Welcome to Bullworth Academy. You play as a 15 year old thug of a kid named Jimmy Hopkins in this third person open world beat-em-up. Sure you get plenty of weapons like the slingshot, eggs, stink bombs that prevent enemies from attacking, firecrackers, a potato cannon and even a bottle rocket launcher, but you'll be spending most of your time brawling. The game is Bully, but you're more of an avenging angel. Sticking up for the weak, but following missions from pervert teachers, and the local crazies. Its the characters in Bully that really make the game stand shoulder to shoulder with Grand Theft Auto games. There is also plenty to do outside of the story missions. Bike races, collect-a-thons, arcade games that are worthy of their own games, classes that are really mini games that will unlock things for you and even a camera so you can take photos of every dumb thing you'll see. Instead of mayhem and murder like the GTA franchise, Bully is more of criminal mischief and knocking people unconscious. You don't even brutally win fights, enemies just fall over. You can finish them off with a childish noogie, putting them in a headlock and spitting on them or one of the many other silly ways.
The game plays similar to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas meets the Warriors. You have jump and run buttons. An attack that you can hold for a strong attack. A target lock on for projectile weapons. If you don't have one equipped, it becomes a block button when you're not attacking. A free aim button for your sling shots, eggs and so on. A grapple button for when enemies block. You can shove someone when grappled. A taunt button that you can also take them down if grappled. Its a nice simple combat system. A local bum will teach you better attacks when you find and bring him radio parts. Your wrestling coach will teach you grapples in class. The items in your inventory are easy to select on the fly. You can also pick up things like bats and bricks to use and throw. You can even make peace by talking or bribing your way out of things. When you need health, just drink a soda or find some food.
The game is broken up into chapters, the first chapter takes place exclusively in the academy, but chapter two opens the gates and lets you into the rich side of town. Chapter three unlocks the poor side of town and chapter five unlocks a large industrial side of town. There's not only a sense of progression from parts of the town opening up, but the game takes place over a year and you'll see the seasons change. You'll participate in Halloween, slide around in the winter and see spring return.
Each chapter focuses on a faction and there are plenty of them. Nerds in green, bullies in white, greasers in leather jackets, preps in aqua berry and jocks in blue. Each faction has their own turf at the academy, and outside the academy as well. There are even factions outside of academy that will rise against you. All factions have a respect level for you. The less respect, the more likely the members will chase after you wanting a fight! Story missions will always change a faction's respect for you. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
Since this is an open world game you'll be doing a lot of traveling. The main way is by foot. You need to mash the run button to go fast. The enemies all run as fast as you do, but luckily they have stamina and Jimmy doesn't. You quickly unlock a skateboard that sits in your inventory. Its much quicker, but can't go upstairs without a sweet jump or over muddy terrain. There are also bikes, but the bikes feel few and far between. You can throw someone off a bike and steal it, or you can buy a bike, but then it sits in a garage, making it useless when you need to visit a garage in town when you're at the school most of the time. Other than that, you can ride lawn mowers and mopeds. It all feels like a balance. To get speed you button mash. If you're on a lawn mower you're stuck going slower than walking. If you're on a moped you need a helmet or the cops will be after you.
Speaking of laws, there are plenty. You have typical laws against violence, but there are also truancy and curfew laws too. The game lets you know what your offense is on a three step 'wanted' level. When your wanted level hits red, then you can't struggle against the authorities. When they catch you that's it. On campus there are perfects, that act like the police. They'll bring you to class if you're truant, chase you for a dress code violation like wearing a chicken head and stop you from bullying. Sometimes them bringing you to class is more efficient than running to it. When you're in violation, you'll see not only the authorities highlighted on the mini map, but their vision cones. The game makes use of stealth on some missions, but for the most part, its just avoiding the gaze of the cops and perfects. You can even hide in lockers, the trash or dressers in the girl's dorm.
The game is really set to a timetable that can sometimes break the flow. You wake up in the morning and have two classes in the day. You need to find a bed to sleep and if it gets too late, Jimmy will fall asleep where he is and wake up the next day. You can skip classes, but then the authorities will be after you. I felt stuck and forced to partake in the mini games. I want to point out that the class mini games are entertaining and some are educational, but having them forced upon you when I'm trying to do a mission seems a bit much. You can learn things from the game. Such as the flags to different countries in geography, a boggle like make a word with letters in English and even how to dissect animals in biology. I'm not saying this will replace schools by any means. There are also typical timed button press mini games that are less impressive. The game offers a wide array of mini games, even games that parody other games, such as Paperboy, Punch Out and dodge ball! There are even random people that will give you side jobs, like throw 3 nerds in lockers, deliver 3 fries, collect 5 crabs, and so on. All fluff.
The money feels useless. You can spend it on weapons, but why bother when he has an arsenal in his dorm room from completing mini games? There are expensive clothes to buy and tattoos, but why bother other than for cosmetic reasons? Sometimes the game forces you to dress a certain way or get your hair done at the barber shop. You can't buy real estate, even if you can clear out a gang hideout to make it a new save point safe house.
There are dozens of characters in the game. In fact every random person has a name and schedule. You can even take pictures of all of them for the yearbook. Most of the characters are downright evil with a few exceptions. Garry, the over the top villain with an eye scar that lies to cause trouble. Petey, the short effeminate best friend. The drunk Santa. The alcoholic English teacher. The two timing dame that uses men. Russell the big dullard so dumb he calls himself Russell. Its all done in a tongue in cheek 1950s stereotype. The game feels very 1950s even with its awful happy beach guitar riffs. It didn't take me long to turn turn the music down to 10%.
I managed to sink around 17 hours into this game, but I've gotta be honest, I wanted to be done a long time ago. I just spend too much time traveling and wasting too much time doing mini games. At some point I stopped going to class just so I could grind through the missions efficiently. Then the missions started getting further and further. Consuming more precious time that Jimmy is awake during the day. Doing missions back to back so late just means that Jimmy would fall asleep on the street. There are also a few game breaking bugs that would cause the game to freeze or downright crash. Not frequent, but at specific points. I still recommend the game for an open world mischief sandbox that lets you do wedgies, throw firecrackers in toilet and slap kick me signs on people, then watch them get beat to a pulp.