Review: Conker's Bad Fur Day (N64)

One mean %&*@% Squirrel…

Once upon a time, there was a cute little squirrel that captivated the hearts of children in his debut game for the Game Boy Colour. This red-tailed critter was known as Conker: Conker The Squirrel. No one knows the full extent of what happened to this cute woodland creature in his transition to the N64; he had a metamorphosis in personality, which turned him into a rude, sarcastic, irresponsible and very adult-themed chap – the polar opposite of his previous persona. Offensive, crude, vulgar, and downright hilarious: may we present to you, Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

Imagine, if you will, a cute and vibrant world straight from something you’d see on children’s TV channels. Then put the following into this world: a deviant squirrel, mafia weasels, a panther with an affinity for duct tape, an evil scientist, a sunflower with breasts, a cog who bats for the other team, a singing poo, a drunk scarecrow, evil teddy bears, a bourgeois big-bollocked boiler, an exceptionally horny bee, and a pint-sized grim reaper with an attitude; throw in a load of bad language, an hysterical plot and a frying pan, and you’ve got yourself a Bad Fur Day.

The story of Bad Fur Day is pretty… interesting to say the least. After a heavy night of drinking, Conker wakes up to find himself in a field; unaware of his surroundings, our ‘hero’ walks about in a drunken stupor until he encounters Birdy, the drunk scarecrow, who shows him how to use the game’s context sensitive buttons – buttons that, as Mr Scarecrow will duly inform you, are sensitive to the context of Conker’s present situation. So, for example, when Conker needs to get rid of his hangover he just has to find a context sensitive pad, and from this he can get a tonic to rid himself of the morning-after-the-night-before effects. These context sensitive actions include literally anything: flamethrowers to toast bats, anvils that pound things into the ground, throwing knives that will rescue a suicidal pitchfork, loo roll to clog the mightiest of all poos, hypnotic watches for use on dinosaurs, you name it!

Unfortunately, while Conker is learning the marvels of context sensitivity, the malevolent Panther King is plotting his downfall. You see, the big pussycat has spilt his milk – his table leg broke, causing his cup of milk to fall to the floor – and this does not bode well for our little red squirrel. The legitimate question to ask here is "why on Earth does a broken table leg have anything to do with Conker?" The answer is simple: the only object capable of propping up the table is a squirrel – a red squirrel at that! The Panther King’s mad professor – an evil genius who lives in fear of the Panther King and his duct tape – came to this conclusion after extensive studies with elephants and pot plants. Blissfully unaware of this, Conker is only determined to get home for some shut-eye… that, and pick up some cash en route.

Money motivates Conker more than anything else: he has aspirations of owning a gold card, jet packs, and a few butlers. In his Bad Fur Day, one quest for cash leads to another, and before he knows it, Conker is well and truly tangled in a dangerous plotline. There are countless perils waiting around each corner for him, so it comes in handy that our foul-mouthed protagonist is a squirrel because, according to Gregg the hilarious squeaky-voiced grim reaper, squirrels are entitled to have as many lives as they think they can get away with. Conker learns this the first time he dies in the game and encounters Gregg – for once there is a reason why characters come back to life after dying!

Conker’s thirst for cash takes him on a truly hysterical adventure: after his meeting with Birdy, the squirrel dislodges a grumpy gargoyle from a bridge, kills some scouser dung beetles, obliterates a Terminator-esque pile of hay, steals from a few catfish, urinates on some fire imps, hatches a dinosaur, takes money from a nightclub, destroys a prehistoric civilisation, gets turned into a vampire, fights in a war, and, well, the list goes on and on. The diverse nature of the story is fantastic, and the constant adult humour interjected is truly magnificent. There are also several parodies of films such as The Godfather, Matrix, and Saving Private Ryan; each one pulled off with extreme hilarity.

It’s not just the content that is fantastic, either; the visuals and depth of level design are top-notch: music throughout the game fits the tone perfectly (non more so than the gaseous sounds produced in the dung mountain); and topping off the experience is a set of easy controls that work well. The beauty of Bad Fur Day’s controls lie within their simplicity; you use the analogue stick to move, A to jump, B to attack enemies with your frying pan (Conker’s weapon of choice), Z to crouch, the C buttons to manipulate the camera, and everything else is achieved through context sensitivity. You see, while in many other games you would have a whole manner of items to micromanage, Conker’s outing sees all need for these replaced by the context sensitive pads – pure genius!

Coming out in the era of Goldeneye (another of Rare’s creations), Conker’s Bad Fur Day also included a multiplayer mode that was tragically overlooked. Granted, it was not as stylish or as enjoyable as its distant 00-cousin, but it was still a great blast with the mates (especially capture the flag: Teddiz vs Squirrels). What it lacked was that sustainability we saw with Goldeneye: after a while it started to lose appeal, and it meant that this mode could have been removed from main game without decreasing its overall quality – maybe more a testament to how sublime the single player mode is than the multiplayer’s shortcomings.

Conclusion

Conker’s Bad Fur Day came right at the end of Rare’s golden era at Nintendo; exceptionally well-written, incredibly crude and a pioneer of potty humour, the UK outfit’s last N64 effort was a true gem. The controls are fluid, the levels well-designed and it sits at a decent length of 8-10 hours. Full of moments that will stick out in your mind – none more so than the sing-along song with the Great Mighty Poo – this is a timeless classic that is well worth getting hold of.

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