Looking uncannily like PC classic Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Advance is more than just a straight port - it's a whole new adventure - and that's bound to count for something in the surprisingly saturated FPS market on Nintendo's handheld. But can the ageing Duke deliver the goods necessary to trounce Ecks Vs. Sever and dominate Doom?
Naturally, the plot is complete guff. Duke has been hired by the army (the army!) in order to foil a covert alien operation to, you know... take over the world and stuff. Teleporting on board an alien spacecraft, it's from here that Duke sets off on his mission to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And yes, he's all out of bubblegum - don't tell me you didn't see that one coming?
Controlling Duke is a pretty simple affair, with strafing attached to the shoulder buttons, movement on the D-pad and looking/jumping on A/B. The only button combinations we needed to remember were for weapon switching and looking up and down, the latter of which you'll probably never even need to use. Aiding him on his crusade is the usual complement of FPS-staple weaponry; a pistol, shotgun, super-shotgun (or "lead cannon" as it's known here), rocket launcher and pipe bombs. In addition there are the comedy sci-fi weapons like the freeze and shrink rays, the latter of which forces your foe into a piddly state, ready for you to stomp on.
"So far, so familiar," you must be thinking. Well, yes, but then that's what makes Duke Nukem Advance such an enjoyable little game. The nineteen brand new missions represent pretty much what we liked about the original Duke Nukem 3D, albeit sans strippers, in a whole new set of levels. It's a tongue-in-cheek jaunt through a decent variety of imaginatively designed maps.
Damn I'm good
The underlying Build engine, which we have such fond memories of tweaking and toying with on the PC, appears more or less unchanged as well, although bullet holes and destructible scenery have been stripped away to keep the poor little GBA happy. The texturing is of a generally high standard, though, and the enemy sprites are just how we remember them - and trust us, they look a lot better in motion than they do in the screenshots!
Even the classic theme tune has been brought across along with a few of Duke's pithy catchphrases. Chuckling away as he grumbled "Let's rock!" we began to appreciate why Duke Advance stood head and shoulders above Ecks Vs. Sever and even Doom in the fun stakes - it doesn't take itself too seriously.
Developer Torus isn't kidding itself that this is anything but an opportunity to traipse through nineteen levels blasting away at random enemies and finding keycards, and to that end they've created a comfortably-paced and well designed addition to the Duke legacy. Throw in a four-player Dukematch mode - always a laugh - and we have the best first person shooter on the GameBoy Advance to date.
Frankly, Duke Nukem Advance surprised us. What appeared at first to be a slapped together run-of-the-mill cash-in has instead turned out to be a very entertaining little title. It breaks no new ground in gaming conventions, and it wont keep you playing for months, but it looks good and it plays well, which is more than can be said for some of its competition. Hail to the King, baby!