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Take off that ridiculous wizard robe, throw down your sword, and put that plasma rifle away would ya, you�re liable to shoot someone�s eye out!

Why don�t you spend some time in the real world for awhile, in fact, I'd much rather you hang out in the most painful, awkward, and humiliating world of them all�high school!

Bully for You

The �Bully� controversy began the very second it was first announced back in May 2005.

�Rockstar Games� only had to release one simple sentence describing it �you play as a troublesome schoolboy who will learn to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school, Bullworth Academy".

And boy, did all hell break loose!

Let�s face it, �Rockstar� isn�t known for making cute, colorful games filled with cuddly critters. It�s known for its edgy, always controversial games that boil the blood of parents and politicians alike. It is after all the developer of the best-selling action game �Grand Theft Auto�.

Granted it doesn�t take much to get their many critics in a tizzy (in fact I think they enjoy rattling the chains!) and opponents to the company immediately and prematurely went into overdrive. School boards banned the game, it was even being called "Grand Theft Auto in High School" and a "Columbine Simulator".

Peace groups were up in arms (isn�t that a contradiction?) and protested outside of Rockstar's offices. A certain politician called it "another disturbing example of our culture in decline.�

And parents feared that the game would inspire vicious acts of copycat bullying nationwide.

Except - whoops - here's the thing: It turns out the game doesn't glorify bullying at all-the title is actually just a play on the name of the school, Bullworth.

In Bully, you play 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, a tough kid whose parents just dumped him in a decrepit old reform school way out in the countryside.

And it�s the so-called adult role models and authority figures at the Academy that are the real mess!

The English teacher is a drunk, the coach is a creep, and the math teacher is a crook.

Jimmy Hopkins is certainly an unlikely hero; for one thing he isn't a particularly good-looking boy, in fact he looks like the kind of kid who always has scabs on his knuckles and is usually up to no good. Jimmy is essentially a good boy, the truth is that he just wants to be left alone; he's not looking to make waves or control anything. Bully is more about being bullied.

Bullworth Academy is really no different than all of the countless high schools across the country; it is filled with all the usual cliques: you have the preppies with perfect hair and perfect clothes, geeks in thick glasses, greasers hanging out in the school yard and of course, dumb jocks. Each of these groups has their own dress code, hangout spot, and slutty girl thrown in.

So this is the sad, lonely, daily environment in which you must defend yourself. In fact, Bullworth's motto is Canis Canem Edit, which is Latin for �dog eat dog�.

You get the picture?

Saved by the Bell

Don't forget to go to class. Bully is a game about school, after all, and Bullworth offers the finest courses in English, art, chemistry, photography, gym, and shop around.

With only two classes a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, I think you can fit it into your schedule. You can ditch, of course (lord knows I did in real life), but attending class gives Jimmy new abilities, and the minigames that make up the classes are just plain fun.

English jumbles up some letters and you must make words out of them and chemistry is played like a rhythm game. I really liked that was an important but entertaining element of gameplay- you are in school 24 hours a day, might as well make the most of it.

You know I think I would rather set my hair on fire than go back to high school, but Bully actually makes school fun and exciting. In real life I failed shop class, but I know if it had earned me a sweet new BMX bike like Jimmy gets for acing �Shop Class 4� would have tried harder.

One of the biggest "crimes" is staying out after curfew, or wandering around when you should to be in class. Even then, all that happens is that the prefects (students acting as campus protection- glorified hall monitors if you will) will hunt you down, you will get busted and then you are put in detention, where you get to play word and puzzle minigames.

Boys will be Boys

Sure there's the occasional scuffle here and there between you and your fellow classmates, but it's pretty mild. There's no blood in Bully, and the hi-jinks are kept to a minimum and are pretty low-key.

Your weapons for example include minor stuff like slingshots, stink bombs and bags of marbles that when thrown at your enemies� feet will create a truly hilarious slapstick moment, let me tell ya�! Heck, the only thing dangerous at Bullworth Academy is the food in the cafeteria! The lunch menu featuring things like �curiously crusty clam croquets� or �spicy tongue sandwiches� are truly �food for the few and the brave�.

And one thing I think you should know before going in, if you punch a girl, you're in big trouble, my friend, big!

�Rockstar� made a point to say that �exploration is the primary goal� and there are punishments for fighting. One interesting way to end a fight is simply by apologizing. Ahh, now this doesn�t sound like such a bad game now does it?

After all you don�t hear any of the characters in �Super Smash Bros. Melee� saying their sorry after hitting each other upside the head!

The more I played, the more I began to realize that Bully is in fact very similar to Rockstar�s �Grand Theft Auto�. Sure, there aren't any AK-47�s lying around in the hallways of the school.

That would just be incredibly inappropriate given the events at Columbine and Virginia Tech, as well as being just incredibly stupid on the game developer�s part!

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The gameplay, the look, the way the story is told, will all be very familiar to players. Like most RPG�s, you can go exploring anywhere you like; you can try out tons of minigames and eavesdrop on the weird and utterly bizarre conversations of passersby. Such as, "Have you ever tried to start a rumor about yourself?" one girl in the hallway asked another. "The sores aren't contagious once they've scabbed over!" another one insisted. Nice!

Bully is different in that it is much smaller than GTA. You're not going around an entire state like you were in San Andreas, and you aren�t going around trying to find new and brutal ways to kill or maim your opponents either. In Bully, there is no human death; Like I stated before but can�t be stressed too much there isn't any blood (red, green gray or otherwise), and you don't carjack vehicles or fly airplanes either.

Now let's get to the real issue... so were all these protests and general hubbub really warranted or necessary? And more importantly was the game even that exciting enough to deserve that much press to begin with? The answer is �NO!� Bully isn't any more inappropriate than episodes of�Dawson�s Creek� or �The Hills.

That having been said, Rockstar did manage to throw in one or two controversial scenes to spice things up just a little bit. You�ve probably all heard by now but for those who haven�t, there is a boy that you can chat up, kiss and make-out with� if that's your sort of thing. While some people might be offended by this, personally, I'm not.

It's a just a normal fifteen year old experimenting with a friend, not an all-out-sodomy-orge-gayfest. (Good God, where did that come from?)

So as you can see, Bully really isn't all that violent, lewd, crude or offensive at all. It's about how one boy rises from outcast status to become "the cool kid" by doing good deeds throughout the game.

Bully is fun and will keep you busy with a number of addictive and fun minigames. The real trick however is getting to them! To be perfectly honest with you the first few hours of playing Bully, I didn't particularly care for it.

The first chapter is a long tutorial, and Bully at first glance is a bore but please don�t give up on the game because of its slow start, things will start to pick up. Jimmy, like any student, is bound to a clock. He wakes up at 8 am, and has to skedaddle from the boys' dorm over to the class hall by 9 am for class. At first, it takes time to how to read the campus map, earn where the classrooms are, what floor they're on, In fact, there were a few times in which I got Jimmy busted for truancy due to the fact that I couldn�t find it in time. I am guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor!

Jimmy can do anything a typical teenager would be doing in his spare time -bicycle racing, skateboarding, picking up girls - these are all things our young entrepreneur can do. Jimmy can even take jobs to earn extra money (to buy food and clothes) and work at the local burger joint, run errands for classmates and businesses, mow lawns in the neighborhood, and even take a paper route. There are plenty of other things that young Mr. Hopkins can do, but I won�t give them all away, discovering them on your own is after all, all part of the fun.

I am a notorious skipper of cut-scenes and I�ll admit that I X�d my way through a lot of them especially in the beginning, but I wouldn�t advise you to do that because it took away some of the magic of the overall story for me. Ah well, I have no one to blame but myself. What really makes this game shine, in my opinion, are the characters and their stories being told here.

Jimmy is simply a convincing main character and someone that many people teens and adults can relate to. We've all either been Jimmy or known someone like him. He's the kid who beat someone up not just for the hell of it but for picking on his friend.

Rockstar did a great job with the graphics and sound here. The music is catchy and fits in very well with the look and feel of the entire game. Each group had their own unique background music; the Prefects will chase you to a certain beat while the nerds have a song of their own. The graphics are also top-notch, particularly for a PS2 game. Given all that�s going on, I was pleasantly surprised that there were no glitches or any lag with the graphics whatsoever. One complaint I have though is that the loading times are just too long. Even though there aren�t many of them, when they do happen expect to be sitting there for a full 20-30 seconds.

Class dismissed

In the end, I am surprised by just how much controversy there was behind Bully, since it's so tame and frankly many of the complaints against its storyline seem downright ludicrous after playing it. You won't be disappointed. Just remember to keep your nose clean, kid.

Get Bully Here

Graphics B+
Sound B-
Pickup & Play B-
Overall Fun B-

Posted by oxyjen on Jul 16, 2007


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