Duke Nukem (later re-titled Duke Nukum and not to be confused with either the Game Boy Color game of the same name or the Europe release of the PlayStation version of Duke Nukem 3D) is an action side-scrolling platformer developed and published by Apogee for the PC on July 1, 1991.
Set in near-future 1997, players control self-proclaimed hero Duke Nukem (armed with a CIA-developed prototype nuclear pistol and his can-do attitude) as he tracks down Dr. Proton (a brilliant nuclear physicist who goes berserk in a radiation accident and threatens to conquer Earth) through a devastated city, Dr. Proton's secret moonbase, and even through time (to the Earth's far future), while laying waste to his army of Techbots.
After the game's release, the developers changed the name of both the game and the protagonist to "Duke Nukum" after thinking that the "Duke Nukem" name was copyrighted (as it was the name of a supervillain from the Captain Planet and the Planeteers animated series). After finding out that it wasn't copyrighted, they retained the original name in the game's sequels.
The game was followed two years later by Duke Nukem II, and later spawned a series better-known for fast-paced first-person and third-person shooters and a controversial wise-cracking hyper-masculine side of Duke. The original game's story and antagonist is not referenced at all until Duke Nukem Forever, which details the story in Duke's museum and includes Dr. Proton as the main antagonist of the downloadable campaign (as he commandeers Area 51 to create an army of mechanical Duke Nukem clones).
Originally a three-episode shareware game, Duke Nukem was later included in the retail copy of Duke Nukem 3D and the 1997 compilation Duke Nukem Kill-a-Ton Collection. It was later released on both PC and Mac (via DOSBox) on GOG.com (alongside Duke Nukem II) and on Steam (by Interceptor on July 2, 2013, either standalone or together with Duke Nukem II and Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project as the Duke Platformer Pack).
Duke Nukem is a traditional side-scrolling action platformer in which Duke must traverse through an open level to find the exit (which usually requires finding colored keys to unlock color-specific gates).
Armed with his Nuclear Pistol (which increases in damage as players find special upgrades), Duke must shoot enemy Techbots (as touching most of them and their projectiles harms him), breakable walls, and destructible boxes (containing both goodies and traps).
After Duke exits the level (through the exit door), he enters a hallway which allows the player to save the game, gives the player a quick hint about the next level (usually telling the player to save their game), and gives Duke special end-of-level point bonuses (up to seven 10,000-point bonuses, which are earned by completing a special task in that level).
Along the way, Duke can find a variety of pickups scattered around each level which give him points, health, or special upgrades. Most of the time, they are hidden within specially-marked destructible boxes:
These boxes will always contain bonus prizes, which grant Duke bonus points once he picks them up.
- Football - Gives 100 points.
- Joystick - Gives 2,000 points.
- Diskette - Gives 5,000 points.
- Flag - Gives a mystery score (between 100 and 5,000 points).
- Radio - Gives a mystery score (between 100 and 5,000 points).
- Balloon - Gives 10,000 points. Slowly descends upward and pops (granting no points) when it is either shot by a Nuclear Pistol or reaches a tile above it.
These boxes will always contain food, which grant Duke some health and bonus points.
- Turkey Leg - Gives one bar of health and 100 points. Shooting it with the Nuclear Pistol changes it to a full turkey, giving two bars of health and 200 points.
- Can of Soda - Gives one bar of health and 200 points. Shooting it with the Nuclear Pistol causes it to shoot itself upward until it hits a surface (where it's destroyed). Collecting it while it's shooting upward gives Duke 1,000 points.
These boxes are a mystery, and will either be empty, contain a special upgrade, or set off a dynamite trap that harms Duke if he is too careless to notice.
- Nuclear Molecule - Gives 1,000 points and restores Duke's health to maximum.
- "D", "U", "K", or "E" Letter - Gives 500 points. Collecting all four letters in the right order gives 10,000 points for the last letter instead.
- Firepower Upgrade - Gives 1,000 points and permanently upgrades the damage of the Nuclear Pistol for the episode. If Duke has collected four upgrades already, then it just gives 1,000 points.
- Super Jump Boots - Inventory item. Allows Duke to jump higher and farther (sometimes letting him somersault).
- Grappling Hook - Inventory item. Allows Duke to grapple onto the bottom of specially-marked surfaces and conveyor belts. If the tile above the surface is empty, then Duke can climb up to that surface (using the Action button).
- Robotic Hand - Inventory item. Allows Duke to use special switches that extend special bridges. Does not disappear after use.
- Computer Board - Inventory item. Disables power to certain force-fields in the level. Disappears after use.