A wonderfully juvenile adventure that manages to effectively approach the subject of toxic masculinity

I’ve been waiting long and hard for the release of Free Lives Games’ Genital Jousting, so when review copies started rolling out that gave access to the story mode, I found myself practically bursting at the seams to get my hands on it.

I want to begin by prefacing a criticism I have of the main menu, which I initially found myself unable to navigate. This was honestly quite distressing; had I misread the on-screen instructions? They were quite supportive, and as I struggled further to figure out what to do, I began receiving suggestions that I ask a friend or my mum for help.

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I have no friends and my mum lives three hours away from me, so I resorted to contacting the developers using their special support email, iliterallycannotusethemenu@genitaljousting.com. What happened next disturbed me, as it appeared the address did not exist. Did I type it in wrong? Had the address been a ruse? After enough strain and determination, I managed to enter the story mode, but they really do need to patch that or something. Anyway, onto the actual review.

Many of us have already seen footage of the multiplayer; rushing to penetrate another dick’s arse as quickly as possible while avoiding being penetrated yourself, resulting in ridiculous, wobbly cock daisy chains and a healthy dose of hilarity. But the story mode is something different.

You assume the role of a penis named John, trying to get his mediocre and depressing life in shape enough to get a date for his school reunion, all in a narrative style reminiscent of The Stanley Parable and with gameplay not too dissimilar to Goat Simulator. A narrator describes the thoughts, fears, and desires of John, as you flail him about to very poorly complete tasks, like brushing your “teeth” and trying for that promotion at Flesh Corp, a company dedicated to the mass production of vibrators.

Naturally, the narration is rife with genital puns of every flavour, and employs them in such a way that a Stewart Lee effect is experienced; the first few cause a snigger here or a chuckle there, they then dip into becoming slightly tiresome and a little tedious, but after a while lurch back up into pure comedy bliss. But with all its lovable immaturity, Genital Jousting also does a good job of tackling toxic masculinity in a rather nuanced way.

John’s escapades are all dedicated to a singular cause; get a date to take with him to his high school reunion to prove to his former classmates that he isn’t a loser anymore. Much of what John does on this journey have problematic connotations associated with the societal picture of a superior man; buy expensive material goods to make yourself richer, work out because women only want “strong men,” and don’t share your feelings, because that makes you a softie. There’s even some sexual harassment thrown in, as one scene has you roaming bars and clubs to try and find a quick and easy date, to the dismay of those you encounter.

As all of these terrible behaviours and failed endeavours culminate, and John finds himself at his lowest point, he goes on a walk with Sam, his best friend and recurring character throughout the story. John opens up about his feelings, his hopes, and everything that he has done throughout the game. And in doing so, he realises how awful his actions have been. Through spending more time with Sam, he learns to accept his emotions, and to live life unrestricted by the limitations of expected masculine behaviour.

Genital Jousting’s story mode shows us the downfall of a penis plagued by the toxic pressures and expectations that are associated with manhood. It shows the unhealthy and destructive results of these expectations, and how they can detrimentally affect the lives of others. And it offers a number of solutions; to open up, to feel emotions, and to adopt healthy coping mechanisms.

And it does this all through through entertaining physics, erotic physical comedy, silly puns about dicks. That’s quite the impressive feat, and Free Lives Games deserve praise for it.

Steam Link || £5.19 / £6.99 / €6.99