Duke Nukem 2 is an old single-player PC platforming-shooting game that was released in 1993 by Apogee. And yes, Duke Nukem existed before 3D, you know.
Technically this release uses fine-tuned DosBOX that also allows Steam Overlay, keeping all pure. Well, aside from it stretching image for widescreen monitors.
Actually, when Duke Nukem 2 first came to Steam, it had some small changes in it. Duke was given sunglasses, intro told about this awesome game being released "back then" and little screen "press H for help" and during gameplay was replaced by Duke's static face. With sunglasses. Kinda a way of trying to bring Duke's personality from 3D. And that was like that until 3D Realms Anthology came out, after which developers update Steam DN2 to change it back to how it was in original.
And well, on theory this games hould be a clear improvement over Duke Nukem 1. And for most parts it is! Especially when you take a look at each aspect serapately.
Graphics use more colors. Characters are bigger, more detailed. More mature too. It has system of four weapons. Even more variety in enemies you ancounter. It got ladders now. Platforming is more enjoyable with addition of being able to cling over rails without need of powerup. More levels. More level themes. More style. It has nice music now too. And bosses that don't suck.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, it has the same horrible sins as some of other platformers of 16-bit era had to deal with: camera issues and cheap difficulty. Hmm. Yea, something what modern indie game actually know how to deal with, I gotta say.
Anyway, imagine Duke Nukem 1. Now make every character 2-3 times bigger. That's how little camera space you are actually given. Even better seeing how camera hangs a little behind where Duke is walking, resulting in that you often run into things before you can even react. And what is weirder is how camera handles vertical movement. It's not going to move until hero is at very edge of a screen. So you often have to stop and press down or up to make camera adjuct to show what you really want. Like, being able to actually see what is above you. Only to have something nasty spawn onto your head, as the objects spawn in game world only when they appear on camera. Not to say that DN1 didn't had same problem, DN1 was happy to throw 3 mechs onto your sorry butt from above just for jumping up. Yet DN2 is way too punishing to tolerate having such issues.
It also has radar. But it's useless as it only barely reaches outside of camera range and trying to focus on it on each step would take away your attention in case something happens on a screen.
Well, to be honest, there are some levels where it was the least of issue. Levels with nice platforming, with non-rushing enemies, where you can adjuct vertical property of camera in peace and with some vertical space to jump around.
But then you have levels that are nothing but corridors and are littered with visual trash. Yea, visuals get messy at times. I was also surprised to find out that some tiles were actually stairs. And then some enemies can shoot or rush at you before you can react properly.
Even worse is that game can't decide if you are supposed to shoot a lot or shoot extremly carefully. It's much more punishing for careless shooting now, with boxes being able to spawn bomb/rocket that will immeditly explode upon being hit. Or it has bouncing spikeballs like DN1 does, but if they get hit they will start to bounce away, moving in a direction. And seeing how you have little camera space, well, it gets unpredictable.
So yea, game is pain in the back when it comes to the worst it can throw at it. There are few moments where you are stuck in hallway that is littered with both boxes that contain bombs and enemies that shoot at you quickly. Even better if enemies are placed behind boxes. You will get damaged, whether you try to shoot a lot or try to be more careful. Even worse with game encouraging you to carelessly shoot around with power-up that allows you to dispense bullets as long as you hold a button.
Difficulty is all over the place too. You can save, yes, but it only saves in what level you are. Reloading a save will put you in the start of a level, so "hardcore PC gamers" can't savescum their way out. And as said, because of reasons mentioned above, game can get extremly hard. Punishing.
Until you get checkpoint. Then suddenly DN2 turns itself upside down and lands with head onto ground. Why?
Well, because when you restart from checkpoint the world doesn't reset. The enemies you killed before will stay dead. Suddenly you can just beat the level by being a dumb, shooting and tanking your way with no care for the world, as you can always just respawn at checkpoint with no progress lost.
One difficult prison level even had checkpoint hidden behind locked door, with key way out of a way. As if developers knew of how broken it is.
Oh yea, and some bugs. Mostly being able to get out on top of level. And getting stuck in the corner in ruin level.
And it's all a shame, because when DN2 was at it's best it was a damn nice game. Enjoyable. Until it screws you up. With challenging bosses. And enemies being varied. I especially remembered the first level of the 4th episode, at the bottom of spaceship, where you had to cling on the pole. Platforming there is such a great joy, with responsible controls! Moments where being careful was safe and rewarding were good too. And three weapon powerups being nicely balanced around monsters. Flamejump is a thing there, of sorts.
Duke Nukem 1 looks dull in theory but executed nicely, letting you enjoy just playing it. Duke Nukem 2 is theorically superior, and sometimes it is, but it faces the same fate as other "potentially great" platformers of 16-bit era, being dragged down by game design sins in execution. Quite a shame, it's a joy at some moments.