Duke Nukem II is the sequel to 1991’s Duke Nukem and is another side-scrolling, platform-based shooter, only this time with larger, bolder graphics and jerkier scrolling. It was once again developed and published by Apogee Software, and was first released in 1993.
In this game Duke is fighting against an alien invasion (of the evil Rigelatins), after being kidnapped while on a talk show. Duke escapes from his off-world cell and finds a weapons cache right outside his cell door, so he grabs a bunch of guns and begins his fight back to Earth. He must shoot his way across an alien planet surface, then the alien underground, then destroy the alien energy reactor, then capture an alien jet to return to Earth. But, for a man who was born to chew bubblegum and to kick ass (but is all out of bubblegum), that’s no biggie.
Duke Nukem II has four episodes, each with eight levels, and can be played at three difficulty levels. The basic aim of the game is the same as the first Duke Nukem: shoot, jump, climb, collect keycards – destroy everything possible – score points by destroying radar dishes, collecting items, and completing certain objectives during a level, and find the exit at the end of each level.
Duke‘s health is represented as a green bar on the bottom information panel and diminishes when he takes damage. He can collect soda cans and cooked turkey to replenish this, but when it reaches zero he dies and must start a level from scratch. He can, however, attempt a level unlimited times – there are no ‘lives’ as such.
Duke can use four different weapons: the default gun; the flamethrower; the laser, and the rocket launcher, and this time he can look up and shoot, as well as hang down and shoot, and duck and shoot. You can hold down the fire button for rapid fire (if you have the rapid fire power-up), and you can also use a cloaking device to hide from enemies (but not from damage). On the side panel you have a (mostly useless) radar that shows enemies nearby, an inventory that shows what items you have, and the current level number.
Duke can find and use the “Blowmatic Fanmaster“, which is basically a fan-based jet pack, and can activate restart beacons (which act as a restart point on the various levels, saving you from having to return to the very start of each). In the second episode you gain access to a very useful jet fighter that has a powerful front-mounted cannon.
Duke Nukem II was initially released as “shareware”, meaning that the first episode was given away free, in order to drive interest in people buying the subsequent episodes. It’s easy to find the shareware version of the game on the internet, but the only place you can legally buy the full version of the game (at the time of writing) is on Zoom (link below). I bought the full version and it runs fine within DOSBox, although at times there is so much going on on-screen that there is some noticeable slowdown.
The game, in my opinion, only plays marginally better than the first Duke Nukem, although the graphics are arguably an improvement (some might argue not), and there is more variety. It could be argued that the graphics are slightly too large, which restricts your view of the playing area and makes it easy to run into enemies entering the screen from the right. You end up edging your way through a level carefully, rather than running through it.
Duke Nukem II does have a number of nice touches, though (like Duke somersaulting when he jumps, and the new vehicles you can commandeer), and it is fun to play for a while. Beware of the save system, though, because it’s a bit of a fraud. Restoring a save will put you back to the start of the level you saved on, with zero points and no items. It will not restore you to the point you actually saved at.