To The Bitter End

Conker's Bad Fur Day

Pour One Out

Famous for its drunken, scatological humor, Conker’s Bad Fur Day takes a sobering turn in its final moments

By Jason Reich • February 18, 2013

Games are often left unfinished. Sometimes they’re too difficult, too vast, or too repetitive to see all the way through to the closing credits. To The Bitter End is The Gameological Society’s look at those endings that are worth fighting for—or at least worth reading about.

All I knew was that Leisure Suit Larry was “the sex game.” The goal of the game was to have sex. You friggin’ got points for it! This was a game my barely pubescent self had to play. In a time before porn-on-demand, Leisure Suit Larry felt somehow forbidden, the computer nerd’s equivalent of a Playboy under the mattress. Sure, the sex was 8-bit, but in my day, we used our imaginations.

I felt a similar twinge when I heard about the 2001 Nintendo 64 game Conker’s Bad Fur Day. It was a game for adults. It was gonna be dirty. The beer-swilling squirrel and chesty rabbit on the box were just a hint of the unspeakable filth that would spill from your console while you played. But Conker’s Bad Fur Day turned out to be a surprisingly well-made game. It didn’t skimp on the lowbrow blue humor—one of the early bosses is a literal shit monster that Conker defeats using a barrage of toilet paper rolls—but both its wit and its puzzles were clever enough to exceed my expectations. Who knew?

Bad Fur Day kicks off with a glimpse of Conker the squirrel sitting on a throne, king of his realm—a vision of what’s to come. Then we flashback to one day earlier, and the story begins in earnest with a closeup on the tight, aerobicizing buttocks that belong to Conker’s girlfriend, Berri. Wrapped up in her workout, Berri misses a message from Conker, who’s calling from the bar to let her know he’s running late (i.e., totally wasted). Stumbling drunk in the rain, Conker passes out and wakes up lost, nursing a hangover. Unbeknown to him, Conker has wandered into the realm of the evil Panther King. And as it happens, the Panther King’s table has a broken leg and it’s decided that the best possible replacement is a red squirrel with the exact proportions of a certain fuzzy four-legged alcoholic.

Conker's Bad Fur Day

So Conker needs to find his way home while also avoiding the clutches of the furniture-impaired Panther King. In road-movie fashion, the journey is less a straight line than a series of sidetracks. You perform elaborate favors for citizens in need—favors that include urinating on fiery demons to extinguish them, helping a depressed bee “pollinate” a sexy sunflower, and feeding corn kernels to the aforementioned fecal monster.

Yep, this is the level of discourse we’re talking about. The game’s comedy consistently aims just below the lowest common denominator. In fact, for a game marketed on its wild humor, Bad Fur Day’s gags don’t hold up as well as the rest of the work. Pretty much everything here is standard gross-out comedy fare, tending toward the scatological, misogynistic, and profane. The game’s broad parodies of The Matrix and World War II movies have been done better elsewhere, and its supporting cast is crammed with stereotypes that play as ridiculous at best and offensive at worst.

So when Conker reunites with Berri in the final act, only to watch her get gunned down minutes later, you wait for the punchline. But there is no punchline. She’s dead, Jack. Before Conker can even react to his girlfriend’s murder, the final boss reveals his true form (an Alien ripoff), and the climactic showdown begins. Then the game freezes.

This kind of fourth-wall-breaking mischief is nothing new. There are shades of Duck Amuck, the 1953 Looney Tunes classic in which Daffy Duck is repeatedly humiliated at the hands of an unseen animator. But the shift from the game’s relentless poopy/peenie humor to a more sophisticated style of comedy is unexpected. Conker bargains with an omnipotent “software engineer” and agrees to keep the game’s disastrous glitch under wraps in exchange for some help. Our engineer friend whips up some badass weapons, Conker dispatches the big boss with a katana to the jugular, and normalcy is restored. Time to call it a day. And that’s when things get really depressing.

It seems all the baddies that Conker encountered on his travels weren’t too fond of the Panther King either, and they’re all rather grateful to him for getting rid of the guy. As they swarm our poor hero, bowing and scraping, Conker is struck by a cruel truth: Berri. She’s still dead. He forgot to bring her back to life, and now the software engineer has split, presumably to spare himself the soul-crushing misery of the game’s ending. Conker is pronounced king. He protests, but his former enemies hoist him onto the vacant throne anyway, plopping a crown on his head and praising His Newly Appointed Majesty.

And this is where we came in. Not with Conker triumphantly ruling over a vast and wealthy kingdom, but with a reluctant everysquirrel mourning a dead lover and suffering a court of sycophants when he just wants go home. His haunting final voiceover is played totally straight, a somber meditation on loss and futility. A brief coda, in which Conker drowns his sorrows in a bottle of single-malt scotch, does nothing to lighten the mood. In its waning moments, Conker’s Bad Fur Day goes from a silly PG-13 gagfest to an existentialist nightmare worthy of a poop-smeared Sartre.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day was originally planned as a family title called Conker’s Quest, but Rare, the game’s developer, got spooked by its own reputation for making cutesy games and revamped the project. I don’t know if the bleak conclusion was a deliberate way to make the game more adult or if the writers simply weren’t sure how to neatly wrap up a story that’s essentially 10 hours of fart jokes. Either way, they delivered a gut punch.

Rumor has it the original ending had Conker blowing his brains out in the bar restroom, but if that’s true, I’m glad it was scrapped. Bearing the weight of the human condition, living with regret, accepting loss, facing one’s own powerlessness—these themes are rarely addressed in games of that era, much less ones featuring an opera-singing mound of human excrement. In Conker’s Bad Fur Day, life is pain, and that’s the biggest joke of all.

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  • Enkidum

    Sounds like a game worth playing, but there’s a few million of those I haven’t touched yet, I guess.

    BTW there’s at least half a sentence missing in the third paragraph.

  • rvb1023

    I will admit I have never played the single player for Conker, but the MP (For the N64 one at least) was so hilarious that I love this game by default.

    • http://twitter.com/Luc451 Luc Tremblay

      Yes. I was just reminiscing with a friend about how great the MP in that game was. To this day, I think it’s still the best multiplayer experience I’ve ever had.

  • WaxTom

    I.

    AM.

    THE GREAT MIGHTY POO

    • Cloks

      And I’m gonna throw my s@#! at you!

      • WaxTom

        Your butt?

        MY BUTT!

        Your butt?

        THAT’S RIGHT MY BUTT! MY BUTT! MY BUUUUUUUUUUTT!

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    …Poop-smeared Sartre.

     

    Feces-flecked Kierkegaard

    Night soil-soaked Nietzsche

    Effluvia-doused Dostoyevsky

    Caca-Coated Kafka

    Number Two-spackled Camus

    • doyourealize

      Dung-dolloped Descartes

      • HobbesMkii

        Plop-plastered Plato

        Scat-soiled Socrates

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Turd-Tossed de Tocqueville

          Shit-Stained Smith

          Diarrhea-Dampened De Morgan

          Ass-Goo-Absorbed Aristotle

          Egesta-Enrobed Emerson

          Anal-Leakage-Applied Anaximander

          Runs-Rinsed Rawls

           

        • feisto

           Fecally-Focalized Foucault.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/mattman-begins,89632 Mattman Begins

          Doodoo-drenched Derrida

          Manure-matted Marcuse

        • Captain Internet

          Shittgenstein.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Merde-caked McLuhan
          Poopy Proust
          Butt-blasted Bakhtin
          Slavoj Pee-žekMartin Poo-ber
          Diarrhea-rrida
          Marx’s Das Crapital

        • Effigy_Power

          Caca Covered Cicero

          Human Waste Heaped Hume

          Eagerly Ensmeared Euripides

          Leavings Loaded Leibnitz

          Foundation Filled Furier

          Flatulence Foaming Ferguson

          Augustine of Hip-Poo

          Philo Wrapped Excrement

          Rusty Red Rousseau

          Socraptes

          Xenophonian on the Bristol Stool Chart

          Painfully Passed Wittgenstein

          Norman O. Brown (A pun in itself)

        • George_Liquor

          Flattus Freud?

        • Asinus

          This thread has made me believe I missed out on something important wtih this game. I’d better find the ROM. 

        • doyourealize

          “Anal leakage”?! There’s a line, @Merve2:disqus !

    • Captain Internet

      Not to put a damper on things, but are you sure he meant Sartre-as-Philosopher rather than Sartre-as-Novelist? You might be smearing the wrong people.
      Sartre-as-Philosopher didn’t really go in for existentialist nightmares, but I suppose the story does read like an existential tragedy about a man squirrel perpetually acting in ‘bad faith’- unwilling to acknowledge his agency in the world. Even when given the chance by the glitch to do or become anything he wants, he simply continues what he was doing before, either unaware or afraid of how he he can change himself and the world around him. Too late he realises his mistake, but even as he sees the agency within him he relegates it to a magical thing, something that can only be granted by others.

      Then, cruelly, he is made King- surely the job that brings with it the most possibility for freedom- but all he sees is other people telling him what to do, and gladly accepts it as just another label. He has another role to perform, and like Sartre’s waiter, that is what he does. And so he ends the game as he begins- getting drunk in order to escape the anguish, abandonment and despair that all men squirrels must face if they are to behave with authenticity.You know, but with fart jokes and giant shit monsters. 

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        “Not to put a damper on things, but…”

        Spoken like a true Existentialist.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Disqus

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

      “Caca-Coated Kafka”

      lol

  • Cloks

    I played quite a bit of this at a friend’s house when it came out and I think this game might have been my first exposure to “adult” humor. I wish I had something brilliant and interesting to say about it but all I can think of is just how funny I found the singing piece of poop. What really set the game apart from others when I revisited it was how well it held up compared to other adult games – at its core is a great platformer and an interesting story that’s made much more remarkable by how dirty it was while being on a Nintendo console but what ultimately matters to me is that when I played it a few years ago I still found the poo funny.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      I think that if this game came out for any system other than the N64, the Great Poo wouldn’t be funny.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    So Conker’s is basically Evangelion with fart jokes?

    If so, i’m down with that!

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

      what are you!? STUPID!? *farts*

  • Citric

    As a side note, I distinctly remember getting my mom to help me with the “age verifying” quiz in Leisure Suit Larry.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       I remember pouring through the World Almanac we got with Carmen Sandiago looking for the answers.  It didn’t always work, but it often did and between those two games I gained quite a love for that quaint and curious volume of trivial lore.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        My copy of Carmen Sandiego didn’t come with an almanac, so I had to resort to an actual atlas to find everything. Stupid game, making me learn!

  • doyourealize

    I don’t know if this is just me trying to spin what, in my head, was one of the best games I’ve ever played, but I have different memories. Not exactly of what happened, but of what it was. It could have been just that I was younger and only wanted singing poop and pissing squirrels in my games in order to call it good, but I remember the whole scatology thing being more of an extra to what was indeed an epic game. Surprisingly epic. You seem to recall the turning point coming at the end of the game when Berri dies, but I recall a slow, almost imperceptible shift in tone from fart jokes to epic, and I don’t know when it happens. The beginning of the game, which has you jumping on a sunflower’s boobs (I don’t remember the scientific term, stigmas maybe, but they were boobs) and rolling up balls of shit, differs so much in tone from even the Matrix and Saving Private Ryan scenes that come closer to the end. I guess I just remember the end being a surprise, but an earned surprise.

    You kind of present this game as a conglomeration of things that have been over-done, but still done pretty well. I recall a clever, new experience. That could be my ignorance at the time, but I’m not going to play again to find out.

    • craigward

      I barely remember what the humor was like.  this article makes it sound awful.

      mostly I remember throwing controllers out of anger.  this is probably the hardest game I’ve ever played.

      • Crusty Old Dean

        the controls in the xbox remake were for shit, not sure if that was a faithful rendition of the original…

      • craigward

        no, conker was an n64 game.

    • http://pseudonymjones.com/ Pseudonym Jones

      There is absolutely a shift in tone! At one point, Conker blacks out and the game switches from day to night. During the daytime Conker is running around, smacking sentient wedges of cheese with a frying pan — after dark he gets attacked by zombies and goes to war! You can tell things are going to get real after dark because it’s (what seems like) the first time in the whole game that some variant of the relentlessly-cheerful Windy Theme isn’t playing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        Definitely this. When night comes, the game gets noticeably harder. A goofy/profane fetch quest transforms into a complex and tricky straightfoward gaming experience. The bleak ending is certainly a surprise, but it’s not just there – when you beat the War/Saving Private Ryan level, they do a “War is Hell” dialogue scene that’s played so straight it’s hard to tell if it’s a parody or not.

        That being said, I’m… hit or miss on Conker. It’s a solid game, but its legacy doesn’t really hold up – it’s not like we got a ton of darker 3D platformers afterwards, or smarter/cleverer satires of said platformers. This was really a kind of one-in-a-million game that came and went. Like, you’re not tracing any other game’s influence to Conker, which is somewhat unfortunate.

        Doesn’t surprise me that a game with a bleak ending comes from a British company. That’s like, Europe’s thing.

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          “Mom, Dad!  It’s evil!  Don’t touch it!”

        • http://pseudonymjones.com/ Pseudonym Jones

          There have been some platformers with fits of bleakness — Psychonauts and the Jak & Daxter series spring readily to mind. I couldn’t say they were influenced by Conker though they did use a lot of the same tricks (the way they use music-layering to underscore tonal shifts, for example).

    • http://gameological.com/author/jasonreich/ Jason Reich

      The WWII stuff and the oddly sober “war is hell” dialogue definitely hint at what’s to come, though I don’t recall it being as subtle a shift as all that. It felt more to me like a strange interlude, sandwiched between a level in which Conker becomes a bat and poops on people’s heads, and the Matrix parody level which is also pretty goofy. If anything, the later chapters trade the game’s fart jokes for more intense violence, but even then I seem to remember most of the carnage is played for laughs. The game’s darker moments are still couched in parody, profanity and cartoonishness, whereas once you trigger the ending, there’s not a single joke or wink in there straight through to the credits. I think it’s that complete shedding of comedy that’s so surprising.

  • http://thechatcast.com/ Malice Pure

    Pity this Rare is dead.

    • ApesMa

       
      Apparently people kept quitting at an alarming rate due to a very high workload and crazy hours. There were ex-Rare employees all over the place, and Nintendo weren’t comfortable working closely and sharing information with a company like that. By the time they sold them there were already few people left from the days of DKC, Goldeneye, etc.

      Was this the last great Rare game? I hear they couldn’t even get the Xbox remake right.

      • http://thechatcast.com/ Malice Pure

        It was completely censored and just barely updated.

        • ApesMa

          Why even bother to remake this game if you’re going to censor it? I heard they also ruined the multiplayer.

          • http://thechatcast.com/ Malice Pure

            Ask Microsoft that.

        • http://twitter.com/wykstrad Doug Wykstra

          What do you mean, “just barely updated?”  It was one of the best-looking games on the original Xbox.  Not much new material, but I don’t generally buy remakes for their new material.

          As for the bleeping, I think that was following the South Park principle of cursing generally being funnier when it’s bleeped.  Your mileage may vary on that one, but I didn’t have a problem with it.

          • http://thechatcast.com/ Malice Pure

            Other than updated graphics and bad multiplayer options, what changed?

        • ApesMa

          “Cursing generally being funnier when it’s bleeped” is bullshit. South Park is uncensored on their website because that’s the best way to watch the show. It’s bleeped on the air because Comedy Central demands it. Bleeps are and always will be really annoying, especially to us Europeans who aren’t used to that weak shit.

          If bleeping really is so funny to some people they could have left in an option for bleeping instead of forcing everyone to play a sanitized version of an N64 game.

    • Tyler Mills

      My childhood coincided with what I consider to be the Golden Age of Rare, which lastest from the SNES to the N64 era (Screw Battletoads, and beat-um-ups in general.)

      They were my favorite game company for a long time, what with being the creators of the DKC seires (even including the horribly problematic DKC 64), Banjo-Kazooie series, Diddy Kong Racing, Jet Force Gemeni, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Then they made Starfox Adventures, which I never had the heart to finish, and that game marked the end of the age for me. Now we get the likes of Perfect Dark Zero, Ghoulies, Banjo Nuts and Bots, Kameo, Viva Pinata, and the biggest offender of all: Kinect Sports. Not horrible games, but there is a certain soul that is missing. I haven’t played all of them, but the ones I have played did not compel me to finish them. 

      I’ll readily admit that my history may be stained pink from nostalgia, but I don’t think that just one more lost Golden Age will hurt the world anymore. So let’s have a brief moment of silence for the company that was and never will be again.

      • http://thechatcast.com/ Malice Pure

        I gotta say Nintendo is super savvy. They let go of Silicon Knights and Rare and both of them ended up sucking afterward. I’m guessing Nintendo saw the writing on the wall.

        • JohnnyLongtorso

          From what I’ve heard about how dysfunctional Silicon Knights was, the only reason they produced any good games was because Nintendo put them on a short leash. There was an article going around a few months ago about how screwed up it is (mostly because of the dictatorial Denis Dyack). This looks like it.

  • dmikester

    Yup, this ending was terrific and sobering, and a lot of the buildup to it, especially the Saving Private Ryan level, is a gaming highlight for me.  The juxtaposition of the early gross-out humor, such as the constant puking from Conker that he more or less thinks is cool, to the same actions presented later in a much more serious context, such as the soldier puking his guts out over the side of the boat before he’s gunned down, still stands out to me as one of the more masterful thematic evolutions I’ve seen in a game.  It was also just a lot of fun, with some very good platforming and a lot of variety in its levels.  Definitely one of my favorite games of the N64 era.

  • caspiancomic

    Something about the successfully navigated tonal shift from childish adventure story to sobering meditation on pain and loss makes me think that maybe Cerebus the Aardvark would make a decent game. If you could divorce it from the running subtext/text/narratively purposeless diatribes about how women are parasites, I mean.

    • valondar

      Isn’t that the whole point? I’ve never heard of Cerberus except in the context of Dave Sim’s really weird and pretentious rants (his interview on the AV Club from like two thousand years ago is a thing of wonderment: http://www.avclub.com/articles/dave-sim,13861/).

      He frankly reminds me of John Norman. Loves long winded answers, thinks very highly of the philosophical underpinnings of his opus that’s set in some childish genre, and perhaps just some light sprinkling of misogyny. (For bonus points here’s a Norman interview, although he clearly beats Sims for rambly-ness so one is duly warned: http://io9.com/5783833/john-norman-the-philosopher-who-created-the-barbaric-world-of-gor).

      ALL THAT SAID, I’ve seen games that manage to have an odd balance between colourful adventuring design and gameplay to rather darker and more ambiguous character work… which is just another way of saying I played Bastion. I know there have been many games that have attempted tonal shifts, or have used cutesy graphics and traditionally child friendly game genres to do something more serious, but having not played most of them I have no idea how effective they are.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Holy shit, that Aardvark dude is an asshole. They conducted that interview over fax? In 2004? Also “my seminal anti-feminist writings” and comparing himself to Tolstoy.

    • Cloks

      What if they made a visual novel out of Church and State? I feel like it would be hard to make a game out of the good parts of Cerberus while conveying the wit that makes it so great. Double Fine might have a chance at doing that if they went the Psychonauts route but I can’t see verbose characters like Lord Julius making the transition very well.

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    I never played this game, but I do remember this comic, made when the game was still the insanely saccharine Conker’s Quest, which turned out to be eerily prescient.

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

      holy shit is Penny Arcade old

  • http://twitter.com/iamdylanavery Dylan Avery

    This game was both the N64 and Rare’s swan song.

  • duwease

    I almost always finish games, and it’s not until just now I realized that I never finished this one.  I remember being at the Matrix level, which according to Gamefaqs was about 10 minutes from the freaking end.  I 100%’ed Donkey Kong 64 for chrissakes, what strange thing happened to make me miss out on this amazing ending??  Alien abduction??

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    man, I remember when this game first came out in 2001 it almost friggin’ frightened me, I mean this was still pre-GTA3 and I could just not believe they made a game like this, it boggled my mind

    yeah, I was naive and still a kid for the most part, however I still knew M rated games existed but what blew me away so much was that it was an M rated spoof of specifically kid’s games 

    needless to say I did not get to play it at the time, but I did get to play the 2005 Xbox remake, which while the humor was no longer as shocking it was still a well made game and the graphics were great for the era, the whole thing was pretty much a farewell for the platformer genre in general (it actually came out right after Psychonauts) save for the occasional Mario game, after this the genre died (banjo nuts and bolts could have potentially brought it back, but it was not really a platformer, they dropped the ball on that one) 

    so yeah, this game was pretty damn ballsy for 2001 and while part me thinks it’s a shame a Conker 2 never materialized, if the humor was already pretty stale by 2005 it would be COMPLETELY hackneyed and irrelevant today, I mean what would be the point in spoofing kid’s games when kid’s games in general don’t really exist anymore outside of shovelware shit or Lego games (and again, not counting Nintendo)

    so perhaps it’s for the best