Rockstar Games, $29.95, available for Playstation 2
Months before its release, Rockstar Games’ Bully was the subject of much controversy in the gaming press. The makers of the ultra-violent Grand Theft Auto series were making a game set in a prep school? It had to be a Columbine simulator, or worse. Petitions circulated on the Internet to have the game banned even before its release.
As it turns out, the critics couldn’t have been more wrong, because not only is Bully not a Columbine simulation, it’s one of the least violent and most wholesome video games ever made. Instead of the gritty cynicism and R-rated antics of the GTA series, there’s nothing but lessons in morality and even, dare it be said, sweetness.
As the game begins, you’re Jimmy Hopkins, a juvenile delinquent being dropped off by uncaring parents at the Bullworth Academy prep school. Jimmy just wants to get through the school year without any trouble, but a series of obstacles gets in his way.
Cliques of students (greasers, preps and jocks), oblivious teachers and a school administrator all conspire to keep Jimmy from enjoying his school year. The mission of Bully, unlike any previous title from Rockstar Games, is to find ways to stay out of trouble, not cause it.
At its heart, Bully is a game with a message about not succumbing to peer pressure, finding one’s identity in an environment of clones and following your dreams. Fans of GTA will be disappointed that it’s not more violent, but they’re missing the point. —Steve Hammer