One of the reasons that brought me to look into 'Canis Canem Edit', or 'Bully' as I prefer to call it, was my everlasting passion for the ground-breaking gameplays and storylines I had seen in the most acclaimed Rockstar video game, Grand Theft Auto. Labelled by many as 'GTA in high school' and almost eternally wide open to parental and mass-media criticism over its alleged encouragement of felony, this digital work-of-the-art is one of the few video games that have kept me playing my Playstation 2 to this day, regardless of my having owned the newer Playstation 3 for nearly two years.
Set in a prestigious New England boarding school, the fictitious Bullworth Academy, the video game revolves around the vicissitudes of the newly arrived James Hopkins, an unruly, hot-headed youngster who has been forced to join the aforementioned institution by a careless foster family. Once the imposing, and somewhat macabre gates of the academy shuts behind Jimmy's back and he is offered a tour of the school and finally assigned a room in the dormitory, it will be up to you whether to transform Jimmy into a model student and keep his nose out of trouble or accompany him into a world that will change your scholastic conception forever. Whatever your intentions, you will soon become acquainted with the grim reality of the academy: a place where the Darwinian life maxim 'survival of the fittest' reigns supreme and students are divided into factions, making the school resemble the coveted patch of a gang warfare rather than an educational environment, and you will soon realise that helping Jimmy pass his semester is synonymous with helping him stay alive. As you make acquaintance with duplicitous, library-dwelling nerds or stand up to incredibly haughty jocks or even bring yourself to attending a few classes, you will discover countless ways to interact with the game. And you will find so many that it would be better to make a list of what you 'cannot' do rather than what you can.
Throughout each of the eight chapters you will enjoy a 360-degree interaction with the environment that can only be matched by the Grand Theft Auto series. However, if the across-the-board freedom of interaction is a nod to 'Grand Theft Auto', and might somewhat render the two titles closely connected between each other, the very scope of this game and the inner message that the publisher has intended to send differ, and surely make 'Bully' unique. In terms of the range of activities that Jimmy can do, he can pretty much do everything that an adolescent of his age would do - bicycle riding into town, earning money as he takes up part-time jobs, pulling pranks during school terms, carrying out ill-conceived side missions assigned to him by plate-spitting cooks and even going on a date!
As far as the inner message is concerned, the element that separates the two games is the sheer absence of blood in 'Canis Canem Edit', as well as the ingenious addition of mandatory classes as side missions that serve the purpose of updating Jimmy's skills through what he has learnt in classes and unlock new abilities; for instance, if Jimmy passes his chemistry class, it will be possible to update his accuracy or if he shows up at Physical Education his stamina and fighting skills will be honed and so much more. Such decision is a clearly a subtle idea of the publisher to champion the importance of education by showing its beneficial effects.
In conclusion, I unconditionally agree with the reviewer whose sole disappointment lies in the fact that we have not been presented with any follow-up to this game. Therefore, I can only recommend to every Playstation 2 owner to spare a mere £ 4.15 and obtain a true gem.