Flashback Friday: Bully Game Review

Meta Description: Rockstar’s most underplayed gem, Bully comes highly-recommended. Check out our retro review of this schoolyard classic.

Flashback Friday: Bully Game Review

Bully isn’t your average adventure game. There are no stealth kills to be found in this open-world, nor any hyper-violent acts you’d expect in a typical Rockstar Games release. Although many popular games use chaotic open-worlds these days, Bully definitely isn’t like the rest of them. Instead of bombastic machine guns or bloody explosions, Bully takes you on an action-adventure filled with stink bombs, slingshots and skateboards.

So what exactly makes Bully unique? From Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed to Nintendo’s Zelda, video game publishers have ensured there’s no shortage of titles offering player freedom and emergent gameplay. First published in 2006 by Rockstar Games, Bully separates itself from this crowd with a unique setting.

Bully’s storyline is a strong point, often highlighted in reviews by critics and fans alike. You play as James Hopkins, a.k.a Jimmy, a troublesome rebel. Being expelled hasn’t gone over well with your mother, and she decides to leave you behind to go on honeymoon with her new husband, dropping you off (rather abruptly) at a private comprehensive named Bullworth Academy. The game starts you off outside the Academy, for the beginning of your first year in boarding school.

You’ll have to get to know the town and its people if you want to make a success of your first year. There’s no shortage of activities on offer; Rockstar have tried to fill Bully with as many experiences as possible.

In Bully, the main objective isn’t to become a bully yourself, but to put an end to the bullying pervading Bullworth. To accomplish your goal you’ll be given a variety of tools and skills. Acquiring these tools and skills involves completing main missions, attending classes, and doing sidequests; all in the hopes of gaining favour with each group of people you come across.

The bullies, nerds, and jocks of Bully might be crude stereotypes, but they’re honestly done rather well. It’s evident that plenty of thought has been put into character design, environment details, and overall story quality. Each character is unique, jokes hit more than they miss, and there’s enough drama and action to keep you entertained throughout. 

Cliques can be friendly or attack on sight, depending on your relationship with them. Main missions give you the opportunity to improve these relationships. Each main mission is a linear affair, rewarding the player with cash and items. There’s also 10 classes to attend, each consisting of minigames you’ll have to defeat. Although attending class is optional, it’s a good idea to stay in school; classes reward you with unique items and abilities.

Bunking classes, painting graffiti, and just being a nuisance to the public will get you in trouble with the ‘Authority’, policemen and teachers who will hunt you down if you misbehave. Indulging in delinquent acts causes your ‘trouble’ meter to rise. You can fight back and run away most of the time, but your final wanted level results in instant arrest if you’re caught. You’ll then be sent to jail, and all your weapons will be confiscated.

Speaking of weapons, there are plenty to play around with in Bully. There’s a variety of melee weapons, a slingshot with marble ammo, there’s even itchy powder and stink bombs aplenty. There’s no lack of action here, it’s just not as violent as many gamers are used to, especially from a developer known for gritty gunfights.

Rockstar might be known for games with plenty of violence and crass dialogue, but Bully drops the age-restricted content down dramatically. Contrary to the various complaints before Bully’s release, there isn’t much in the way of violence. Sure, there’s profanity and graffitti, but Rockstar haven’t played around with moral grey areas in the same way as they do in their Grand Theft Auto series, for example. 

Credit via Unsplash

Free to explore Bullworth and the surrounding area, players can explore the town on foot or use a variety of transport options. Skateboards, scooters, and bicycles are all available modes of transport. 

There are four main districts in Bullworth. Bullworth Town is full of shops and shoppers; Old Bullworth Vale is where you’ll find the beach, funfair, and wealthy estates; New Coventry is a poor and dilapidated neighborhood; and Blue Skies Industrial Park consists of factories, docks, and a trailer park. If you happen to run into any trouble in these areas (which you will), damage to your health can be restored in a few ways, but if you die you’ll respawn in hospital. 

Similar to many other games, drinking soda is one way to get health back, or lock lips and watch your vitality return. It’s good practice for your ulterior motive, because you don’t just want to put an end to bullying, you also want to win the affection of the ladies. 

Without spoiling anything, your journey through the year will be met with surprise twists, unforeseen obstacles, and drama worthy of a television series. After significant sales proved that Bully had a sizable playerbase, Rockstar remastered the game in 2016, naming it Bully: Scholarship Edition. Celebrating a ten-year milestone since the release of the original game, Bully: Scholarship Edition boasts higher resolution textures, new environment lighting, as well as extra content. 

Scholarship Edition was successful to the point that it greenlit a mobile version in the very same year it was released, so now is a great time to try it out if you still haven’t done so. Maybe you’ve never heard of Bully, or you just never got around to playing it. It’s understandable seeing as this isn’t exactly Rockstar’s flagship title. You’d be forgiven for giving this one a miss the first time round (or even the second), but Bully has proven itself as a game worthy of your time and money.

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