I’m blessed with many contributors to this site, and their efforts have really lightened my load, especially as school has resumed. One of my most regular contributors is the indefatigable Pontiac Dream 39, also known as Always a Kid for Today. Here, we call him “Ponty.”
Like myself, Ponty is a gamer. I don’t have much time for games these days, but I do enjoy the occasional round of something fun with friends—or just playing casually alone. So it was a pleasant surprise to receive this review from him.
I actually pitched the idea of making Friday video game reviews a regular/semi-regular feature, but Ponty demurred. That said, I’m hoping he’ll continue contributing video game reviews (he wrote a good review of a game developer for the site some time ago), although as we’re about to kick off our competing lists of the Top Ten Best Films, he may need a bit of a break from all this scribbling!
I never had the pleasure of playing this game, which was released here in the United States as, simply, Bully, before the usual band of moral scolds got the name changed to Canis Canem Edit, Latin for “dog eat dog.” I do remember seeing it advertised, and finding the premise—a boy fighting against all the hierarchies, social and institutional, of a boarding school—an intriguing premise for a semi-sandbox-style game in the mold of Grand Theft Auto. Based on Ponty’s review, it sounds like I missed out!
Canis Canem Edit (Bully)
Platforms: PS 2/3/4; Xbox360; PC; Wii; Android.
In 2006, then Labour MP for Leicester East, Keith Vaz (the moral cheerleader for male prostitution) tried to get a video game banned from sales in the UK or at the very least, have it reclassified, claiming it encouraged bullying. Child Welfare groups also tried to get it banned, with the same claim, but in the end Canis Canem Edit (Bully) was released with a 15 rating.
I admit, I didn’t know too much about this at the time, coming to the game later than 2006, but if I had, the protestations about this game would have reminded me of Father Ted and The Passion of Saint Tibulus. For those of you who have never seen this episode, Bishop Brennan, Ted’s boss, orders Ted and Father Dougal McGuire to protest against a film which he labels as blasphemous, despite having never watched it.
That tends to happen an awful lot – complaints about something based on the tiniest infraction, even where there is none to be found, and so it was with Bully. Had Vaz played the game, he’d have realised it did nothing of the sort. Away from the random violence (something which occurs in many video games), this tale is more about unity than division.
It’s not the first time that Rockstar Games have come under scrutiny. The Red Dead Redemption and GTA series have been berated for its violence, the latter for its casual sexism – negating the fact that men are on the sticky end of violence and denigration in practically every violence based game made – but Rockstar have plodded on, giving their fanbase a selection of games that are not only hugely entertaining but utterly engaging. To my recollection, Lindsay Lohan is still attempting to sue Rockstar (I think she might be on her 4th or 5th try, the last few unsuccessful) for their character, Lacey Jonas, who Lohan claims looks and sounds like her. Trust me, I’ve played GTA5 a few times and Lacey Jonas sounds like a lot of dimwitted Hollywood types. Personally, I always found it a bit strange that anyone in real life would want to identify as someone like Jonas, so superficially stupid you’re happy that she only occupies a significantly small part of the game. See for yourself:
Anyway, back to CCE. This review, by the way, will cover the Scholarship Edition, which contains additional features the original doesn’t have like extra classes and missions.
Bully (a 3rd person open world game) sees 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins dumped by his mother and new husband at Bullworth Academy, a rough private boarding school situated in New England. While negotiating his classes, Jimmy must complete a series of missions which helps him to dominate the factions and try to unify the school, which is being systematically fractured by the manipulative sociopath, Gary. Jimmy is aided along the way by Pete, a loner who latches onto him, but spends a good amount of time trying to avoid the attentions of the various factions, teachers, prefects, cops and, in some cases, dogs.
There are 5 chapters in the game, each with their own selection of missions, errands, jobs and collectables. After completing the first chapter, the school gates open and you gain access to Bullworth Town and Bullworth Vale. Once the second chapter has been completed, New Coventry opens and only after you’ve completed the 4th chapter does Blue Skies become available. Compared with the expanse of the Red Dead games and GTA5, CCE might seem a pretty small open world environment but considering when the game was made, it’s spacey enough.
All of the factions have issues. The Greasers, led by Johnny Vincent, have abandonment issues; the Preps have daddy issues and a chip on their shoulders; the Nerds have popularity issues; the Bullies have girl issues; the Jocks have their masculine pride and the Townies just have issues.
You’ll get an idea of what each group are like in these short clips:
CCE is a 16-year old game that hasn’t aged a bit. Its graphics aren’t as great as upgraded modern titles but that doesn’t matter one jot. I first played this game a decade ago and find it as much fun now as I did then. The scope is amazing. While you are directed to do the missions to complete the game, you can either complete or leave errands, collectibles, races, even classes as you wish. It’s your game, your environment so you’re free to choose what you do, when you do them, if you even want to do them at all. There are 4 clothes shops in the game so you can dress him as you want to; you can even purchase tattoos. Errands, odd jobs and races will earn you cash, as some of the missions will, and you can use some of this cash to win tickets at the carnival, which will also help you buy extras, including your very own moped. Classes will also earn you bonuses, some useful and some not. For example, completed art classes mean you can exchange gifts for kisses, each class boosting your health bar. English classes will aid you in apologising to authority figures, something I never do in any event! If I get in trouble, I tend to engage – it’s a lot more fun!
There are also playable arcade games like ConSumo, Nut Shots, Future Street Racer, and Monkey Fling. Tina and I are not fans of the street racing games but can live with the others, ConSumo our favourite of the 4. I personally enjoy Nut Shots, which is a Space Invader type game in which your flying squirrel shoots nuts at wasps, bats and eagles whilst evading their fish, sonar and whatever it is the wasps spit towards you. It’s seriously addictive but it’s one of those games where carpal tunnel sets in quick! ConSumo is equally addictive but, unlike Nut Shots which is never ending, your fat little sumo, becoming larger the more he eats, will eventually get so big, it’ll be near impossible to avoid the bad food. Check it out:
The characters are engaging, the missions a lot of fun and the scripts humorous. It’s got a kickass soundtrack, playful yet meaty, with a mix of electro pop and old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. If you like your nostalgia, the in games also feature the sort of 8 bit tracks you might remember on old arcade games. The controls are easy to use, whether you’re on foot, in water, or on one of the many vehicles you can operate and though there is no difficulty level, some of the missions, errands and classes can be quite tricky. Americans on this site would find it funny watching Tina and I do Geography 2, where you have to match the state flags to North America. We know where Florida, California, New York and Texas are – with everywhere else, we’re basically trying to pin the tail on the donkey!
Of course, me and Tina being as we are, we like to throw in some added extras, so we assign ourselves challenges to the various races, games and missions to make things more interesting. For instance, one of mine is to knock all your competitors off their bikes by hand before the end of a race. Trust me, it’s harder than you might think! Tina had one where you had to steal a moped if you saw it, no matter what you were doing at the time. You could be in the middle of a mission and, on hearing that familiar buzzing of its engine, you’d pull an adult off their bike (resulting in an automatic red warning and the inevitable police chase) and try to evade the authorities until your trouble-o-meter goes back to normal. We do this in other games too but it’s a lot of fun in Bully.
The additions to the Scholarship Edition come in the form of 4 new classes – Biology, Music, Maths and Geography – and a series of new missions which include a set of Christmas related challenges where you help a homeless guy, Rudy, put the Bullworth Town Santa out of business so he can make some money. Some people might take issue with the idea of destroying a Santa’s grotto or beating up his elves but like everything else in this game, I find it a lot of fun. Rockstar Games are, by and large, non PC and in today’s lunatic world where creators are self censoring, it’s good to go back and engage in something not entirely kosher.
I did hear, a while ago, that Rockstar were thinking of doing a sequel to this game – Bully, The College Years – but it never materialised. I think it would have been brilliant; more challenging classes, updated and more adult orientated missions – decent middle ground between the first game and a GTA style game. I do hope they return to it at some point but at present, there’s the small matter of the impending release of GTA6 to deal with.
If you’ve never played it before, you’re missing out. This is Rockstar Games at their best, pulling out all the stops to give you an immersive, fun experience and one which you will never tire of.