October 26, 2006


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Bully, PS2
Rockstar Games, 2006

Rockstar Games cracks eggs on the faces of hysterical parents and the knee-jerkingly censorous with Bully, a game where the most morally objectionable act is a pantsing.

OK, thatís not entirely true. If you havenít heard already, the sensationalist clip of the week from Bully is that, under certain circumstances, you can get 15-year-old protagonist Jimmy Hopkins to make out with a boy; Mark Foley must be in heaven.

So Bully isnít the Columbine-simulator that scare-mongering Video Game McCartyhist lawyer Jack Thompson (of sue-Sony-for -school-shootings fame) might have you believe. What it is is a well-designed third -person action game that eschews the rapidly staling sandbox style of Grand Theft Auto fame in favor of a more plot-centric adventure.

Bully does share many elements with Rockstarís other titles in its large dynamic world setting but there is more structure to your escapades, as one might suspect in a game about being sent to a rigorous boarding school. Speaking of school: Bully cleverly incorporates scholastics into the game by making your twice-daily classes mandatory, miss one of these mini-games (like a rhythm game for shop class or a word scramble for English) and you are punished by your teacher with chores like 5 minutes of tedious lawn-mowing. So for all its delinquency Bully manages to instill a healthy respect for the responsibilites of academia.

The plot of Bully is broken into chapters each focusing on your relationship with one of the schoolís social factions (greaser, preppies, nerds and so on) either battling against them or fighting with them in the dog-eat -dog world of high school. As you progress in both plot and class you unlock new abilities for Jimmy, be they increased interaction options (like say noogies or smooching on girls) or access to toys like BMX bikes and stink bombs. Jimmy can even hire the titular bullies (of which consequently you are not a member) to protect him during the rougher spots.

Rockstar has always made excellent games ó even when theyíre just Ping Pong simulators ó and Bully is no exception to that rule. The engaging characters, acting and plot elevate it above the mindless mayhem that sandbox-style games can quickly devolve into and the mini-games, extras and dynamic environment retain that addictive free-form playstyle. If there is a complaint itís that at a scant 15 hours Bully seems short. But, do the math, 15 hours at the cinema can easily run you $50-$60 not including snacks. So hit BJs for snacks, grab Bully and save yourself 20 bucks. A-

ó Glenn Given