Classic game appreciation section: Bully

Rockstar's PS2 classic proves that school can be endless fun

One of the greatest aspects of Bully is the fighting mechanics. To this day, I’ll still argue that Jimmy Hopkins would kick Niko Bellic’s ass. The robust fisticuffs in Bully are as meaty as a cow’s backside and every head-butt, uppercut and kick packs a satisfying punch that just isn’t found in the GTA series. Honing your skills in compulsory, yet entertaining, gym classes to improve combos and discovering new moves is also another neat trick of slipping some teachings in there.

Above: BOCK! How'd you like that kick to the hip, chum? Plenty more where that came from

Obviously, throwing hands – or heads – isn’t the only way to deal with the bigger kids around Bullworth Academy – smashing them on the head with a sledgehammer is another, more brutal, yet efficient way. Or for kicks, I love slinging snowballs at prefects and then legging it as they chase you across the playing fields. It’s all puerile fun, but this level of humour created a clear distinction between Bully and other games of a more serious nature.

Seasons greetings

Another memory that shines bright in my mind are the changing seasons within the game. They add a charm to the proceedings and do a decent job highlighting how time is progressing. I still remember getting excited about the present Jimmy’s gallivanting mother had sent him for Christmas as I made my way to the principle’s office. But as he frowned at the Christmas jumper he unwrapped, complete with a garish red nose reindeer, I was laughing my head off at the crumbiness of it.

Above: The offending Christmas sweater in all it's hideous glory

The way the whole city transforms with snow in winter and the how autumn homes are dressed for Halloween gives a fresh feel to what is essentially the same area you’ve been banging around throughout the game.

One concern I had before I’d even played Bully was what type of vehicles you’d get. Obviously, Jimmy is too young to get behind the wheel of a car and he’d surely get his ass handed to him if he tried to car-jack an adult. But Rockstar do a great job of delivering less predictable but equally fun ways of getting around including the chance to build faster BMX bikes by – you guessed it – going to shop classes. I much preferred to ride the bike than the mopeds that are unlocked later, but when you’re finally given the go-kart to spin around in it’s like the first time you find a Banshee in GTA III. Amazing scenes.

All the fun of the fair

The enjoyment from Bully – for me anyway - comes in the amount of things you can do away from the story. Neat touches like the skate park where you can practice skateboard or BMX back-flip skills captured more hours of my time than I care to admit. The carnival area, with it’s working rollercoaster and the many games, like the dunk tank where you soak a man by flinging balls at a target, stole a lot of my time as I tried to win tickets to buy a piece of clothing for Jimmy.

Above: Sure it wasn't exactly Tony Hawk's but the skateboard mini-games were sound

While the clamour for Rockstar sequels rumbles on with wild abandon it’s the follow-up to Bully that seems the quietest. Yet, with Jimmy only being 15 years old there’s perfect scope to follow him to university and beyond so a second run at it would make sense. But regardless of whether we’ll ever meet little Hopkins again, I’ll always remember his game for being a riot of fun times.

September 8, 2011

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