Founded in 2010, Interceptor Entertainment began working on a project called Duke Nukem Next-Gen, a modernized remake of the original Duke Nukem 3D of legend. Company founder Frederik Schreiber “shopped” screenshots and an alpha build on Gearbox Software’s forums, garnering the gaming industry’s attention. Schreiber then began to make supplications to Gearbox, seeking an official (read: LEGAL) blessing for the project. Thus began Schreiber’s trip into licensing hell, for it became unclear as to who precisely had the legal authority to grant Schreiber permission to use the Duke Nukem IP; Gearbox, 3D Realms (by association, Apogee Software), and Take-Two Interactive would all become involved to some degree before Schreiber was given a green light for his project, even if said light shone through an opaque filter.
Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded was officially announced in the fall. Its development under that moniker was short-lived, for a year later in 2011, Gearbox shut down the project. Though I cannot reproduce the links, I believe the information in Interceptor Entertainment’s Wikipedia: Gearbox feared that another Duke Nukem game would negatively impact the already underperforming Duke Nukem Forever, as Reloaded was for all intents and purposes, shaping up to become a better game. Thus, it was shut down.
For those keeping score, all of this took place before Gearbox’s Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle.
A hot mess.
This would be a minor setback for Schreiber. If Interceptor Entertainment could not use the Duke Nukem IP, the developer would create its own. Thus, Bombshell was born, starring Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison. However, mistakes were made, beginning with the 2014 announcement trailer which was lambasted. Apparently, the 90’s called and wanted its edgelord back but only got the voicemail.
Bombshell would release in 2016, and its reception did not improve. It—and I am sure that Schreiber gets tired of hearing this just like John Romero gets tired of hearing about Daikatana—bombed. To keep the grievances brief, the game lacked some serious quality control. That is unfortunate, because while powered by the Unreal 3 engine, the game looks great.
If the third time is a charm, then 3D Realms’ patience has been commendable. Reviving Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, Ion Maiden is a prequel to Bombshell, developed by Voidpoint in tandem with Schriber’s Slipgate Studios, the new version of Interceptor Entertainment. Released as an Early Access game in 2018, it already has nearly eight times the number of reviews on Steam than Bombshell. As I recently discovered from Dave Oshry—producer of DUSK and co-developer of Rise of The Triad, a game developed by Interceptor Entertainment in 2013 (behold, how this emergent renaissance of 90’s-style retro games development is all coming together!)—that games purchased during the Early Access phase is critical for developers and publishers to determine user interest. Well, interest is so intense for Ion Maiden that 1C Entertainment is already aboard for porting the game to consoles.
From what I have played thus far, the anticipation is warranted. The current build of Ion Maiden can be completed in under an hour, but it is every bit as fun as its inspiration. Coded within a modern version of the Build engine famous for games like Shadow Warrior, Blood, and Redneck Rampage, Ion Maiden is a nostalgic narcotic.
Even though Shelly Harrison might have said, “Cleanup on aisle ‘your @$$'” eight times in an hour, I never became tired of playing as a character who talks trash after blowing a group of enemies into the equivalent of red mashed potatoes. I also could not believe how forgiving I am of 2D sprites such as dead enemy bodies that “move” to face me so that they never betray their two-dimensionality. While I have seen my fair share of revolvers between Shadow Warrior, its sequel, and Red Dead Redemption 2, I cannot think of another game aimed at guys like me who would not mind using a weapon called “Loverboy.” Bombshell’s (the person) “bread and butter” is a shotgun called the disperser, though it looks like a grenade launcher. The sub-machine gun reminds me of a paintball gun, but is far more deadly (plus, the pre-release art shows they can be wielded akimbo). “Bowling Bombs” are Bombshell’s signature weapon, and they can be “cooked” like a grenade, and rolled like a pipebomb; the death skull painted on the front makes me giggle with glee when the gibs begin to rain.
The speed of the game, the textures, the map activated with the TAB key—the foundations are all in place. Even Ion Maiden’s box art channels my personal favorite version of Doom on PSX (youngers, treat yourselves to the best rendition of the theme song). I look forward to encountering the next enemy to kill just to see its death animation. This game is forreal. Again, the current build is only an hour long, but with a ton of secrets. I am hoping that the weapons, enemies, and number of stages are numerous in the final build, which our GUG team at PAX South will be playing the weekend of January 19.