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Classic game appreciation section: Bully

Even before Rockstar had a chance to show off their school ‘em-up sandbox game the knee-jerk reactionists were knee-jerking like knee-jerking was going out of fashion. Knee-jerk. In short, a game named Bully would feature just that – bullying - with you controlling every aspect of the nasty core subject.

While you can make 15-year old protagonist, Jimmy Hopkins, dump an innocent pupil in a bin, it’s hardly the ‘Columbine simulator’ that game hating, and ex-attorney Jack Thompson described it as. But then he’s an attention seeking idiot hole. In fact, you’re punished by prefects and teachers for even the merest of wedgies you dole out. See...

Above: Jimmy is man-handled by one of the burly prefects for being late for class

Rather than be a brainless thug, Jimmy rises against them and unites the factions of nerds, jocks and regular kids by dishing out justice to those responsible for such behaviour. In a lot of ways then, he’s like Batman. But Bully was, and still is, a masterpiece in gaming that deserves to be lauded as highly as anything in Rockstar’s back catalogue.

Edu-tainment

The story barely contains any fat. All of your time following Jimmy around his school life at Bullworth Academy made sense and you rarely felt like you were pissing about with needless tasks. Sure there are jobs like being a paper boy or mowing someone’s lawn, but like a real kid - if you want to earn money, then you have to do chores. But all this felt part of Jimmy’s character.

Above: Chemistry lessons can blow up in your face if you don't get the button presses right

Condensing the play area from the sprawling landscapes of San Andreas and Vice City is a genius touch from Rockstar and creates a focus that is rarely found in free-roaming games. Everything of interest outside of the game’s main school hub is only a short bike ride away but there’s more than enough to keep you occupied within the halls of the Bullworth.

With simple minigames, Rockstar manages to sneak in some fun educational features in the form of classes, which Jimmy has to attend every so often. It was funny how I’d steal a bike and race back to school to make sure I didn’t miss a lesson. If only I had as much enthusiasm for education in my own youth – I could’ve been president of the UK by now, innit.

Above: Hardly the Hot Coffee mod from San Andreas but folk still got worked up over this

Forget the shitty distractions that are disguised as dates within GTAIV, Bully nailed the tricky subject of relationships with aplomb. Presenting a lady with flowers and other presents enabled you to snatch a kiss, like above, but the more you woo her the more gropey Jimmy becomes.

There's even a mission where you have to show a lass a good time (not like that) at the fun fair, but it never feels tacked on. Oh, and even this innocent aspect of Bully courted more controversy from the those daft reactionists by allowing you to kiss boys too. It's amazing that these backward fools managed to find the way out of their caves in the morning.  

32 comments

  • AuthorityFigure - September 11, 2011 4:38 a.m.

    I prefer Bully to GTAIII/IV because by limiting what you can do a little, you feel a bit more a part of the city/town, not just a visitor with a sociopathic attitude. Also, the BMX parts were fun too.
  • Rezindez - September 9, 2011 4:37 p.m.

    You know what? If someone somehow combined Bully with Persona, then they would make the best game of all time.
  • SolidEye - September 9, 2011 4:34 p.m.

    Yeah, I've been hoping for a new Bully for ages. The college based sequel sounds good. I agree more mature themes and content. (Alittle more along the lines of college comedies (American Pie) than Harry Potter.
  • theinvinciblemick - September 9, 2011 4:20 a.m.

    I miss Jimmy Hopkins
  • 435 - September 9, 2011 3:38 a.m.

    FC'd it three times. Once on the PS2, once on the v1 Xbox, and once on the 360. First game I'd gotten the whole thousand on with Gamerscore, too. Most of the way through my fourth playthrough, too, on another account. So much Bully. So good a time.
  • GTA_enthusiast - September 8, 2011 7:20 p.m.

    Bully is one of my top 5 favoutie games of all time. I really hope Rockstar makes a sequel.
  • Yeager1122 - September 8, 2011 7:01 p.m.

    Thsi makes me want to go replay bully.
  • LeSieg - September 8, 2011 4:21 p.m.

    One of the last games I played on the PS2. Back in the day, I only had like a..."12 TV at the time and it was positioned awkwardly far away from my bed, so in order to play anything I had to stand up and right in front of the TV. Naturally, this position made playing games something of a chore, but never once did it bother me when I played Bully. Everything Mr. Irvine mentioned in this article helps me to remember all the fun and hilarious moments I had playing the absolute bananas out of this game. Long live the potato gun!
  • c1nd3rcell - September 8, 2011 3:52 p.m.

    Sorry about the double post, but I totally agree on the soundtrack for Bully. The best I have ever heard!
  • c1nd3rcell - September 8, 2011 3:50 p.m.

    Canis Canum Edit! I remember pre-ordering this as a substitute for an M rated game, a replacement for GTA, if you will. Now that I've been playing them for quite a few years, I have forgotten all about this game. One of the few that got into my "Platinum" category, a truly remarkable game. However, it is in no way better than RDR. But it comes close...
  • UsernameLoser - September 8, 2011 3:42 p.m.

    I never played it, but it sounds a lot better than GTA.
  • LiaraLoveSlave - September 8, 2011 3:33 p.m.

    I love all the GTAs and RDR is an an amazing experience but there is something about Bully that makes it tops from R* in my book. How Jimmy's room accumulates various items, the sound of the chalk on the tablet in English class, or when the music gets trippy before you pass out at 2am...I could go on and on. Classic game indeed. Great job Nath! PS: HD remake would make me happier than a nerd with a new pack of G&G cards
  • GrandmaSlayer - September 8, 2011 1:01 p.m.

    one of my favourite games!loved everything about it! :')
  • CitizenWolfie - September 8, 2011 12:33 p.m.

    This is still my favourite Rockstar game even over San Andreas, Red Dead and LA Noire. Hell, it's probably in my top 5 games of all time. Sometimes I'd play for hours just rugby tackling people and kneeing them in the balls. It's a shame you couldn't change the seasons during free roam after completion; I loved the Halloween missions! If anything deserved a HD update or a sequel, it's Bully.
  • Crypto140 - September 8, 2011 11:56 a.m.

    moar Bully plses!!!
  • Money - September 8, 2011 11:06 a.m.

    This game was terible and doesn't deserve appreciation
  • therawski - September 8, 2011 10:18 a.m.

    Which version do you think is best, PS2, 360, or Wii?... I'm hearing even after patches the 360 version is still glitchy, but I don't want a Nintendo censored version either.
  • Personamanxx - September 8, 2011 9:45 a.m.

    Man... I loved this game the few times I rented it... I think they have it in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart for 360. Christ, may as well get it.
  • XanderGC - September 8, 2011 9:39 a.m.

    Rockstar is definitely one of my fave publishers of now and then. While I may have finished each of the GTA III and IV era games, I somehow overlooked Bully. After I finish Mafia II and then RDR, I plan to pick up Bully: Scholarship Edition for the 360. As a side note, thank you GR for making these Classic Game Appreciation posts, most entertaining and informative. :D
  • egregious - September 8, 2011 9:27 a.m.

    Yes, even after Red Dead Redemption, Bully remains the best game Rockstar has ever delivered.

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

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