Evercade Game Spotlight: Duke Nukem – Land of the Babes (Duke Nukem Collection 2)
We’re rounding off our exploration of the Duke Nukem games available for Evercade with Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes, the second of two 32-bit home console titles found on Duke Nukem Collection 2!
Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes was first released in North America in 2000, with a PAL region release following in 2001. It’s the follow-up to Duke Nukem: Time to Kill and, like that game, was developed by n-Space.
Like Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes went through a couple of title revisions prior to landing on its eventual nomenclature, though this time around the process was a little simpler: initially, it was known as Duke Nukem: Planet of the Babes. This was presumably intended to be a reference to the classic movie Planet of the Apes, since the extended letters used in the original logo resemble those of the movie’s poster, and the early part of the game features ape-like enemies led by an ape-pigcop hybrid known as Silverback.
The exact reason for the name change isn’t documented, so we can only conjecture what it might be. Perhaps n-Space wanted to avoid any copyright issues, since Duke Nukem as a franchise already dances pretty close to the lawyer-infested sun with our hero’s various one-liners, many of which are direct quotes from classic movies. Perhaps it was felt that because the entire game doesn’t focus on the ape-like enemies, a “broader” title was required. Or perhaps someone simply felt “Land of the Babes” sounded better than “Planet of the Babes”.
Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes runs on a similar engine to that found in Duke Nukem: Time to Kill — which, in turn, was inspired by Core Design’s classic 32-bit platformer Tomb Raider. As with its predecessor and its inspiration, Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes features levels that, while fully three-dimensional, are clearly built from cubic blocks, as you can see from the design document for one of the game’s levels reprinted below. When coupled with the deliberately “stiff” controls, this makes it straightforward to understand Duke’s capabilities, such as the distance and height he is able to jump.
One of the most noteworthy gameplay changes found in Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes comes in the form of its health system. Rather than a traditional health rating, as seen in previous Duke Nukem games, Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes introduces the concept of Duke’s ego protecting him from harm. As he is hurt, his ego declines, but as he defeats enemies and acquires various items of Duke merchandise, it increases again. While this doesn’t negate the need for health pickups altogether, it does provide a fun risk-reward mechanic whereby if Duke is at risk of dying, he can potentially recover with a well-handled firefight.
This was actually a key marketing point back when the game was originally released; the press release announcing the game in February of 2000 describes it as a “new and very innovative Duke survival system that replaces the typical health system found in all other shooters”. In some respects, it can be seen as a precursor to the “regenerating health” mechanic found in a lot of today’s first- and third-person shooters — and indeed, the “ego” mechanic was used in the controversial Duke Nukem Forever when it finally landed.
It’s quite interesting looking back at reviews of Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes from today’s perspective, particularly when it comes to commentary on Duke’s overall attitude. While Duke Nukem 3D was specifically praised for Duke’s kick-ass, foul-mouthed, exaggeratedly macho attitude, which felt like something of a breath of fresh air in the mid-’90s, by 2000 some reviewers were starting to find it a little stale.
Steven Garrett’s review for Gamespot in October of 2000, for example, noted that “the politically correct world that cartoon characters like Duke and Dennis Leary were created to rebel against no longer seems to exist, making Duke’s jokes come off like humour from another country, or at least another time.” David Smith of IGN, meanwhile, noted that “Duke’s attitude has aged like the old Brie cheese that’s been in my fridge for a couple of months now.”
These days, of course, I’m sure we all have our own opinions on the subject, but most of us should be able to look back on Duke as a relic of his time — and also appreciate the fact that these games were never intended to be taken super-seriously in the first place, anyway. There’s definitely a certain camp appeal to Duke’s brazen ’80s action hero machismo if you recognise it as what it is — parody — and nowhere is this more apparent than in Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes.
In gameplay terms, Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes features a total of 14 levels for you to battle your way through, each with their own series of objectives to complete. And in true Duke tradition, each stage has a number of secrets for you to discover, too. Some of these are hiding in plain sight, just waiting for you to figure out how to reach them; others require you to blow away damaged chunks of wall or explore out-of-the-way sections of level.
If you’re struggling to make it through this challenging game, the official walkthrough is actually still online; it’ll tell you how to make it through each level, along with where all the secrets are. The skills required to actually take down Duke’s foes are up to you, however; practice makes perfect!
Duke Nukem Collection 2 is available now for Evercade. Find out more on the official cartridge page.
With over 260 games available