Blast from the Past
Become King of the playground in Bully, a sandbox for teenage delinquency
Given the well-earned reputation of Rockstar Games, when you hear they made one of their titles set in a boarding school it’s sure to raise a few eyebrows and that’s exactly what Bully did when it released for PlayStation 2 in 2006.
It was known as Canis Canem Edit across Europe, and was definitely raising a stink as it led to numerous groups trying to get the virtual 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins at Bullworth Academy permanently expelled before he even started the semester. Rockstar couldn’t even call it ‘Bully’ in Europe, hence the different name – they chose the Latin for ‘dog eat dog’.
What of the game itself? It’s basically a much toned down Grand Theft Auto but set in a boarding school with a much smaller open world to cause mischief. While you won’t have guns, grenades and carjacking, Bully did have plenty of roughhousing, toilet swirlies, slingshot sniping, stink bombs, and a ton of awkward teenage hormones. It explored the most over-the-top clichés of cliques; the nerds, the jocks, the preps, the bullies, the greasers, the townies and even the faculty itself.
”Oh, and boy! Remember, you will have a clean nose, so keep it clean, or we’ll clean it for you!”
No one was safe from being made fun of and exploited for some of the funniest and weirdest missions. All of this was done as young Jimmy Hopkins who gets dumped at Bullworth Academy by his mother and new step-father. He’s stuck for an entire academic year and learns quickly how savage his new ‘home’ is, and that it’s full of hypocrites.
The funny thing about Bully is that, as Jimmy, we’re actively trying to stop all the groups at Bullworth constantly scheming and attacking each other. Along the way there’s plenty of insane characters, proving the so-called responsible adults are little better than the students. You’ll actually have to attend classes while at Bullworth Academy — you’ve been enrolled in a school after all! The education is a variety of mini-games to complete in order to ‘pass’ the class for the year.
Completing each of the classes actually rewards you with benefits, as Bully was definitely inspired by Grand Theft Auto’s approach with hidden rewards for completing side challenges. There’s even a ‘hidden packages’ equivalent as you slowly make a giant rubber ball to hurl and bounce around. There are also odd jobs to earn cash to buy things around town including new haircuts and clothes. Your room at the boys’ dorm is a reflection of your academic and not-so academic accomplishments; it’s basically you’re armoury for restocking items.
”I’m just being nice to the new kid as he passes through Bullworth on his inevitable journey to prison.”
Fighting in Bully is pretty simple and satisfying as you unlock new moves to take down someone you’ve ticked off, though start swinging at a prefect or an officer more than once and you’ll likely face the mandatory detention mini-games of lawn mowing. Choose your battles carefully, and mind the damn curfew or you’ll get caught — or pass out. If you’ve played Rockstar’s 2005 title The Warriors then you’ll be pretty familiar with how fights work.
You don’t kill anyone in Bully as this is set in a school with kids. Rockstar has always been very wary of including children in their games – banning them entirely from the GTA series unless in a cutscene. This isn’t some ‘bully simulator’ though — not really — as you’re the gruff no-nonsense Jimmy Hopkins that Bullworth didn’t realise it needed to actually stop all the petty rivalry.
By the end of the game you’ll reach ‘eternal summer’ where you’re free to do whatever, and it’s almost a shame. If only school had actually been this educational and bursting with practical life experience. There’s always rumoured talk of a sequel to Bully, and hopefully Rockstar Games will give us the chance to enrol back at Bullworth Academy eventually.
Where to get Bully today?
If you fancy a stint at the prestigious Bullworth Academy then no worries as Bully: Scholarship Edition, a HD remaster of the original, can be purchased from Steam. As of writing it’s over 50 percent off.
Game Review: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Kakarot brings the iconic show straight to your gaming system
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Do you know when Dragon Ball Z first came out? 1989! It’s been thirty years since the show came out in Japan, and it’s been a cultural phenomenon in the West ever since. That series has brought with it films, merchandise, and (most importantly) games. This is what brings us to Kakarot. A game melding fighters, RPGs, and sandbox games, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot takes the formula you would expect from triple A titles and brings it to the Dragon Ball universe.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot goes through the main events of the show from the introduction of Vegeta all the way to the terror of Majin Buu. It goes through the story like it’s the TV show, giving each chapter an episode title. It’s a nice touch and makes you feel like a kid watching the show again. But if you know this story by heart, you’ll probably skip a lot of cutscenes.
There’s a lot to commend about this. Taking a show with 200+ episodes and condensing them to a single game isn’t easy. It’s got the cheese and power creep expected from the show, so you can give this game to a friend and they’ll probably understand the appeal. You have the option to play the game in the original Japanese or in the dubbed English, so you aren’t forced into either dubbing or subbing. This can lead to some divergence from the written script in the dubbing, but that’s not a huge deal.
As expected, Kakarot has you fighting enemies as beloved Dragon Ball characters such as Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, and more. What do you picture when you think about Dragon Ball Z fights? Hovering in the sky? Calling out powerful attacks? Quick teleports to dodge out of the way? They’re all here. It’s the type of craziness you’d expect, fighting in the sky and using your powers to beat robots and monsters to a pulp. They’re rather aggressive, forcing you to constantly dodge overpowered attacks. You can also use your own special powers that can be unlocked through training missions. Your Kamehamehas, your Ki blasts, they’re all here. However, these fights can turn repetitive and long. The longer fights with a boss work, but the fights against the run-of-the-mill become dull fast.
When you aren’t fighting, you’re in the game’s open world. Here, you can fly around, cook food, craft items, train, take sidequests, fight random mooks, and even find the Dragon Balls scattered about. There’s some neat touches, especially with the minor characters you’ll meet in side quests and the world.
There is plenty to do, but a lot of optional content is lacking. Fish a couple times, and you get the general picture. It’s not bad, but other open world games (such as the Yakuza series) have a better grasp at what makes side content special. The one exception to this are the sidequests, which have some of the funnier moments of the game.
If you like your games long and enjoy punching the hell out of things, Kakarot will treat you fine. If you want something a bit more highbrow, you won’t get that. It’s what you’d expect from a larger game, full of content. Add that with a dub that’s having fun with the script, and you’ve got a game that’s both fun to watch and play.
However, some features can turn repetitive if you’re a binge gamer. This makes Kakarot perfect as a game to play episodically. It’s easy to pick up and play, just don’t be surprised if it feels redundant later on.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is now available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.