Conker's Bad Fur Day Review

For Nintendo 64

Rating: Good
   Nearly four years after being unveiled at the 1997 E3 show as a painfully
cute action/platform game, Conker's Bad Fur Day has gone through multiple 
re-designs and emerged as a gory, foul-mouthed parody of painfully-cute 
action/platform games.  There's enough foul language, toilet humor, and 
sexual innuendo here to impress the creators of South Park, and most of it 
is genuinely funny.
   Some people consider themselves too "mature" (or holier-than-thou) to be 
amused by such admittedly low-brow subject matter, but that doesn't make it 
any less enjoyable for the rest of us.  The story line has been specifically 
crafted to make fun of the stories in most action/platform games.  In this 
case, an evil king wants to use a red squirrel's body as a table leg in 
order to prevent his milk from spilling.  It doesn't make much sense, and 
it's not supposed to... after all, does it make sense that Princess Toadstool
has been kidnapped over a dozen times?
   A large portion of the humor consists of the game making fun of itself.  
For example, when ominous Terminator-style music begins to play right before
a boss battle, Conker says, "I don't like the sound of that music..." and 
when Conker is faced with the task of bouncing on the breasts of a well-
endowed sunflower to reach an item, he says, "Now this is what I call a 
platform game!"  The one and only word that is ever bleeped out is the f-
word, and come to think of it, the impact of the game would have been even 
greater if the f-word went uncensored.
   After a few memorable sequences, you'll more than likely find yourself 
hooked on the game and unable to stop playing because you want to know what 
outlandish event is going to take place next.  A feeling of attachment is 
created by the lovable cast of characters, including a drug-addled scarecrow,
a melodramatic pitch-fork, and a horny bumble bee.
   If you're like me and you would rather play through every Army Men game 
ever released before you would collect another damn banana or puzzle piece 
in an action game, you will find Conker's Bad Fur Day to be a breath of fresh
air in a stale genre.  For the first time in Rare's life, the company has 
delivered a 3D action game that doesn't require hours of tedious item 
collecting.  
   In another nice touch, Conker has a seemingly limitless supply of items 
in his pants.  So, for example, if you're surrounded by fecal matter and you
need a gas mask to breath, you don't have to worry about going on a long and 
arduous quest to get a damn gas mask; Conker will simply pull one out of his
pants and put it on.  This isn't the most logical set-up, but convenience is
far more important than logic in an action/platform game.
   Every single word of dialogue in the game is spoken with surprisingly 
well-done voice acting, which is both a technological and creative 
achievement.  It's a creative break-through to have this much believable, 
well-acted voice acting in a video game of any kind, with characters who 
sound exactly as they should.  It's a technological break-through simply to 
fit this much voice data on the horribly outdated and limited cartridge 
storage format.
   The multi-player modes in this game are eerily reminiscent of Rare's big 
engine that couldn't, Jet Force Gemini.  Simplistic to a fault and hampered 
by awkward, third-person shooting action, the multi-player modes actually 
detract from the overall package of the game more than they add to it.  The 
"Beach" scenario is vaguely entertaining for a while, but the rest of the 
scenarios (particularly "Tank") only serve to bring back unpleasant memories 
of games from the past.
   Rare has succeeded in its attempt to make Conker's Bad Fur Day non-linear,
but this comes at the expense of the rest of the game.  Too much time is 
spent wandering aimlessly around the large game world because it hasn't been
made clear where you need to go and what you need to do.  On most occasions,
it takes more time to figure out what you need to do than it does to actually
do it.
   You'll eventually stumble across something that you previously missed and
then you'll go off on the next plot branch, but it would be nice if wandering
aimlessly wasn't a required element of completing the game.  As inventive and
unique as the gameplay tasks are, they do get a repetitive at times.  Also, 
while the control is smooth for the most part, it can also be troublesome at
times (such as when you have to ride a bull, and also during a few jumping 
sequences).
   Rare could just as easily produced a game starring a cast of painfully 
cute characters who must collect hundreds of nuts and twigs.  Instead, they 
made a game that is both edgy and funny, something that can't be said of most
games that come out of the Nintendo corporate family.  A lack of focus, 
direction, and decent multi-player modes are the only things that keep 
Conker's Bad Fur Day from being a must-have game.

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2001, ivan@mastergamer.com