One thing that seems to be missing from most of the games I see advertised these days is humor. Why? Comedy is arguably one of the oldest and most popular aspects of entertainment. Be it the comedies of Aristophanes which have survived hundreds of years or something more recent like the wildly popular musical: The Book of Mormon, it just goes to show that humans like to laugh. While I realize that what people find funny is something that is certainly subjective, I can’t help feeling that as a whole humor seems undervalued by video game developers. Sure I’ve chuckled here and there at finding different Easter Eggs like the computer screen in Halo 2‘s map Zanzibar and I’ve chortled at the utter lunacy that permeates Sander Cohen in Bioshock, but it has been awhile since a game has really had me in stitches the way that Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the N64 used to. Maybe this is because I was immature then, and that I’m immature now, but to me there’s something inherently funny about a drunken squirrel getting into shenanigans on his way back to his girlfriend.
If you’re not familiar with this game, it comes with a caveat, it was arguably the most offensive game to come out for the N64. However, that being said, it has also been called the best-looking game that came out for the console. As aforementioned the game follows Conker, an adorable red squirrel, as he attempts to get home to his girlfriend after a night of heavy drinking. Throughout the game Conker is distracted by wads of cash with eyes and often rude quips directed at the player as he seeks them out. Some of his other escapades include throwing toilet paper at a living and singing pile of excrement, fighting nazi-esque teddy bears, and performing feats of matrix worthy agility in a heist which funnily enough parodies The Matrix. These are just some of the many comical and usually obscene situations this squirrel finds himself in, not to mention the cleverly and lewd dialogue sequences.
However this game didn’t receive the highest praises almost universally simply because it was the kind of borderline obscene toilet humor that I personally find hysterical. But because it is overall an impressive game. Aesthetically it is incredible, from the facial expressions to the exaggerated ultra-violence to the rich sound quality. The sound of chopping off a teddy bear’s head with a katana is at a level unprecedented thus far by video games. The game’s story is compelling, and despite being a platformer, it stays away from the typical pit-falls the make some platformers drag. There aren’t useless items to collect, and throughout the levels are action buttons decorated with a giant letter “B” which give Conker temporarily and usually comical abilities. Another great part of this game is the multiplayer, which includes six different modes. You can race, you can capture the flag, you can kill teddy bears, you can steal things, and several other sequences adapted from single player mode to play with friends or even bots.
To me, Conker’s Bad Fur Day demonstrates the wild potential that humor has in videogames. It also conveys the idea that even though the content is far from serious, its developers still took producing the best overall product very seriously. This game doesn’t just go for cheap laughs. The product is well constructed, extremely polished, and most importantly incorporates humor in a way that cannot be ignored or detached.