The Duke Nukem games are a decadent slice of retro gaming history, but as awesome as Duke himself is, players have often wondered what a female heroine with Duke's no-nonsense attitude and snarky one-liners might look like. It may have taken quite some time, but it finally happened -- kind of. Close enough, anyway. Ion Maiden is essentially the '90s throwback first-person shooter that may have resulted if Duke had been a woman. Imagine the kind of chaos those two could cause together. Imagine there being a female Duke in general. Well, you don't have to imagine. Looks like that's already been done for us, ladies. Now we've got Duke in two different flavors, which is pretty big news.
Ion Maiden is the result of taking Duke's charm, ludicrous gibs, and sass and blending them with both modern and classic shooter elements. Ion Maiden was built on the very same engine that powered Duke Nukem 3D back in the glory days of PC gaming, as well as other games like Shadow Warrior and Blood. Riding high on the nostalgia wave of classic shooter reboots and those that tend to capitalize on how zany and wacky and absolutely amazing these types of games were, Ion Maiden takes familiar tropes and adds a feminine touch. Voidpoint is at the helm this time around, and the developer has created something very special here. The Build Engine has never looked better, with crisp graphics, excellent level layouts, and even a thing or two borrowed from modern shooters.
Ion Maiden finds tough-talking protagonist Shelly ripping through scores of enemies in landscapes like derelict office buildings with tight corridors to outside areas, spouting clever one-liners and cocky taunts as she goes. "I've got a present for ya," she purrs, in between blasting enemies back to where they came from. It's an attitude that's missing in too many shooters, since we don't tend to get many (if any at all) when it comes to FPS protagonists.
Shelly represents something new and exciting while simultaneously deliciously retro. We've got plenty of callbacks to the olden days of gaming on the rise, but hardly any women to front them, so this is a call to arms, as it were, for more awesome women like her. If you were put off by Duke (he can be an acquired taste), you might find the hero you're looking for in his analog Shelly, whose snide remarks will still be right up your alley. Plus, enemies basically don't stand a chance against her.
Shelly isn't a new character, though. She originally appeared in Bombshell, and Ion Maiden acts as a prequel to that original story. Interceptor Entertainment developed Bombshell, published by 3D Realms, in 2016. It starred Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison, a no-nonsense bomb disposal specialist turned mercenary-for-hire after losing her arm in a dangerous mission for the Global Defense Force. After obtaining a new mechanical arm, she was back in the saddle for more chaos.
Instead of a shooter, Bombshell is actually an isometric ARPG with twin-stick shooter elements, which means you might not be as interested if you were into Ion Maiden for its throwback mechanics. But nevertheless, there's a lot more to explore in this new world, and even though Bombshell wasn't exactly a critically acclaimed treasure, Voidpoint's vision of Shelly through the prequel has a lot of potential. It's different from (and not as good as) Ion Maiden, but it was our first taste of the character. Hopefully Ion Maiden isn't our last.