If there was ever a more inappropriately named game, then I’d love to see it. Bully was released way back in 2006, a year when I was still in school and being a lanky ginger kid – Hell yeah I got bullied! I mean it didn’t bother me a thing at all… I still don’t cry… Anyway when Bully, or Canis Canem Edit as we in the PAL region called it, released, I couldn’t wait to turn the tables and be a bit of a bully myself! Though that’s where the inappropriate name comes in. Wee Jimmy Hopkins isn’t actually much of a bully. In fact he’s an anti-bullying hero looking to help and provide for all the cliques in what is the most messed up school in America!
Starting early Jimmy is dropped of at the gates of Bullworth Academy by his mum and the rich old man currently throwing his mum the bone hammer – Instantly acquainted with the various stereotype gangs of the school, Jimmy decides it’s his mission in life to control the students, but in a bizarrely caring way…? Maybe…? It’s hard to pin down if Jimmy is just a power mad lunatic or a genuine hero, but I guess that’s the point!
Being made by gods of the open world genre, Rockstar, Bully follows the usual formula of missions in an open world, just missing certain tropes like driveable cars and hookers (Real shame that) ;instead Jimmy replaces the grown up activities with lessons and bike rides! The lessons are oddly one of the more interesting parts of the game, with each class being a mini game that rewards the player with neat little upgrades and tools to make Jimmy’s anti establishment agenda all the more easy to accomplish, like spud guns, stink bombs and even new, faster bikes! This might be one of those things shoved in to try and make being a good student seem cool, but you know what? That’s works!
So what about actually being a bully? Yeah there’s some of that. As you run about the school you can make Jimmy preform the classic bulling routines – Want to give a nerd a wedgie? Go for it. Want to dunk some dude’s head in a toilet? You’re free too. Want to sexually harass girls by grabbing their bums? Erm… Yeah, I mean, I guess..? Just expect to be relentlessly hounded by the faculty who will not give up. If you keep up this’ll kind of behaviour then there’s a good chance you’ll be shoved into detention which is basically little Jimmy being put to work for 2 minutes completely breaking the game’s pacing in some menial chore like meticulously mowing grass until not a single blade is overgrown. Well done Rockstar for making me actually regret my actions after my spree of wedgies.
If you want to defend yourself then Jim is quite the hand to hand fighter with a slew of moves he either learns from wrestling classes or from the random tramp who lives on the school grounds… Don’t ask. Though I found on my recent replay that most fights can be cheesed nice and easily by pulling out the slingshot and just backing away and shooting. It really takes the edge out of the combat and feels like the kind of thing that would have been fixed in an update if the game was released a few years later on a later gen console.
While this was a great game for it’s time, the years haven’t been kind to Bully with the slow key frame animations making characters look like damaged puppets, and like I mentioned before, a sea of exploits and broken game mechanics lead you to find new ways out of problems the developers meant for you to only solve one way. Even with the updated Scholarship Edition, the gameplay was left the same and only added new classes and some different clothing options.
Basically Bully is one of those games that, while fun, it should probably just stay in your memories as gaming advancements have left it in the dust, and it isn’t quite old enough to have that “old school” charm that its predecessor, GTA: San Andreas, gets to enjoy.
If you want a cheeky blast from the past, then pick it up from wherever you choose to download games – Just don’t be expecting the lens of nostalgia to keep you from seeing the wrinkles of time!