Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bully (2006)

by Rockstar Games
for Playstation 2
, Wii, Xbox 360 & PC
PS2 version reviewed

“Bully,” in the simplest terms, is “Grand Theft Auto” for the younger set. In longform, it’s the story of Jimmy Hopkins, a child delinquent whose mom has been married five times, and who has been expelled from seven schools – probably as a result of these troubles at home. Jimmy’s latest stop is Bulworth Academy, where he quickly finds himself entangled with the cliques that dominate the school’s culture.

Like I said, it’s basically GTA. Same engine, same mood. Rockstar is brilliant at making a world live from top to bottom, and this game is no exception. There’s top notch voice acting, great e-camerawork, well designed atmospheres, etc. You take on missions from various clique leaders just like you would from GTA’s crime bosses, starting first with a dorm-mate and loner named Gary.

It’s just cool to see the world of grade school in video game form. Day-to-day you attend class (always making sure to adhere to dress code). Classes can help earn skills in the game, and they take the form of “Text Twist” for English, a simple “press the right button” game for Chemistry, a neat sort-of arcade throwback for Art. Even cooler is when you get a camera, take photography class, and get bonus items for snapping all your classmates’ photos for the yearbook. It’s little touches like that which really sell the game.

Your weaponry runs the gamut of childhood mischief, from cartons of eggs to your trusty slingshot to stink bombs to itching powder. The targeting is good, easy to understand and easy to implement. Despite this variety, you’ll find your fists serve you well in most situations as the fighting is pretty easy. Only when you encounter jocks do you find yourself having to get crafty to avoid being hurt.

In fact, the entire game is pretty easy. I got through the main story in about twelve or thirteen hours of play. The game takes the form of “chapters” which usually boil down to seasons, and focus on you overcoming a certain group or obstacle. I will say this – the missions weren’t as repetitious as in GTA III. I wasn’t confined to escort mission after escort mission. Sure, I was limited by the engine as far as how truly varied these could be, but having to use my slingshot to protect a nerd giving a campaign speech, or dress as the team mascot to screw with the football team was fun.

I’m just a little miffed that they include things like respect meters on all the cliques, as well as introduce different girls into your life, only for these things to have no true depth to them. Far as I can tell, having a girl like you means she’s available for the kissing health boost, but the way things like that get touted in early press material is just a tad misleading.

Getting to 100% completion, while worth no tangible reward (Boo!) is worth the time taken afterward. In the final chapter, “Endless Summer,” you can freely explore town looking for the game’s hidden items. Or you can complete the side tasks you haven’t done already, like winning games at the carnival, bike races, or menial jobs like a paper route, mowing lawns, etc. In fact, if they made a title out of some of the mini games like boxing and dodgeball, I'd snap it up in a second. It’s all the little things, like the arcade games you find in shops, or the reams of clothes you can buy and wear to customize your character, that make this game really cool and worth seeing.


So basically the problems are it’s a bit short, and a bit easy. It’s a helluva lot of fun though, and worth purchasing at a reasonable price. I can’t see myself going back to it with fond memories, but it was worth its money when I was playing it.

No comments: