Bully, also known as Canis Canem Edit, is a third person action-adventure video game released by Rockstar Vancouver for the PlayStation 2 on October 17, 2006 in the United States, and October 25, 2006 in the United Kingdom. An Xbox version was planned but was cancelled for undisclosed reasons. The game was rereleased as Bully: Scholarship Edition on March 4, 2008 for the Xbox 360 and Wii, it is unknown if will be released for the Playstation 3 and for Windows based computers.
Bully is a sandbox game set in a school environment. The player takes control of teenage rebel Jimmy Hopkins, who from the opening cutscene is revealed to be a difficult student with a criminal background. The game concerns the events that follow Jimmy being dropped off at Bullworth Academy, a fictional boarding school. The player is free to explore the school campus and town, or to complete the main missions. The game makes extensive use of minigames. Some are used to earn money, others to improve Jimmy's abilities.
School classes themselves are done in the form of minigames, broken into five levels of increasing difficulty. English, for example, is a word scramble minigame, and as Jimmy completes the level, he learns to apologize to bullies, deliver better taunts, apologize to prefects and finally to apologize to the police.
Jimmy Hopkins has a multitude of weapons available, although they tend to run along the lines of things a school boy might actually attain, such as slingshots, bags of marbles, stink bombs, and later in the game, a bottle rocket launcher and a spud cannon. He also has an assortment of vehicles to operate — mainly bicycles with different abilities, but also a moped, a go-kart, a lawn mower, and a skateboard.
The game takes place at Bullworth Academy, a fictional independent boarding school in the New England area of the United States. Jimmy ends up enrolled in the school when his newly married mother and fifth stepfather go on a year-long honeymoon cruise. The school is located in the also fictional town of Bullworth, which resembles Connecticut (this would also explain the high prevalence of 'Old money' and 'Nouveau Riche' influences). The school itself is a classical neo-gothic design and is similar to many other public schools and colleges in the United Kingdom and New England, in particular Fettes School in Edinburgh. A reference to the year being 1992-1995 as the setting can be seen in one of the various arcade machine minigames but school sports flags show the school as champions as recently as 1998-1999.
- Chapter 1: Making New Friends and Enemies: Jimmy comes to Bullworth Academy and immediately runs into trouble with the Bullies.
- Chapter 2: Rich Kid Blues: Jimmy is now more popular, but he must deal with the spoiled Preppies.
- Chapter 3: Love Makes the World Go Around: Jimmy gets mixed in with the love affairs of Johnny Vincent, leader of the Greasers, and his girlfriend Lola Lombardi.
- Chapter 4: A Healthy Mind is a Healthy Body and Other Lies: Jimmy decides to take on the Jocks, but he first needs to convince the Nerds to help him.
- Chapter 5: The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hopkins, Aged 15: Jimmy, after briefly enjoying his power as king of Bullworth Academy, is expelled. He has to clear his name and get re-enrolled back into the Academy while regaining control of the cliques.
- Chapter 6: Endless Summer: Jimmy can tie up any loose ends, such as finishing races, finding collectibles, etc.
- See Characters
The game focuses on Bullworth's newest student, Jimmy Hopkins. As he advances through his academic career at Bullworth Academy, he may interact with the school's students and teachers, as well as people from the neighboring towns, many of whom will give him errands to complete. He is greeted by Gary Smith, a scheming, unstable sociopath and Pete Kowalski, a shy student who has yet to make any friends. Jimmy has to navigate his way through the five cliques at the school — the Bullies, Nerds, Preppies, Greasers and Jocks — as well as the Townie kids, the school faculty and all the other adult townsfolk. Unlike other games from Rockstar no two characters in Bully are the same, and every character has a name.
Early information released by Take-Two Interactive seemed to indicate that the player would be taking the role of a bully, and screenshots printed in Electronic Gaming Monthly showed the player-controlled antagonist administering a "swirlie" and throwing a punch at another student. The game uses an advanced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas engine through Renderware. Rockstar Vancouver also decided to make every student in the school have a unique appearance and, within programming limitations, personality.
Bully has caused controversy among parents and educators. Criticisms are due to the adult nature of previous Rockstar games, in particular, the Hot Coffee mod in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and certain aspects of the game, for example, its title. Some groups counter that the protagonist is just as much defending himself and crusading to end bullying in the Academy, and that picking on girls or weaker kids is a serious transgression with serious ramifications. Groups such as Bullying Online and Peaceaholics have criticized the game for glorifying or trivializing school bullying. Most of these criticisms were voiced before the content of the game was available to the public. In 2006, the United States-based Entertainment Software Rating Board officially gave Bully a rating of "T" (suitable for ages 13 and up), the BBFC gave Canis Canem Edit a 15 rating and the New Zealand OFLC restricted it to persons 13 years of age and over. In 2007, Yahoo! Games listed it as one of the top ten controversial games of all time.
Sexuality is a major and present theme throughout Bully. Five different missions involve Jimmy running missions on behalf of different girls, the successful completion of which earns him a kiss. Additionally, the art class minigame is used to improve Jimmy's ability to talk to girls, as well as his ability to make out with them and receive a health bonus which can be expanded by passing classes in art. Although it does not play a role in the storyline and is strictly optional, Jimmy can kiss certain boys. The ESRB claimed it was fully aware of the content when they gave it a T rating. Other sexual themes involve a gym teacher who is stated to have hit on the girls in school, and a student reading a men's magazine.
Prior to both the ESRB's rating and the release of Bully, Jack Thompson filed a lawsuit attempting to have the game blocked from store shelves in Florida. Thompson declared the game a "nuisance" and "Columbine simulator". He also argued this point on Attack of the Show along with Adam Sessler (with him on the opposite end) on the show's "The Loop." Thompson's petition, filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, asked for Wal-Mart and Take-Two to furnish him with an advance copy of Bully so he could have "an independent third party" play the game and determine if it would constitute a public nuisance in the state of Florida, in which case it could be banned. On October 11, 2006, Judge Ronald Friedman ordered Take-Two and Rockstar to provide the court with a copy of the game within 24 hours. On October 13, 2006, Friedman subsequently ruled in favor of shipping the game, noting that there was no content in the game that was not already on late night TV. Thompson responded to the ruling with fiery speech directed at the judge. Similar attempts to have the game banned have also been made by the charity Bullying Online and Labour Party M.P Keith Vaz in the UK.
When given a preview build, the mainstream media took a generally positive opinion of the game. Press coverage has described the game as free-form, focusing on building a social network and learning new skills from classes, with strictly enforced punishments for serious misbehaviour.
Currys and PC World, both owned by DSG International, said that they do not wish to sell the game in the UK because it is "not appropriate for Currys' family-friendly image". The official statement lists what Currys believes is "the explicit link between violence and children" as the reason behind the ban, and continues: "We haven't taken this decision lightly, particularly considering the excellent relationship we have with Rockstar." However despite this decision other high street retailers including GAME, HMV, Woolworths and Virgin Megastores have all announced an intention to stock the game. DSG stores still stock other Rockstar games including the GTA series, and other violent games like Manhunt, which both have BBFC 18 ratings, where as Bully has a BBFC 15 rating.
Bully has received generally positive reviews from critics. The game received ratings of 8.9/10 from IGN, 9.0/10 from Games Radar, a perfect 10/10 from 1UP.com, 8.7/10 from GameSpot, 5/5 from JIVE Magazine, 8.75/10 from VGRC.net, a 5/5 from X-Play, and made the Top 10 Games of '06 in Playstation Magazine. Canis Canem Edit also got 9 / 10 from OPS2 Magazine. Critics generally praised the game's storyline, while they complained about particular stealth missions, as well as the camera. Critics also noted that the game is substantially easier than veterans of the Grand Theft Auto series (Rockstar's flagship titles) would expect.
- Won IGN's award for Best PlayStation 2 Action Game.
- Won GameSpot's award for Best Original Music.
- Finalist for GameSpot's Game of the Year 2006
- Gaming Target - 52 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2006 selection
- Came in top ten of best Playstation 2 game of the year.
Bully: Scholarship Edition
Bully: Scholarship Edition was released for the Xbox 360 and Wii video game consoles on March 3, 2008. The game features exclusive content which was unavailable in the PlayStation 2 version, including eight new missions, additional characters, four new school classes (biology, music, math and geography) and new unlockable items and clothing. In addition, single system 2-player competitive multiplayer minigames have also been added, along with Achievements for the Xbox 360 version and Wii Remote motion and pointer controls for the Wii version. The Xbox 360 version also uses a new propriety game engine by developers Mad Doc Software.
Rockstar Games first announced the game on July 19 2007. On August 7, 2007, RockstarWatch.net reported on the release of the Australian Bully: Scholarship Edition box art which included artwork of the protagonist, Jimmy Hopkins, and the school principal, Dr. Crabblesnitch. On February 3 2008, Rockstar announced the game's upcoming release on March 4, 2008 and posted the Scholarship Edition launch trailer at the Bully homepage.
Bully: Scholarship Edition was released in the PAL region under the original Bully title, and not Canis Canem Edit, as the original game was renamed.
Both versions of the game generally received positive reviews with IGN giving the Wii version an 8/10, while the Xbox 360 version received 8.7/10. 1up.com gave the Wii version an A grade.
The Xbox 360 version of Bully: Scholarship Edition was found to be unstable on some players' consoles, resulting in glitches, crashes and performance issues. Rockstar have promised to have a patch addressing these issues by the week of March 10, 2008. On Thursday March 20th, a patch was released via Xbox Live, but some initial reports claim to have continued or worsened problems.. GameSpot, a game review website which bases its reviews on the initial public release, took the glitches into account and marked the 360 version of the Scholarship Edition down to a 7/10, a full point lower than the Wii version, which received an 8.
- Official Bully Homepage
- Official Canis Canem Edit Homepage
- Press Release by Take Two Interactive
- BBC News article about the controversy
- Youth Council of Ireland wants boycott of “shocking" game
- Information about the Bully Soundtrack album, composed by Shawn Lee
- Voices and Choices: A Conversation with Shawn Lee
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