It’s a tale of revenge and terror. The story of two kids who were kicked and beaten down by society until one morning they woke up, went bowling and decided to take a few extra toys to class… WHOOPS, my mistake, that’s Columbine. Hmm I wonder how I could possibly have mistaken Bully for Columbine? I mean, the two are nothing alike.
Bully is the tale of Jimmy Hopkins, your average latchkey kid with a troubled past. Having been expelled from every school he’s ever attended, Bullworth Academy is Jimmy’s last hope. To make matters worse, his rather unconcerned parents have just left for their fifth, year-long, honeymoon – leaving troubled Jimmy as a burden on the school and not on their own decadent lives.
Like The Warriors and GTA before it, Bully continues the Rockstar tradition of incredibly rich sandbox game play. Bullworth Academy is an enormous campus, complete with its own gym, dorm rooms, auto shop, cafeteria and more, but it pales in comparison to the size of the Town of Bullworth.
With countless shops and districts to explore and 100 NPCs, Bullworth is easily one of the most detailed environments Rockstar has ever produced. There’s even a full-blown carnival, complete with games, prizes, as well as a rollercoaster.
Shortly after Jimmy is abandoned at Bullworth he runs into a crafty kid named Gary who has ambitions of global (or at least scholastic) domination. At first, Gary may seem like your friend, but soon you’ll learn just how quickly he will sell you up.
From here on out Gary serves as one of your key enemies, often inciting others characters against you by telling them you said things about their parents and barnyard animals.
Just like real high schools all across the land, the students have divided themselves into different cliques. Just like the rival gangs in The Warriors, every group has their own unique traits and territory.
The Geeks wear green and glasses and hang out in the geekiest of hangouts, the Library. Greaser’s on the other hand prefer something a little more retro and hang out in the auto shop working on cars, wearing leather and combing their hair. Preps hang out in their own private Gym and wear expensive vests with a strong preference for blue.
Finally we have the Jocks, the oldest stereotype in scholastic history. Jocks like to hang out at the school Gym and often don’t have much in the brain department. One jock can’t even pronounce the word ‘President’.
Outside of the cliques we have the Bullies. The Bullies don’t seem to have any particular territory, but do tend to dress in a simple white Bullworth Academy shirt, and will attack you anywhere they can.
In order to succeed at Bullworth you’ll need to learn how to navigate these groups and use them to your advantage. As in GTA, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your respect levels, otherwise you’ll find yourself getting attacked by the group you need to help and kissed by the group you need to beat.
Once Jimmy figures out how life works at Bullworth, it’s time for him to start making a name for himself. While Jimmy is free to be as cruel or as nice as he pleases, he does seem to have a code of honour. Petey, one of the weaker kids, is often defended by Jimmy against Bullies, including the very wicked Gary and at one point Jimmy even convinces Russell, the biggest of the bullies, to stop beating up the innocent kids and start beating the punks who really deserve it.
Jimmy’s moral code itself is actually quite deep, at least for a videogame character. He has no problem with violence, or torturous acts, just so long as it’s being done against the right people. In a way he is a scholastic vigilante, standing up for the little guy, however Jimmy is not without his dark side and often won’t do anything courteous without being bribed.
When the time for combat does arrive, Jimmy is nothing if not prepared. In addition to his basic punch and grab combinations, he can also learn some more advanced skills from Gym class, or from the drunken Korean vet who lives behind the school.
Combat is smooth and very reminiscent of The Warriors, however your weapon selection is much more tame. Instead of knives and guns you’ll be using stink bombs, firecrackers and baseball bats. There’s no blood whatsoever in the game, and while that does make it seem less realistic, given the setting and the current political climate in the U.S., it’s completely necessary.
Outside of fighting, there are lots of other activities for Jimmy to partake in. Like any normal teenage boy, Jimmy will spend a lot of time chasing down girls. Usually a few flowers and some chocolates are enough to win a girls heart, but others will require you take them out on a date and win prizes.
Given that Bully takes place at a school, Jimmy should probably spend some time attending class. Hell, he just might learn a thing or two.
Each class comes in the form of its own unique mini-game, each fitting the respective class. For gym, you’ll be wrestling or dodging balls; for English, unscrambling words and for Art you’ll be making a picture. Completing a class grants you useful new abilities such as new fighting moves or the ability to make your own firecrackers and stink bombs.
While Bully may not be the sexiest game to set foot on the PS2, it is one of the better-looking Rockstar titles. Characters are rich caricatures of their respective stereotypes. On Halloween, Gary even dresses up as a Nazi officer (sans the arm band), which is the prefect fit because his character, much like the Nazi’s, tries to use charisma and power to dominate others.
Despite all that Bully has going for it, there are a few small faults that need to be pointed out, the biggest being the massive amount of backtracking you’re gonna be doing. Many missions require you run from one end of the map to the other and back again, and when you fail to complete the mission again and again and again, it gets taxing.
There are also several glitches in some missions where events won’t trigger properly and you’ll be forced to restart it.
Bully is a great example of how a good game is made. The story and characters are incredibly rich and the humour is pure gold. Despite advanced warnings from Jack “Bully is a Columbine Simulator” Thompson, the game does not feature any killing of any kind, or any level of disturbing violence. It’s good fun for teens and adults and definitely worth a look.
Bully is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Crude Humor, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco and Violence.