The Conker series returns this year with Young Conker, but fans might not recognize the squirrel. The new adventure, which will be packaged with the Microsoft HoloLens developer's kit, takes place in the player's living room. The character runs across floors, tables, and walls to collect coins and fight enemies. And he looks like a Hanna Barbara villain recovering from a cocaine bender.
It feels strange, with augmented reality still new, to invite characters into our living rooms, but Conker's lovable design makes him a charming enough house guest in theory. But Young Conker doesn't feature the original Conker. It stars this.
Let's compare the two:
In 2002, Microsoft acquired Rare, a British game developer that had made a name for itself with a number of games, including the Donkey Kong Country series, Goldeneye 007, and Conker, a lovable squirrel mascot. Conker had defied the odds, surviving the rise and fall of the gaming mascot trend of the '90s, and seemed primed to be an arrow in Microsoft's quiver post-purchase. That never quite came to be.
Microsoft's mismanagement of Rare through the '00s has been well documented, but in recent years, the publisher has made an effort to refocus its efforts on the games people loved around the time of the acquisition. Rare's fighting game Killer Instinct returned as a downloadable title, and has been supplemented with new characters, including one from Rare's notoriously difficult arcade game, Battletoads. And last fall, Microsoft released Rare Replay for Xbox One, featuring thirty games from the studio's 32 years of existence.
Microsoft has stumbled, however, with Conker. Last year, the company announced DLC for the user-generated game Project Spark, originally planning to charge $5 for the Conker content, but later backpedaled. Within months, the Project Spark team announced their would be no future Conker content for the game.
Of course Young Conker, like the HoloLens, may be a work in progress. The HoloLens development kit costs $3,000, and requires a formal application to Microsoft. It will be a long time before most people give this game a try.Maybe Young Conker was never meant for common consumption. Or, there's obviously the possibility the game is fun. It could be a killer app.
Could you learn to love this face?