The original Duke Nukem 3D is an incredible game, no arguments about that. While the character himself is fondly remembered, it was the solid gameplay and level design that made the game what it was. Duke quipping ‘Get dat crap outta here!’ was just the icing on the Playboy Playmate. This 3D Realms classic has now been ported to the iPhone, featuring one of the most crippled touchscreen control systems to date.
The Grabbag title theme remains and plays out its instantly familiar tune as you select the episode and difficulty. Dropping from the cruiser those alien maggots shot down, you land upon the roof of an indistinct building in downtown L.A. That’s when silence surrounds you – the level music is gone. Nope, it’s not there, anywhere. The midi-keyboard music has been lost in the conversion.
It’s a great loss but not the end of the Duke’s world. Moving forward, you turn to shoot some gas containers to blow your way from the top of this building. That becomes much more complicated than it should, in no thanks to the broken controls. Either oversensitive or not sensitive enough, it makes navigation as big a challenge as taking down the scum-sucking algae eaters that are stealing our women and turning the men to pigs.
Movement is controlled via two on-screen analogue sticks. Move your finger out of the circle and the input won’t be recognised. If the circles moved with your thumbs this could be a little smoother, but that doesn’t fix the fundamental issue of porting first-person shooter games to a touchscreen. To fire you tap on the centre of the screen, jump, crouch and open are additional buttons, and the inventory is within the pause screen. It’s all very cluttered and clumsy.
Yes Duke, you may be king of the world, but on the iPhone you shuffle around like a legless kitten trying to reach the cat litter before it’s too late. When you accidently RPG a door rather than open it, or blow yourself up when trying to move forwards, patience quickly wears thin. After toying around with the control settings, and spending just as much time in the options than in game, it finally started to become somewhat playable. But even with an optimised setup you can’t speed run the levels and it never feels smooth. Playable, yes, but then only just about.
All three episodes of the original title are present, as are the weapons and many of Duke’s one-liners. By holding your finger on the screen you can lock into an unintentional auto-fire. Doing this with the shotgun fires out a lightning fast volley of rounds, doubling the animation speed. There’s no pixelated boobs though, due to Apple’s restriction on adult content. Sound effects, such as lifts moving, are missing as you navigate L.A. and the space station, which, when added to the lack of a music score, kills a lot of the atmosphere.
This is a poor port of a brilliant ‘90s FPS. If you’re willing to dedicate your time to fine tuning the control setup to something bearable then you may get a few levels of fun out of this. But when iPhone titles should be easy to pick up and play, this conversion fails on many levels. This is for the die-hard fans only, those that’ll look past any and all faults to spend more time in the rough and ready arms of Mr. Nukem.”