Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Back to school

All of us who have spent some time in school know one thing: school is a jungle, you either eat or are eaten. This is even more true when the school in question was created by the guys from Rockstar Games.

Rockstar Games is most renown among gamers for their “GTA” series and this game, “Bully”, could be described as “GTA goes High School”. Where “GTA” has various big cities (depending on which part of the series you’re playing), “Bully” only has the elitist Bullworth Academy and the town Bullworth where it’s situated. The main character isn’t a criminal out for a better position inside the criminal underworld, it’s a 15-year-old student.

There are, of course, other differences as well. People in this game don’t die or are severely injured. Once they are KO, the fight is over. We’re talking about a high school parents actually pay money for.

But apart from the differences, there are many things this game does have in common with “GTA”. Jimmy’s world (Jimmy Hopkins is the main character) grows part by part, in the beginning, there’s just the Academy, later on he can also roam the town with its various areas. The same goes for the various cities in “GTA” (at least until “San Andreas”). The game advances as the player takes on various missions, ranging from easy (like going somewhere or taking something from one person to another) to hard. Sometimes spending some more time in school can help (there are various ways for Jimmy to gain advantages by actually attending classes). Characters look just as weird and satirical as they do in the various parts of “GTA”.

So, what does “Bully” have which “GTA” doesn’t?

It’s the high school flair. There’s no stereotype you might know from all those novels, TV series or movies about high schools you won’t find somewhere in the game. Jimmy isn’t a nice kid and seeing the whole school with the eyes of someone who could, with a little bit of energy, become a true bully himself, is entertaining. And for someone who’s not been very daring when it came to doing forbidden things in school, being able to deliberately (and without any ‘real’ punishment - the ones in the game don’t count) do all those things (like missing classes, getting into fights, enter places you’re not supposed to be) is quite amusing. And the missions differ a lot from each other. It’s not always the ‘pick up 20 of these and come back’ you sometimes find in games. They fit very well with the scenario, too, as they are something you’d expect in a high school. For instance, accompany a nerd to his locker, so he doesn’t get attacked (well, Jimmy can’t prevent the attack, but very effectively stop the attacker, that much is for sure), get a girl’s physics notes back from the locker of a cheerleader, find the parts of a transistor for the homeless guy living hidden on the premises. Sometimes, Jimmy gets money for the missions, sometimes he gets useful stuff (like a skateboard) or just the respect of one of the groups at school.

I’ve spent a weekend at Bullworth now and it was quite entertaining. But I wouldn’t want to live there, I guess.

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