As somebody who loves retro games, my backlog extends way back to my childhood, and it’s a tough journey to catch up on games you have been meaning to play over the past two decades. Slowly though, I’m grinding my way through.
Lots of content was pushed onto the PSN in late March, and not to a lot of fanfare, so much of it went under the radar. One of the titles added to the collection was a great game from 2006 that goes by the title of Canis Canem Edit, which is more popularly known as Bully. I have a real penchant for anything made by Rockstar Games – GTA, Red Dead Redemption, and even Midnight Club, so Bully was a game I knew I had to get around to at some point.
I had actually bought it for the PS2 back in the day, but soon after I purchased it, I got an Xbox 360, and you know how it goes when you buy a new console; the old one might as well be immediately shoved into the attic/garage/wherever you keep crap you’re never going to use again. That sadly meant that Bully was never played, until now.
Starting the game off, the music itself gives away the Rockstar feel of the game, as the tones can easily be related to another PS2 title – GTA San Andreas. I’m not going to lie, after playing around with games like Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher III, and GTA V, Bully looks old. Really old. Faces and bodies complete with sharp corners lead you into those childhood fantasies of dating Lara Croft, and it reminds you just how far we’ve come graphically in just ten years.
Going hand in hand with the graphics are the controls, as it’s painfully obvious when you make a slight turn that it’s going to turn you 45 degrees. The game feels old, but not in like a classically retro way that you would feel from games on the SNES, as the 3D graphics make you more aware that it’s a lot more recent than it looks.
That being said though, the storyline of Bully still holds up. You play as Jimmy Hopkins, a young tearaway lad who just can’t seem to settle into any sort of educational system. He’s quickly befriended by psychopathic Gary Smith (most boring name for a villain ever), who turns on him faster Microsoft AI “Tay” turned on the entire human race. Gary then lurks in the background and waits to make his move as Jimmy takes over the school one faction at a time.
The factions in the game are the Bullies, the Nerds, the Preppies, the Jocks and the Greasers, with each having a leader that you will end up defeating before taking the faction as your own. Being from the UK and all, it actually intrigues me to see if American schools are like this; were Greasers still a thing? After all, this was 2006, not the 1970s. There are also the Townies, who have mostly been kicked out of Bullworth Academy, and that in itself shows the school for what it is, what with it having kicked out most of the inhabitants of one part of town.
There are also lots of side quests for Jimmy to partake in while the school inevitably runs itself into the ground, mired in controversy from drunk teachers, others that take bribes, and a school cook that sexually assaults members of staff; eventually, the school will see itself get taken apart by one very boringly named psychopath. The side quests Jimmy can get on with are jobs such as a paper route, challenges to earn new places to sleep in town, and, of course, going to class, which is ironically the most fun of the bunch. Each has its own little mini-game and if you pass the mini-game, you pass the class; with each subject having five different classes.
Overall, Bully is a great game with a storyline that will not only involve you as a character, but involve you as a person. While other games produced by Rockstar are fun, none are as relatable as Bully, simply due to the fact that everybody has been to school. Sure, with GTA, you might have pinched something from a shop at some point in your life and felt like you had a five-star wanted rating; or with Red Dead Redemption, you might have dressed up like a cowboy for Halloween, but with Bully, you get a feel for the game because you have experienced at least some part of it.
Whether it be passing or failing a class, and feeling like a success or a loser, to getting your first kiss with a girl (hopefully you didn’t have to buy them flowers or chocolates like Jimmy did), Bully emotes with the player in a way you don’t initially expect it to. You may not have gone through the same things as Jimmy Hopkins did, but maybe you’ll relate with one of the other factions in terms of how your school experience went.
Please, just don’t say you were a Greaser during high school. You can be anything else, but don’t slick your hair back like John Travolta. Ever.