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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

  • austinfloyd - September 8, 2011 5:46 a.m.

    They really need to make a sequel. I loved everything about it.
  • Shadow Of Death - September 8, 2011 6:17 a.m.

    I liked this game a fair bit. Never completed it, but that's my bad habit >_> Got it on the PC. Not the best port, but it was perfectly playable. I would like to see a College based sequel. Same basic setup, but obviously more mature themes and higher violence level (Somewhere between Bully and GTA basically).
  • ParanoidAndroid - September 8, 2011 6:37 a.m.

    I'm a big Rockstar fan, so it's a bit of a mystery why I never picked this up. I think i'll download it now; it's been a while since Red Dead.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - September 8, 2011 6:39 a.m.

    Bully is my favorite PS2 game followed closely by Dragon Quest 8, GTA: San Andreas and God Of War 2. I'd dearly love a PS3 sequel Rockstar. Put the GTA series on hold and get to work on Jimmy's college years.
  • zanyzephyr - September 8, 2011 6:39 a.m.

    A truly awesome game. Also deserving of a mention is the music, one of my favourite game scores of all time.
  • IREPMINNEAPOLIS - September 8, 2011 6:50 a.m.

    Ah Bully, such a unique and fun game. Still have yet to pick up Scholarship Edition, but I will. It screams at me every time I go into Gamestop "I'm only $20!" It says. Have patience SE, have patience. And is it just me or does it feel like your grammar gets better every time you read a GR UK article?
  • JSayonara - September 8, 2011 6:56 a.m.

    Ah, Canis Canum Edit.. Loved this game on the PS2, loved it even more on the 360, with the bonus of added lessons and 'chevo's. Personally, I'd rather see Rockstar leave Jimmy's story and introduce a new protagonist. I'd rather see Bullworth Academy again than Jimmy at college.
  • wittynickname - September 8, 2011 7:56 a.m.

    Whatever came of that tantalizing bit of info a few years back about a composer listing the score of "Bully 2" as something he was working on? I thought for sure that a sequel announcement was imminent, but hell, that was around 2006-7. Here's hoping it's on the slate for Rockstar once they push Max Payne 3 out the door next year.
  • ibeberger - September 8, 2011 8:32 a.m.

    I've gone as far as saying this might be my favorite game of all time, and the only people who give me looks like I'm crazy are those who haven't played it. Those of you saying you haven't played Scholarship Edition should do yourselves a favor and pick it up, the added missions fit in perfectly and don't feel tacked on, and the extra classes, while some of them can be a bit frustrating, really help make the school aspect feel way less repetitive. Add in cheevos and its just an excellent package, one of the few games I bothered going for all 1000 gamerscore.
  • Mooshon - September 8, 2011 8:33 a.m.

    This one somehow passed me by the first time around. Always knew it was meant to be good, so you've just tweaked my curiosity to pick it up finally.
  • garnsr - September 8, 2011 9:22 a.m.

    This was the first Rockstar game I actually played through, rather than just screwing around for a little while and abandoning. I liked the Qix art classes best of the classes, but it was a pain having to get back for classes all the time.
  • egregious - September 8, 2011 9:27 a.m.

    Yes, even after Red Dead Redemption, Bully remains the best game Rockstar has ever delivered.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Money - September 8, 2011 11:06 a.m.

    This game was terible and doesn't deserve appreciation
  • Crypto140 - September 8, 2011 11:56 a.m.

    moar Bully plses!!!
  • 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.
  • GrandmaSlayer - September 8, 2011 1:01 p.m.

    one of my favourite games!loved everything about it! :')

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

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