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'Conker' Cutesy but Crass; 'Bouncer' Pretty but Passive

March 29, 2001|AARON CURTISS | aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

What woulda, coulda, shoulda been one of the all-time best games for Nintendo 64 instead turns out to be an offensive, annoying piece of juvenile tripe. "Conker's Bad Fur Day" takes a perfectly wonderful action-adventure and piles it high with foul language and toilet humor.

Now before "Bad Fur Day" fans start e-mailing with complaints that I'm some decrepit stuffed-shirt holy roller, let's get a few things straight: I can out-cuss a longshoreman, think Adam Sandler is a comedic genius and appreciate the humorous aspects of bodily sounds. So save it.

My beef with "Bad Fur Day" is that it's just not funny. True, it's a matter of taste. But, frankly, "Bad Fur Day" has none. Its levels ooze with excrement, its female characters are treated either as sex objects or shrews and the hero--a hung-over squirrel named Conker--defeats some of his enemies by urinating on them.

Classy, huh?

The humor in "Bad Fur Day"--which earned a Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board--is inextricably linked to the game itself. Normally, a great game can suffer from bad scripting and flat jokes because players spend so little time listening to dialogue or sitting through cut scenes, those little movie intervals in which you do nothing but sit and watch.

But in "Bad Fur Day," players are forced to endure tedious cut scenes that sound as if they were written by dirty-minded third-graders trying to imitate adult speech. That sensibility so pervades the game that it ultimately drags the experience into a dreary, rainbow-color gutter.

And that's too bad.

Purely from a play perspective, "Bad Fur Day" delivers the goods with action that's subtly complex and graphics that are second to none. The design team--which also produced classics such as "Goldeneye" and "Banjo-Kazooie"--spared no detail in designing game levels and created vibrant worlds full of tough puzzles and relentless enemies.

But all of it gets lost in the mess.

Nintendo gambled big with "Bad Fur Day," which is only the company's second Mature title for N64. And it lost. "Bad Fur Day" was initially designed as the sort of game it appears to be at first glance--a friendly 3-D action-adventure with a cute, furry squirrel as its star. But somewhere along the way, Nintendo--which is known as a family-friendly game company--decided to broaden its appeal with a more adult-oriented title.

The result is a mishmash that jams R-rated gags on top of a G-rated game. Worse, Nintendo allowed one of its existing kid-friendly characters--Conker already has his own adventure on Game Boy Color--to star. What's next? "Mario's Bad Night in Bangkok"?

'The Bouncer'

When you actually get to play "The Bouncer," it can be pretty fun. Simple, but fun. Problem is, opportunities for actual down-and-dirty play are extremely limited because the game spends an inordinate amount of time prancing about and showing off how beautiful it is.

And beautiful it is. Essentially a brainless brawler, "The Bouncer" demonstrates the incredible graphic strength of Sony's PlayStation 2 with visuals crisper and more detailed than any other recent console title. After six months of lackluster games, Sony's hard-to-find 128-bit machine has come into its own with a recent spate of lushly rendered titles.

"The Bouncer" follows three nightclub bouncers as they infiltrate a secret organization to find their kidnapped friend. Players control each bouncer at various stages in the game as they duke their way through rent-a-cops and corporate ninjas. After each face-off, the game awards points, which players use to beef up their bouncers with more strength or special fighting moves.

So what would ordinarily be a simple game of wrestling and punching enjoys a certain aspect of skill as players decide which bouncer to deploy against which enemies. Although some of the control lacks refinement, the action is actually quite tight, and players get their bouncers doing some complex moves relatively quickly.

All of which will surely make players yearn for more. The big weakness of "The Bouncer" is that it spends way too much time running cut scenes. Granted, they're really, really nice to look at--complete with flowing robes and realistic facial expressions. But who buys a video game to sit there and watch it? If that's your bag, rent "Toy Story."

*

Aaron Curtiss is editor of Tech Times.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Skinny

Title: "Conker's Bad Fur Day"

Genre: Action-adventure

Price: $60

Platform: Nintendo 64

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB* rating: Mature

The good: Great visuals, game play

The bad: Awful, raunchy jokes

Bottom line: What a waste

*

Title: "The Bouncer"

Genre: Fighting

Price: $50

Platform: Sony PlayStation 2

Publisher: Squaresoft

ESRB rating: Teen

The good: Beautiful graphics

The bad: More to watch than play

Bottom line: Rent it

* Entertainment Software Ratings Board

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