Canis Canem Edit (Bully) ReviewCain Dornan
After garnering the attention and hatred of clearly clueless family groups and certain trouble-making, idiotic lawyers, Rockstar’s latest anticipated, uniquely atmospheric title has finally made its way to retail shelves. While the game’s premise feels refreshing and pleasingly unique, it carries the distinct Rockstar presentation and gameplay style. As such, while the game does carry a familiar presentation and execution style, the developer’s ability to create an immersive premise that remains interesting from start to finish is what makes Canis Canem Edit (or Bully in the States) so enjoyable.
The game follows the experiences of Jimmy Hopkins, a 15-year-old rebellious boy who has been dumped at Bullworth Academy by his newly-wedded mother and new step father, whom Jimmy doesn’t appear to get along with very well at all. After being expelled from virtually every school in the country, Jimmy’s mother and his wealthy step-father decide to send him to a supposedly hard-ass boarding school, which plays home to all of the typical personality types that you’d expect to find at any typical high-school. There’s the buff jocks, the sly nerds, the wealthy and stuck-up preps and the “cool” greasers.
Being new to the school, you’re instantly branded as an outcast. With none of the school’s groups granting you with any trust, it’s your job to look after yourself and begin building relationships with each of the school’s factions. You see, Jimmy isn’t a single-minded ignorant individual, like many of the school’s students and teachers. Seeing through all of the stereotypes and being able to make his own mind (although, he is influenced by certain individuals throughout the course of the game), Jimmy is capable of doing what he thinks is right, regardless of what others try to tell him. Although not overly brainy, he holds plenty of street-smart sense, and is capable of holding his own in almost any confrontation that he finds himself in.
At the beginning of the game, you meet a shifty, persuasive fellow outcast by the name of Gary. After refusing to continue taking his medication, it seems Gary is beginning to lose his mind a little, with the fixation of taking over the school firmly planted in his head. Using his gift-of-the-gab talent, Gary manages to persuade Jimmy into helping him to take control of the school, and while Jimmy remains weary of Gary at all times, he obliges. However, soon into the game Gary removes himself from the picture, leaving Jimmy free to begin choosing his own alliances and tasks to perform with each of the school’s different social groups.
As mentioned earlier, the game carries a very original premise and storyline that aids in providing a pleasingly refreshing experience. You essentially take on the role of a typical trouble making schoolboy, you must take care of himself and do what is morally right during a year at a fairly outrageous boarding school. At the same time, Rockstar injects its distinctive gameplay style, execution and presentation, which plays homage to the classic Grand Theft Auto series. No, the game doesn’t see you mercilessly killing innocent individuals. There are no guns or knives, rather, Jimmy fights with his own fists and an assortment of typical adolescent toys; a sling-shot, firecrackers, itching powder, baseball bats and so on. There’s no death, as fights only finish with the loser rolling on the ground while holding their leg.
The key similarity that stems between Canis Canem Edit and the Grand Theft Auto series is the way in which missions are presented. Like in the GTA games, there’s a small mini map that appears on-screen, which shows available missions to be completed. Each mission begins with a brief cutscene involving another individual or two that explains what you need to do, injecting a healthy level of humour and odd dialogue that is distinctly Rockstar. With that said, you’ll also find that the majority of missions play out very similar to what a GTA one would, albeit with less violence and swearing. You’ll do the odd jobs for random people, cause mischief and mayhem when needed, partake in a variety of side missions that involve making money by doing paper runs or errands for people, such as taking a note to someone or in one particular case, photographin a cheating wife in the act. While some may be slightly disappointed with the overly familiar mission style, most people will find plenty of fun in doing the weird and wacky acts that are on offer.
In addition to the missions that are handed out by the various school students, teachers and other individuals that you’ll come across, there’s also the need to attend school classes as any typical school requires its students to do. There’s a variety of classes to attend, such as art, English, science, gym and so on, each requiring you to take part in different mini games that you must complete in order to pass that class. They’re not exactly difficult, varying from simple button pushes at the right time through to revealing portraits or creating words from a mixed jumble of letters. Attending classes has its useful benefits, granting you new features and abilities as you succeed in each respective class. In gym, for example, you’ll learn new wrestling moves that’ll come in handy during your regular bouts with bullies, prefects and other problem makers that you’ll come across. Science, on the other hand, will grant you access to your own science set that allows you to create stink bombs and the like, which you can use to cause havoc throughout the school.
The game isn’t limited to the school grounds, with a nearby town complete with a traveling carnival, waiting to be explored. In the town, you can find plenty of new missions and tasks to complete, as well as purchase a variety of items in the local shops.
Although not graphically outstanding, Canis Canem Edit carries a certain presentation and style that is both charming and instantly recognizable. Featuring visuals that are very much like the GTA series, the graphics are hardly hardware pushing, but at the same time look decent enough to provide a solid looking game. A completely original soundtrack backs some excellent voice acting, that always suits the mood and appearance of each character.
At heart, Canis Canem Edit is essentially a younger, school based take on the Grand Theft Auto games. The missions are presented in a very similar fashion; the characters that you’ll meet are all unique and memorable, much like those you’d find in a GTA game; the inclusion of different personality groups is very much like that different gangs that you’d find in your typical GTA game; and the freedom of movement throughout the game’s world plays homage to the original GTA games, which created a gameplay feature that is being used in so many of today’s games. Canis Canem Edit is NOT a mindless, violence-promoting game that sees players running around and randomly bashing innocent people, as some groups may try to make you believe. It’s a creative, witty and unique experience that will be enjoyed by many.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.