Another couple of weeks, another addition to Rare Revisits! Forgive the inappropriate timing, given that we are nearing the beginning of Summer, but the urge to discuss the following location has become too palpable. That being said, I would like to justify my actions by prefacing that I did just recently re-watch the original Evil Dead trilogy. So, without further adieu, let’s get started!
Of all of the memorable sequences in 2001’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day, there are none more atmospheric than that initial nighttime chapter. Beginning at the docks of a fast-flowing river, “Spooky” finds the alcoholic rodent in search of a mansion — a mansion that, according to Gregg the Grim Reaper, belongs to an undead ancestor of Conker’s.
Simply reaching this ascendant’s not-so-humble abode is a challenge in and of itself, however, as Conker must battle his way through a zombie-infested graveyard. Despite their somewhat silly appearance, the guttural moans and hisses of these abominations are genuinely terrifying. The deliberate audio cues that are activated upon being attacked are also extremely effective. More often than not, video games that attempt to juggle a variety of genres tend to spread themselves too thin, thus failing to achieve in any one area. Given the episodic nature of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, however, the game simultaneously lampoons and takes advantage of each genre that it tackles with aplomb.
That said, the highlight of Spooky is undoubtedly the events that transpire upon entering the haunted mansion itself. After an off-putting greeting from the house’s owner, Count Batula, Conker is offered sustenance in the form of a drumstick and wine. A fine meal for a squirrel of Conker’s stature, no doubt. Not long after this already suspicious gesture of hospitality, though, the count’s true intentions are revealed. A centuries-old vampire, Batula periodically feeds off of the local villagers, who have once again decided to storm his mansion. In an effort to ensure that the intruders are dealt with, he transforms our foul-mouthed anti-hero into a bat.
What follows is arguably one of the most bizarre sequences of an already whacky game, wherein Conker must immobilize the villagers by dropping feces on top of them, pick them up, and drop them into a vicious, spikey grinder. The remains are then sent through an elaborate set of pumps, which are then sent into Count Batula’s maw. After drinking too much blood, however, the vampire is sent plummeting into his own grinder.
While not as “out there” as the segment that proceeded it, the ending of the Spooky chapter does offer the player a chance to explore and admire the mansion in all of its dilapidated glory. Some may find acquiring the three keys of the front door to be a tedious scavenger hunt, but I love navigating through this place’s run-down architecture.
It is also worth noting that Conker: Live and Reloaded’s rendition of this chapter is a more imaginative recreation than any of the other “episodes” in the game. Although all of the environments are masterfully reimagined in this Xbox re-release, I get the strong impression that the developers wanted to go the extra mile with Spooky. From those haunting china dolls that guard the village entrance, to the river of blood that surrounds the docks, to Conker’s Van Helsing-esque attire, to the blunderbuss that serves as his new weapon of choice, this incarnation is easily the superior one.
What are your thoughts on Spooky, though? Do you think that it provided a legitimately effective horror experience? Did the moans of the zombie squirrels give you nightmares, too? Do you prefer Live and Reloaded’s version of this chapter over the original’s? Whatever your thoughts are, be sure to share them in the comments below!