This is one Bully you won't mind having around.
Now, we can witness what that would of been like... in a way. Rockstar Games, (in)famous for their Grand Theft Auto series, brings us Bully, a wonderful and very enjoyable look at school life and everything it encompasses.
The game starts off with the main character, Jimmy Hopkins, being dropped off at Bullworth Academy by his mother and step father. Upon seeing Jimmy, you know this kid is a trouble maker... but he's not there to cause problems, he's there to solve them.
Naturally, Jimmy is seen as an outcast by the other students, but one guy in the bunch, a crazy kid by the name of Gary, will seem to want to be Jimmy's only friend. Jimmy will soon find out that Gary is up to no good, and soon, he'll become Jimmy's biggest nemesis at Bullworth, causing him all sorts of problems.
The gameplay in Bully is what you'd expect from any Rockstar game. The controls are very easy to grasp: move with the left analog stick, look and aim with the right one, lock on with L1, fire with L2, etc. Since Jimmy is 15, he doesn't get to drive any cars (sadly, I might add), so your means of transportation will be limited to bikes, mopeds and your trusty skateboard, all of which are very easy to control.
The main storyline in Bully revolves around JImmy and his battles against the different factions in the game: preppies, greasers, jocks and, naturally, nerds. Each chapter in the game has you battling with one of those factions and, incidentally, the chapters are broken down into seasons (fall, winter, spring & summer).
The game doesn't start off as being very open-ended, but as you progress though it, more areas will open up around the campus grounds (just like in GTA games). Once the areas open up, you'll be able to go out and about town, visiting grocery stores, bike shops, comic stores... and there's even a carnival where you can go to and even ride the coasters and such.
Naturally, you'll have different missions and side-missions to take on for every chapter in the game. You'll earn cash for each mission you complete and gain or lose respect from each faction as you do so, depending on who you're fighting and defending. A little later on in the game, you can also take on jobs to earn that extra moolah, like mowing lawns or running a paper route. All of these are very different from one another and never seem to get repetitive. Whether it be going on a panty raid for the perverted gym teacher or participating in a BMX race, each mission has something different to offer and make the story move along seamlessly.
But Jimmy is still on a school campus after all, so naturally, there are classes he has to go to. You have 2 classes each day (one at 9 A.M., the other at 1 P.M.). Now, I know you guys are thinking "Meh, I'll just skip class and do the missions". Of course you can do that, but be forewarned that each class does give you a bonus to help attune Jimmy's skills. For instance, Chemistry will help you create new weapons to use against your enemies, like stink bombs & firecrackers, Gym will help you with your fighting and aiming skills, Art will help you with the ladies around campus, etc.
Each class is in fact a mini-game, with some being throwbacks to classic games like Scrabble or Qix, and others being rhythm-based button mashing games. As soon as you've completed all 5 lessons for each class, you're done with it, which means you'll have new skills and more time to complete your missions.
Now, back to the story and the characters. Bully is actually one big throwback to classic teen movies like Grease, Revenge of the Nerds, and so on. The factions are stereotypical representations of modern society, but that is far from being a bad thing. The Jocks will be huge, bulky and strong guys but won't be very intelligent. The Nerds will be highly intelligent and intuitive, but will be very weak. You'll also encounter the typical cheerleader type, the alcoholic english teacher, the not-so-sanitary school cook, etc. Each one of these characters are so wonderfully represented that it'll make you think back to all of those movies you saw.
Bully has no guns, no blood, no Hot Coffee, and nobody dies here. Of course, there is some fighting and a couple of sexual references, but they are all done with humor and sarcasm. The weapons Jimmy uses are slingshots, stink bombs, firecrackers and itching powder. This high-school setting Is a breath of fresh air amongst all of the utlra violent games available right now.
The dialogue is marvelously delivered and very funny. Jimmy's dialogue, above all others, is exquisite. This kid has a very street-smart head on his shoulders and is tough as nails. His "I don't give a damn" attitude makes him rise above all the other students at school.
The music in the game is also a throwback in some ways and fits in with the story being played out. Let's say you're being attacked by the greasers, you'll hear a rock and roll theme kick in. If the preppies are assaulting Jimmy, a pop-dance track starts up. The soundtrack is excellent... and I could swear I heard some Trio (Da Da Da) and some Yello (Oh Yeah!) mixed in there somewhere...
The graphics won't strike you as being extraordinary when you first start playing the game. But as you progress through it, you'll see that a lot of care was put behind this project. This is the PlayStation 2, an aging console, and the work put in here is above par. The character animations are very well done and the scenery looks pretty sharp.
But, sadly, this game isn't perfect. There is a very nagging camera problem here and, sometimes, you'll feel like you can't see who you're fighting or where you're going, especially when you're on foot. The lock-on system also seems to have it's flaws on occasion, making you lock onto an enemy that's already down for the count, while another one is attacking you. The main storyline will take you between 15-20 hours, and you can add another 10 hours in there if you do every side mission, work every job and attend every class. The game is very easy though, almost too easy. You'll rarely have to restart a mission over again. There is no difficulty setting here, so you're stuck with what you have.
Bully is an excellent game and will provide you with hours of enjoyment and laughter. It also goes to show that Rockstar can create games without excessive violence and sexual content while maintaining the same level of excellence. I recommend this game to everybody out there, young and old alike.