CONKER'S BAD FUR DAY / Rare / Nintendo 64
                                                   We're in Wildling territory!
Nintendo had draconian censorship policies in place on all of their platforms in the 8-bit and 16-bit era. The first major sign of their easing up was allowing blood to be toggled on (with a hidden code) in Mortal Kombat II; market pressures would cause them to quietly walk this stance back even more throughout the life of the N64. Released in 2001 near the end of the N64's life, Conker represents the point at which Nintendo completely threw up their hands and said "OK, basically if it isn't outright porn and you censor out the f-bombs, we'll let you publish it on our hardware."

The adventures of the foul-mouthed public-urinating squirrel were basically the ultimate spectacle pitched at tween boys. At least in the U.S. release, all cussing up to the F-bomb is uncensored, and it's employed quite liberally. There's also gallons of piss, shit and blood ... oh, and don't forget the farts of course. Somehow the humor actually manages to land in a way that most scatological stuff doesn't, however ... I can't quite put my finger on exactly why but it's some combination of the polished presentation, colorful "kids cartoon gone wrong" setting and the charmingly inept voice acting that's on the level of the extras in Dolemite.

Whatever the case, Conker doesn't lose points for poop jokes. And it certainly doesn't lose points for the visuals, which rival Majora's Mask for the title of best-looking game on the N64. Nor is the soundtrack the problem; a seemingly insane amount of money was spent on polishing this oddball concept. No, the problem is a lot more elemental; there's too much sloppy platforming, unclear and arbitrary goals, and battling to attempt to get the camera into some sort of useful position while making series of jumps that can kill you with a small mistake.

Unlike Rare's other hub-world collect-a-thon platformers, Conker pretty much shuttles you from one elaborate set-piece level to another. It's almost a combination of adventure game and platformer, as dream logic is sometimes needed to intuit how to solve these scenarios, and the vibe is like a more South Park-y version of a Ron Gilbert / Tim Schafer adventure or the Legend of Kyrandia series. There's far too many of these segments that are just pure pain to play, however.

Generally speaking, the platforming is always a little on the tough side as gauging depth for jumps is for some reason much tougher here than it is in most other similar platformers. That, and the amount of areas where the camera stiffens up for some reason and simply won't let you look around adequately to see where the hell you're supposed to be headed. Certain specific segments fail on other counts, though -- specifically anything that involves switching to FPS controls, extended underwater swimming or having to drive a tank.

Fans forgive all this on the strength of the visuals, the music, the oddball environment and humor, the multiplayer (which offers eight different games and is actually roundly pretty decent), and even the odd and dark turn for the philosophical the game takes in its later reaches. And those are all considerable qualities, but lost on you to varying degrees if you aren't going to be playing multiplayer and just don't have the patience to throw yourself at yet another shitty, frustrating platforming segment that should have been plotted out a lot better.
Links :
Meditation on Conker's themes (ending spoilers)
Videos :