Saturday, 10 July 2010

Canis Canem Edit

So, about a month ago, I wrote a retro article for the Exeter University student newspaper. For those of you how missed it, here it is:

There is no disguising it. Bully is a game truly made to be GTA in a school. Developed by the same people, there are similart themes and mission types. When most people think of Rockstar, they think GTA, and rightly so. But with Rockstar’s new Red Dead Redemption only a few weeks away, I decided now was the time to give these lesser known adventures of Jimmy Hopkin’s another run.

You may know Bully as Canis Canem Edit, the name it was given for UK release, but if you don’t mind I am going to call it Bully here, just ‘cos it is simpler to write. Now, your time spent in Jimmy Hopkin’s shoes is often spent running missions for other students, as you try to find your place in your new school. Bullworth Academy is my favourite place any game has ever taken me to. I know the corridors like a real place, and can remember the quickest route from the dorm rooms to the football pitch better than I can remember any of my real life shortcuts. It truly feels like a real place.

It needs be remembered just how fantastic the time you will spend in this game is. Jimmy Hopkins spends his first year at Bullworth, and the town beyond, doing odd jobs for the different cliques around school. Jocks, Nerds, Townies, all need Jimmy’s help in different ways. You’ll memorably break an ex-teacher out of the local loony bin, rig the election for student president, and cause lots of trouble at Halloween. Ah yes, Halloween. Bullworth is a living place, and as time passes, the school changes with the seasons. Halloween decorations, snow at Christmas, it even gets summery for summer.

Now, you never do get to drive cars. But this is no loss for there is so much personality to the bikes, and the slower pace makes the world all the more characterful. Even better, released from cars, you’re released from roads. Shortcuts are your bread and butter, through train depots, down back alleys and into trailer parks. Later on you get access to mopeds, but they never compared to the faith I had in my trusty racing bike.

Bully provides a huge variety of things to do. You can cause general mayhem, with kick me signs and stink bombs, start foodfights, or dodgeball, or whatever you feel like. But truth be told it can all be a bit much. You may end up spending so much time in town you lose connection with the school at the heart of the game. Now, this being a game set in a school, lessons play a role. You visit classes, play the minigame within, to learn a new bonus that will help you later. You can play truant if you want, but these lessons are a fun distraction, and the rewards are worth it. The school structure is a great part of the atmosphere, as not playing by the rules puts you on the radar of the prefects. Step out of line and they will come down on you hard, with a menace far greater than the police in ever could. This is a great thing.

The game was a personal favourite of mine years ago on the PS2, and since then has gotten an upgraded release on 360 and PC, and was even ported to the Wii. The gameplay has aged slightly, but It runs smooth and still looks nice, so really this is the kind of fun you should be searching for.

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