken from The Terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger was an obvious influence on Duke’s character, and The Terminator movies as well as other Arnie films served as inspiration for the series as well. “Angry Again” appeared on the soundtrack to the film Last Action Hero, also a film starring Arnold.

The cover art of Duke Nukem II was also visible in the first level of Duke Nukem 3D, “Hollywood Holocaust”, as an arcade machine . If you try to use the machine, Duke says, "Hmmm, don't have time to play with myself."

Duke Nukem Manhattan Project, although more of a spin-off of the main series, paid tribute to the original two games by also incorporating more of a platform element in the game.

You can pick up Duke Nukem II here if you want to play a classic.



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