Ageing can be a painful process - particularly for those who were once venerated for their youthful energy.

Just ask any number of sports stars, actors, or musicians who find themselves on the scrap heap after an initially promising career.

Sadly, such a process also tends to befall our video game heroes. While some 'do a Mario' and age gracefully, others 'do a Sonic' and lose it completely.

Unfortunately, Duke Nukem is closer to the former than the latter, as Duke Nukem II on iOS goes to show.

I am back

In his pomp, Duke was cool, hip, and just a little bit naughty. Prior to his mid-'90s zenith, Duke Nukem 3D, the blond meathead starred in two well received action-platformers. It's the second of these games that sits before us on our iOS devices right now.

Duke Nukem II sees Duke running and gunning through numerous alien environments in a bid to get back to Earth.

While Duke has become known for the crass, OTT action in his games, here you'll find yourself spending as much time jumping around and exploring some relatively large levels as you will blasting guards, robots, and creatures.

Usually, this is a simple case of finding a key at one end of the level in order to open a door at the other end of the level.

Shake it, baby

Unfortunately, this exploration involves a fair amount of jumping, and Duke Nukem II's sub-standard controls don't make this easy.

There's a spongy virtual controls stick for movement and a virtual button for shooting, but to jump you have to touch elsewhere on the screen. This may work okay on iPhone, but on iPad it's too much of a stretch to reach over the 'shoot' button.

There's also the deeper issue of Duke Nukem II's prosaic, unforgiving early-'90s platformer gameplay feeling even harsher on non-native hardware. Even custom-made platformers can feel fiddly on iOS, so one that was made for super-responsive joysticks can be even more frustrating and imprecise.

Then you have the game's poor camera control. You'll often find yourself wanting to lower or raise the camera (using up or down) to see what's coming, as the game often sends you up and down slopes while not allowing you to shoot diagonally.

Not only is this exacerbated by a restrictive view (you're effectively playing in a small box-out shaped like a CRT screen), but it's also not helped by the fact that the view, once adjusted, doesn't flip back as you'd want it to.

Suck it down

Despite Duke Nukem II's fiddly controls, basic level design, and some frankly ugly 2D graphics, I still found myself warming to the game as I forced myself to play on.

There are some lovely touches here that make you wonder why more subsequent action-platformers haven't picked up on them. For example, the game subtly dissuades you from simply running through the levels hammering away at the 'shoot' button by making power-ups destroyable.

Hit a life-giving soda can with a stray bullet and it'll rocket away from you. In the same way, there are tough slime monsters that can be unwittingly freed from their glass prisons if you're too gung ho.

Indeed, the overall destructibility and interactivity on show really brings the levels to life, and leaves the game feeling surprisingly fresh in patches.

Overall, though, we doubt that Duke would have the timeless qualities to meet today's exacting standards even if he was in fighting fit condition. That this conversion also has to contend with niggling control ailments and a couple of unsightly cosmetic operations leaves us thinking he might have been better off staying in retirement.

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