Playing Through My Early Years (for the first time): Bully

When this game first came out I was less than interested. I am not the biggest GTA fan (blasphemy I know) so it just simply wasn’t on my radar. Over the years I heard that I had actually missed a bit of a gem, and finally decided to give it a go. Now I admit to slightly cheating on this one, I played the scholarship edition which misses being retro for some people. That being said, as it fits into my plan with this series I decided to give it a go anyway.

The first thing I have to say is, this game is an intriguing take on the whole crime sandbox genre. For those that don’t know the game a brief summary; You play Jimmy a kid that has been kicked out of a number of schools and sent to Bullworth as a last chance. The school is a mess, everyone bullies everyone else, and the teachers even partake in this. Jimmy attempts to help a friend take over the school only to be betrayed. In retaliation he decides to take over the school anyway.

During the game you do a number of missions and activities that directly mirror standard crime sandbox games just with a more ‘kid friendly’ twist. Instead of sniping with guns you will do missions that you have to snipe with a slingshot. Instead of chasing down victims in cars you do so with bikes. There are a variety of activities geared towards the school setting as well, including taking classes.

Each chapter of the game focuses on Jimmy attempting to gain the loyalty of various groups, either through favors or by force. Jimmy’s goal is to ultimately see order and less bullying in his school, which is noble especially for a problem child. However, most people he interacts with aren’t happy to see this happen. You face challenges from many different areas in the game.

Honestly the game remains compelling from start to finish. Even with the fact that the game is over 10 years old I found myself doing marathon gaming sessions. That is not to say it’s the best game out there, with or without the help of nostalgia. The story leaves a bit to be desired. Jimmy’s quest, while just, is predictable and struggles with pacing. Some of the gameplay aspects and controls have started to show their age. Whether it’s being clunky, lacking in directions, or just frustrating, there are moments when I couldn’t help but think if the game was more recent it would play better. Yet it’s just plain fun. I am a person that will always argue that a game doesn’t have to be something more as long as it’s entertaining.

A touch more nostalgia blindness might have helped me. Once I did finish the main story of Bully I did not feel the drive I often get with games to go back and complete everything. The one playthrough was enough, and I am glad I experienced it, but likely won’t revisit. It was still enjoyable, and I am glad I checked this game off my ‘to play’ list finally.

In the end if you like Rockstar games and haven’t played this one I would recommend it. If you have already played, going back might be an enjoyable experience. It’s not the oldest game but it hit it’s 10 year mark, and I think will slide nicely into fun retro games. Bully proves that fun can just be that, fun. Despite feeling it’s solid even with age I would love to see a follow up. So, Rockstar if you could make that happen?

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