RetroGrade Review #10: Conker’s Bad Fur Day (Nintendo 64 — 2001)

To start this off, I need to just put this out there:

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is not a good game.

Mechanically speaking, at least. Conker-the-character is far-too-fragile for a game where lives are limited, various gameplay elements are not user-friendly, and the camera is deplorable. With that said — Conker’s Bad Fur Day does not need to be a “good” game to be a memorable one. If someone comes up on the street and says, “Hey, do you remember that great platformer on the Nintendo 64?” You would have to ask which one. But if a different total stranger comes up to you and asks, “Hey, do you remember that game on the Nintendo 64 with the sunflower that had the giant knockers?” Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

This is a game that thrives on humor, ridiculousness, and “what-the-ever-loving-f@#&” moments over gameplay. If you’re playing on the Nintendo 64, the opening menu is preceded by the title-hero Conker chain-sawing the console’s logo down the middle as it squeals in panic. If you are playing via Rare Replay on the Xbox One, the hapless cubical “N” is spared and the game menu follows a staggering Conker’s entrance into a bar, which features another prominent Rareware character’s head hung on the wall as a trophy. The game moves forward with such moments as a super-close-up on Conker’s girlfriend’s polygonal private-parts, a giant pile of opera-singing manure that uses the T-word more times in three minutes than I have heard in my life, and a particularly morally-bankrupt moment involving a baby dinosaur. Reactions range radically throughout this game, from side-splitting laughter to sideways glances at the television screen to thinking, “Oh, I don’t feel good about that,” but the sheer Adult Swim-ness of it all made me unable to stop playing. I had to see what would come next.

Unfortunately for Conker, other aspects of the game were more than enough to make me stop playing. The first was Conker-the-character’s obscene fragility. Fall distances that in different 3D platformers would hardly warrant a single health-point lost will result in Conker dying in a splatter of blood and guts. Obstacles such as blades and crushers will kill Conker instantly, which makes sense from a realism standpoint but honestly, Rareware, this is a game about a foul-mouthed squirrel who starts off just trying to make it home after a night out at the pub and somehow ends up becoming king. At what point are we expected to suspend disbelief?

Another infuriating gameplay-element is Conker’s only attack animation – swinging a never-explained-why-he-has-it frying pan – which causes him to stop in his tracks, take the frying pan out from thin-air, raise it, and then swing. Not always a deal-breaker, but when the game tasks you with catching fast-moving targets, be prepared to throw your controller across the room (or into the couch cushion, if you’re conscious of your living environment or don’t want to break a limited-edition Halo 5: Guardians Xbox One controller) after you spend an hour running around the same circle trying to catch the same enemy.

The final element that can make this game unplayable is the horrendous camera, which becomes even more heinous during the moments where Conker is drunk (which, I get it, he’s drunk and not seeing straight but seriously, Rareware – disbelief: when do we suspend it?). Which brings us to final-gripe dos-point-O: Conker’s drunk times. Inebriated-Conker is funny at the start of the game. He’s kind of funny again when you have to urinate on fire-demons to put them out. He is absolutely not funny when you have failed for the umpteenth-millionth time to push a rock-man down a corridor with your pee-stream (because it’s near-impossible to aim with drunk-Conker-camera) only to have him turn around and kill you.

Which brings us to the end. Here we are, ladies and gentlemen. The first game that I would not recommend playing. Copies of Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64 cost an arm and a leg (which I’m sure Conker would happily remove for you via chain-saw). If you have Rare Replay on the Xbox One, you might get some fun out of playing and it will help you get your money’s worth for the bundle. Otherwise, you would be better-suited to watch a flawless play-through on Youtube.

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