Canis Canem Edit, formerly known as Bully, has had a troubled time. It’s been the most controversial game since Rockstar’s very own Manhunt. Called a ‘Columbine simulator’ over in the States before it even came out, over here in the UK the game had to have a name change. Is it as bad as all these campaigners are trying to make out?
Canis Canem Edit starts off with a nice intro with your mum and stepdad dropping you off at the infamously bad ‘Bullworth Academy’ where all the problem students of the US end up. The name of the game refers to the schools motto; ‘Dog Eat Dog’ (in Latin) and it certainly lives up to its name because life in Bullworth is dog eat dog. In this bad school you play Jimmy Hopkins, who looks a little like a 15 year old Wayne Rooney.
Once you’re into the game you start playing the handy tutorial type missions, you’ll be shown where your dorm is, where the principal's office is, how to throw stuff, basic social interactions and your movement controls. You’ll gain all sorts of items to cause pranks and mischief, like eggs, itching powder, stink bombs, a slingshot and more. You’ll also gain access to modes of transport, skateboards and bikes. School is about 2 things, learning and socialising, and during your days at Bullworth you’ll have to do both. We’ll start with the learning. There are 6 lessons, Art, English, Chemistry, Gym, Shop and Photography. You have two lessons a day, one at 9:30 and the other at 13:30 (being late gets you in trouble). The lessons themselves consist of mini games, e.g. for English class you have to write down as many words as possible from a set of jumbled letters, for Chemistry you have to press the correct button when it passes the box on screen. Going to class isn’t just a chore because you also get rewarded for doing so; passing Shop gains you access to the bikes you work on and passing Chemistry allows you to make things like itching powder in your dorm room.
And so on to the social aspects of school life. There are 5 groups of people that populate Bullworth, Nerds, Preps, Greasers, Bullies and Jocks. Your reputation with each social group will go up or down depending on doing missions with or against the groups in question. The missions or tasks appear around the school (and later in the surrounding town) and you’ll have to do things like defend certain students, perform pranks and fight. The fighting is done with a simple lock on system by holding L1 and pressing square to attack or triangle to grapple but once your opponents health is low you can perform a ‘finisher’ type move with the circle button, moves like Chinese burn or giving them a dead arm, but be careful because these moves are considered bullying and can get you in trouble. The trouble system is sort of like your “wanted” level in GTA games. Performing acts of violence, bullying, vandalism, being late for class or even wearing incorrect uniform gets you in trouble with the Prefects who are like the school police, they’ll chase you and try to subdue you if you're doing wrong. Hitting girls or younger pupils will get you sent straight to the principal’s office.
As I hinted earlier, there’s a whole town to explore as well as the large grounds of Bullworth. You’ll find various shops and activities, and even a chance to earn some extra money doing a paper round. The world is interactive too, you’ll find footballs that you can kick, bins to smash, arcade machines to play – all sorts of things to do that really add to the immersiveness of the game. There’s just so much to do in the world of Canis Canem Edit I could go on for ages, and also lots of secrets to unlock by collecting hidden items and other challenges.
While the PS2 is showing its age now that the next generation is upon us, it’s still a great looking game with its nice looking environments, detailed and varied characters and the look of the school changes depending on the time of the year. The animation, especially in the cut scenes, is really good and each character seems to move in its own individual way. The sound, as you might expect from Rockstar, is really top drawer, with great voice acting and well fitting music adding to the quality of the game.
Overall while playing Canis Canem Edit you do wonder where all the fuss about the game has come from, the complainers have obviously never played the game because it’s a light-hearted fictional school world with about as much violence as Power Rangers – your average Harry Potter story contains more violence. It’s a typical Rockstar quality game, great story, decent looks, cool sound and a great play too.