A randy, profane red squirrel who curses his way through the animal kingdom, doing everyone's dirty work, Conker was originally conceived for Nintendo 64 as an answer to the cuddly forest creatures that populate most kid-friendly platform games. Now that N64 has more or less gone to the boneyard, the character has been both repackaged and reconfigured for Conker: Live & Reloaded, a two-for-one deal that offers the original single-player game with souped-up graphics and a new third-person shooter tailored to Xbox Live subscribers. A few of the characters cross over, but otherwise, the two modes have virtually nothing in common, which could be taken as either a generous gaming experience or a completely schizophrenic one.
Of the two, the old platformer Conker's Bad Fur Day remains the most consistently varied and charming. It's a foul-mouthed piece of gallows trash that appeals to the sort of "adults" who still have cracking voices and acne. As Conker, you're mostly assigned to perform nature's shit jobs—often literally—such as leading a cow to cranberry juice so it can fill up a drainage grate with diarrhea (don't ask why) or rolling "pooballs" past dung beetles up a poo mountain pass. Fortunately, the game's irreverent universe offers many genuinely funny and surprising moments, and the road to glory isn't always paved with crap; it continually evolves from standard platform-jumping to a more action-oriented second half.
The mayhem carries over into the bloody new team-based shooter, which outfits Conker and his furry friends with an arsenal of blades, widowmakers, hand grenades, bazookas, flame throwers, and mobile units for war games against varied backdrops. Single players can still compete alongside and against AI "dumbots," but the game was really meant for Xbox Live, where up to 16 people can square off as either the noble SHC (Squirrel High Command) or the diabolical Tediz. It sounds like more fun than the mass chaos it turns out to be: Between a control screen cluttered with more information than a cable news network, and a targeting system designed for the cross-eyed, warfare has never seemed more like a bad Oliver Stone movie.
Beyond the gameplay: In addition to the sterling animation, the dialogue has a cheery raunchiness that's peppered with British pub humor and quirky colloquialisms, usually coming from the mush mouth of a drunken squirrel. Now here's a hero you can get behind.
Worth playing for: There are few things in life more rewarding than getting sloshed and urinating on fire imps, but when Bad Fur Day reaches the raptor-riding and jet-boarding stages, it transcends the bounds of other platform favorites.
Frustration sets in when: While it's refreshing when a game doesn't engage in too much handholding, some sections of Bad Fur Day require such pretzel logic that they could take hours of trial and error to solve without a walkthrough.
Final judgment: There's no denying Conker's astonishing breadth, given that its two modes could be sold separately, but had its creators focused their energies on a new single-player adventure rather than a mediocre shooter, they might have had a platform franchise worth revisiting.