Bully

Review

posted 11/9/2006 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PS2

As I started Bully I wondered if 30 classes were going to be enough for the entire game, when you're going through two a day it seems like you would bust through them long before the story ended. Come to find out 30 classes was really the right amount for this game; I finished my final class test just before doing the final missions. As cool as the six classes are, though, I found myself disappointed that other subjects were avoided. Where's Math? Or what about band class? Certainly Bullworth Academy teaches some sort of History course, right? These are all staples of a well-rounded school curriculum, yet none of these subjects are available in this game. 

 While it's easy to compare Bully's game play to that of Grand Theft Auto, the tone and maturity level could not be more different. This is not the type of game where you kill gangers, run down pedestrians and deliver drugs. This is not Grand Theft Auto in a school or a "Columbine Simulator," like some parents groups (and a certain Florida lawyer) would like you to believe. This is a rather innocent story about a tough kid who fights to the top, while also falling in love, attending class and figuring out a way to bring the jocks and nerds together. Although there is fighting, it's nowhere near the level of Grand Theft Auto and its clones. The violence in Bully isn't extreme at all, there's no blood and nobody gets killed. It's no worse than a lot of movies and TV shows based around teenagers (it is rated T for Teen, after all).
 
What sets Bully apart from the rest of the crowd is all of the crazy stuff you get to do. Jimmy is about more than just beating up bullies and going to class, you also have to perform a whole bunch of school-centric activities, many of which prove to be both humorous and satisfying. In one mission you'll be egging your least favorite teacher's house, while in the next mission you have to steal the school's mascot costume without the jocks realizing it. And the missions don't take a break during holidays, on Halloween Jimmy gets to dress up as a skeleton and pull a whole lot of spooky pranks on both the students and faculty of Bullworth Academy.
 
It's the fact that these missions are so engaging that makes Bully so much fun. This is much more than just another Grand Theft Auto-style game with a different setting and paintjob, the differences run much deeper than that. It's this high school setting that allows Rockstar Vancouver the opportunity to try out things they would never have been able to do in another game. And best of all, the missions don't have the repetition you are used to in this kind of game; there's always something new and interesting to do next. Sometimes that means you have to steal panties in the girl's dorm, sometimes it means you'll be keeping the bottles of alcohol away from your teacher, and sometimes that means that you will be climbing to the very highest point in the city of Bullworth and writing your own message with spray paint. There are still a few missions that will remind you of other Rockstar Games titles, but most of the stuff you get to do in Bully is fresh and original.
 
Speaking of things that are fresh and original, the entire cast of Bully makes the whole game worth playing through. All of the various cliques have their own unique personalities, all of which are the epitome of stereotypes. The jocks, for example, are big and tough, but don't expect them to solve any puzzles or do anything that involves using their brains. The nerds, on the other hand, are as smart as they can be, but you can take one of them down in a single punch. Thankfully there's more to Bully than just stereotypical cliques, there are also a bunch of teachers that are worth paying attention to. While most of the adults are cruel and evil (much more so than the students), there are a few teachers that really stand out. I especially love hanging out with the alcoholic English teacher, who just happens to be dating the art teacher. All of these characters (and countless others) keep Bully's story moving in interesting directions, they go a long way to giving the game personality.
 
Along with more than fifty different missions, Bully also features a number of interesting mini-games to waste your time with. Like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row before it, Bully offers you a chance to take part in a bunch of exciting bike races. There is also a soccer mini game, dodge ball, and several different addictive arcade machines found around town. Some of the mini-games actually resemble classic video games from the 1980s, such as the boxing mini-game that plays exactly like Mike Tyson's Punch Out and the paper route which feels a lot like Paperboy (complete with dogs chasing you and cars pulling out at all the wrong times). With so much to do in Bullworth it's easy to completely forget about the essentials, like going to class and helping out your fellow students.
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