The best parts of Genkibowl VII involve offhand violence moonlighting as a game show moonlighting as The Club. Genki Apocalypse, which bears little difference to the good Professor’s original Super Ethical Reality Climax, gets things off to a soaring start. A mascot is mauled by a shark. Another is shot in the head. Another still is taken as a bullet shield and then, peppered with lead, catapulted forty feet into the shrubbery where he’s inexplicably and savagely groped by yet another shark. Wee!
It’s cool. Super Ethical Reality Climax was cool. It harked back to The Club and The Club was super-underrated. And cool.
But you’ve played Apocalypse Genki 5 or 6 times over in the core game and the same applies to the other activities that riff on old diversions and come together to form what is, at a most generous, 30 minutes of game for roughly £6. Gulp.
Super Ethical PR Opportunity apes the Escort missions that involved chaperoning a prostitute and a celebrity around Steelport while avoiding gadfly journalists. Here, you taxi Genki himself while overzealous Genki-groupies pilot their cars headfirst into yours. Fail to flee quickly enough and Genki grows irate. Mowing down civilians, which in Genki’s car prompts them to erupt into a shower of maroon detritus, or setting them alite with the car’s in-built flamethrowers soothes the fine professor. Fill this bar for victory and spoils. Sound familiar? It is.
Less familiar is Sexy Kitten Yarngasm, although it follows in the wake of the wonderful Tank Mayhem activity, which put players in a tank and told them: do exactly what you were planning to do. What followed was 3 minutes of unbridled pandaemonium. The goal of Yarngasm is similar, the only contrast is you’re at the helm of a giant ball of yarn. The ball controls just fine but gets snagged on the most menial slab of clutter if it’s not travelling at high-speed. It also doesn’t spew explosives.
Somewhat ironically, Yarngasm takes something brilliant and sexy (a tank), removes what was brilliant and sexy about it (the tank), and replaces it with something unsexy (a big ball).
Rounding out the quadruplet of activities is Sad Panda Skyblazing available only after you’ve polished off two whole rounds of the previous activities. I think Sad Panda Skyblazing is supposed to be a reward, a kind of thanks for paying £6 chumps, here’s something a bit fresh. Thing is, it’s also rubbish.
You leap from a helicopter and glide through a chain of flaming hoops. Thanks to your panda suit, you don’t thwack face-first into the road 100 meters below but it’d almost certainly be a less painful fate than guiding one of the animal kingdom’s most placid giants through the sky. Periodically you’ll land on a rooftop, whip out a chainsaw and hack a troop of dancing mascots into itty-bitty pieces of corporate offal. This part is kind of fun, but you don’t need to be on a rooftop and under the giant clenched fist of a cruel time limit to hack a mascot in two. Chainsaw assisted eviscerations come a dime a dozen in Steelport.
Even victory is dull. Completing an activity nets you the wonted hamper of respect, money and on occasion a couple of allies, but chances are none of that’s going to be of any use. Finish Saints Row: The Third and you’re a ribald fusion of James Bond and Julias Caesar during the good years. The only thing worth having is bigger guns and faster cars. A new weapon would have made a whistle-stop rampage around the city worth taking, but no doubt those bundles of glee are being reserved for a £4-a-pop pack down the line.
Ultimately, there’s nothing in Genkibowl VII that makes hanging out in Steelport worthwhile for those who’ve seen it all. The Ballad of Gay Tony reinvented GTAIV, masking Liberty City behind a new face – the face of chaos. Steelport doesn’t lack eccentricity and lawlessness, but that’s rote now and there’s plenty of room to incorporate something offbeat to enliven the place. Saints Row: The Third finally broke free from those GTA-clone chains, it’s a disservice to itself that any comparison is being made between the two games. But it’s fair.
“Murder, mayhem, fun”, the commentators boast as you’re notching cock-shots and smacking mascots about the head in Apocalypse Genki. Sure, but only for twenty minutes, and there’s a mean cap on that fun. Saints Row: The Third deserves better.