Difficulty: Just Right
Time Spent: 20 to 40 Hours
Headline: Honors Student
Bully is a game that is excellent to put it simply; sure it's a school game, but all told this is a pretty awesome title as you traverse this world as a high school student trying to get through his (Jimmy) teenage years. So, basically Jimmy's newly remarried mom has just went away with her new husband on their honeymoon and left poor Jimmy at this rather old fashioned school. The school has a strong disciplinary style and emphasizes students to be tough and as a result, newbies such as Jimmy have a hard time fitting in. He quickly runs into somebody known as Gary, a pushy, deceptive person that helps him get around in the school for the first while. As the game continues you get to meet the nerds, jocks, preppies, greasers, and townies eventually and prove to them all that you want to be their friend and their leader.
Quick! Smoke the coach in the shins with that dodge ball! :)
As you play through bully, you are a bit constrained by the school itself, as you are supposed to attend classes, which allow for quick mini games, beat it and you gain a certain skill. As you complete them, the game of bully will become gradually a little easier (though not too easy) as you become a better shot or can create your own weapons (firecrackers, stink bombs, etc). School is overall quite easy to get around; a day of classes take all of about 10 minutes at the most; if you aren't in class you are freely running around the school and its outlying town. You are supposed to be in class or you are violating your curfew that starts at about 11 pm. Breaking curfews alerts prefects and other high authority figures such as police officers that patrol areas and will return you to school or your dorm if they manage to get you. Thankfully, schooling, and curfews are not all that are in place, you are free at any other time to explore wherever you want and there are actually quite a lot of areas to explore. There’s some collectibles to find, lots of extra money maker missions, clothing / accessories to purchase, and other local events like doing a personal favor / taking a race / playing a game of basketball, and the list goes on.
Bully – Know when to dish out pain and when to run the hell away!
To progress the story you do main missions; they are nicely varied and doing one usually results in some factions liking you more while others hate you more. In combat, you can use your fists to fight and perform some moves, and you can block incoming attacks, or use bats, wooden boards, bricks, and so forth instead as a melee weapon (which have the trouble of breaking after you use them a couple of times). You also have some regular projectile items that may remind you of GTA; firecrackers = grenades, slingshot = handgun, itching powder = Molotov cocktail, etc. The game isn't violent like GTA though, this is a game that takes place in school so there are no guns, columbine massacres, or cop chases. You can hurt people to the point that they collapse on the ground but nothing more, blood doesn't exist, and foul language is fairly limited. You have to watch your health bar and a trouble meter that goes higher as you commit more felonies at once. You can build relationships with friends, talk, apologize, come onto girls (and kiss them); you can ride bikes, mopeds, skateboard, swim, and run.
One of bully’s few flaws is talking; sure you say something nice to a person and the effect is proper but then they say something completely out-of-the-blue like you say, "How are you doing today" and they say, "I have to go somewhere." Beyond that, the games people can be pretty big jerks and though its proper of them, they can just become agitating flies that need to be beaten away yet again to get rid of. The interaction in Bully also isn't quite as good as what existed in the original; yes you can climb trees, ladders and so on; however, you can't get exactly anywhere. The game has a couple of walls that you should be able to climb over, other objects like steel structured bridges only let you get beside them, so you cannot climb along the posts. You also cannot drive any car, motorcycle, and there are absolutely no water vehicles for anyone. The NPCs do display some remarkable AI with every student, townie, old folk, homeless person, teacher, and authority figure behaving just like you would expect.
NEEERDS! Wait a minute, is it Saint Patrick’s Day?
Graphically, Rockstar has likely pushed the PS2 to its end pretty much on the graphics side, changes are minimal, but textures are sharper, the game has nice camera angles, it can push plenty of polygons at once, the art style fits the town all the way across, and there are some nice extra touches like how the ground reacts if you run through snow or pass out inside a building you trespassed into. On the sound side, the acting is once again of quality actors and the score is a good school kind that mingles with hints of something that reminds you of school. The sound effects do sound typical, but they are quite clear.
In the end Bully is an excellent game, it does not pass the great GTA series but it holds its own quite well even against Rockstars famous series. Perhaps the greatest annoyance is that the game still has traces of GTA left within it, that is to say that this game only manages to meet what GTA did, it doesn't try so much to go beyond GTA and as a result we are still missing the retry option, and if you come in from a distance, lots of things still pops in. But beyond that (and knowing that I would forever have to keep on dreaming) this is an excellent 20 - 24 hour game, maybe even 30 hours if you wanted to complete everything, so any fan in general of good games would be well off with Bully.
8.5/ 10 GREAT (PS2)
+School is thoughtfully integrated, helpful, and varied
+Lots of well defined characters
+Strong production values
+Converts the GTA formula to high school setting quite well…
-…But not quite as grand an endeavor