At this point, a holiday release from Rockstar on the App Store is beginning to become tradition, and I really couldn't be happier. This year's addition to Rockstar's mobile catalog is Bully: Anniversary Edition [$6.99], celebrating the ten year anniversary of the original 2006 launch. Lots of folks in our community suspected that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories would be the next Rockstar game to hit the App Store, but it turns out that the one and only bigfart12 guessed correctly all the way back in March. Bully always seemed like the "forgotten" Rockstar game, at least amongst my circle of friends. It was released sandwiched in between Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories [$6.99] and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. I think it was close enough to the GTA formula that anyone interested in Bully likely just gravitated to either title instead. I suppose it also didn't help that literally everyone I know who was even remotely interested in video games was hard and heavy into World of Warcraft at the time either. Anyway, it wasn't until the remastered "Scholarship Edition" was released a few years later that I gave the game a try, and had one of those "Wait, what the. Why didn't I play this when it first came out?" epiphanies that often come with re-releases of games you heard were good but never actually got around to playing. The mobile release is technically a second remaster of the game, as Bully: Anniversary Edition comes with all the tweaks of Scholarship Edition, plus additional graphical effects, higher resolution textures, better lighting, and a new multiplayer mode, effectively making the mobile game the best version yet- At least until it's remastered a third time.

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Taking a step back, let's assume you've never heard of Bully before (which, again, is totally reasonable since it isn't really a Rockstar flagship title). Bully is an open world third person adventure game where you play as a kid named Jimmy, set at the private boarding school, Bullworth Academy. The game's original marketing lead quite a few people to believe that gameplay orbited around, well, being a total bully and generally causing loads of violence in the school. Jack Thompson (Remember him?!) even took a crack at getting the game banned, comparing what you do inside the game to the Columbine High School massacre. In actuality, while you'll eventually engage in loads of light spirited mischief, the overall goal of the game is to effectively bring peace to Bullworth, uniting all the various cliques, and completing tasks along the way to raise your reputation and effectively get everyone to like you.

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Anyway, as mentioned, Bully opens with your not-so-loving mother and her new husband dumping you off at Bullworth Academy before they go on their honeymoon. From there, the game quickly shows you the ropes and introduces the main cast of characters which includes the stereotypical headmaster, Dr. Crabblesnitch, and your two cohorts Gary and Petey. The tutorial is guided by Gary, and it quickly becomes apparent that Bully is effectively Grand Theft Auto, but without cars. (Although you do eventually get skateboards, scooters, and similar kid-friendly transportation.) Movement feels very similar, combat is also incredibly familiar, as is the cadence of the game which involves going somewhere, accepting a mission, watching a brief cut scene, then needing to go somewhere else, fight someone, collect something, or do other similar stuff. This may sound like a negative thing, but I actually really like how familiar it all feels. If you've mastered the various little nuances of GTA games, you'll be right at home inside of the world of Bully.

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Of course, being at school, you also have to go to school. The daily cycles you go through really makes it feel like you're at school, as even though you might have a breadcrumb trail of missions to do to advance the story, you still need to attend various classes at specific times of the in-game day. This potentially means dropping what you're doing, and hauling ass across campus to make it to class in time, before resuming whatever hijinks you were up to. "Attending class" involves several different mini-games. For example, Chemistry has you pushing buttons in order rhythmically to conduct experiments while English has you making as many words as you can out of scrambled letters. You also need to be in bed every day too, and both morning and afternoon periods as well as your eventual bedtime does a great job at not only adding a familiar sense of urgency in getting things done in your free time at school, but also gives a fantastic sense of the passage of time.

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Also, just like being at school, all the stereotypical cliques are represented. You've got nerds, preps, jocks, greasers (which I'm not sure are a thing anymore?) and of course, the bullies. Depending on what you do on particular missions, completion results in your notoriety with these various factions going up or down. It weirdly feels just like being at school again, as, for instance, the nerds love it when you do something to mess with the jocks and vice versa. The cops and wanted levels from GTA games are replaced with prefects and a "trouble meter." Generally speaking, you can get away with little stuff, but if you cause too much trouble (or cause trouble in front of a prefect) your trouble meter will rapidly rise and you'll need to run or get busted. Just like in GTA, it's also a lot of fun to just cause lots of trouble and to see how long you can survive and how many prefects you can fight before getting busted.

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Much like GTA, combat is fairly simple. Most of your fighting in Bully will be hand to hand, and you'll learn numerous different fighting techniques by completing side missions. Guns are (obviously) replaced with simple thrown objects or age-appropriate weaponry like slingshots. The same familiar lock-on system is used, where aiming is automatic regardless of whether you're doing ranged or melee attacks which whatever target you're latched on to at the time. Bully takes GTA-style combat one step further with additional moves like being able to grab, push, and throw your opponent as well as various other techniques which spice up fights a bit more than just mindlessly mashing the attack button.

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Like other Rockstar titles, the level of depth found in Bully is rarely something seen in single player premium games on the App Store. The initially tiny world of Bully opens up into five large areas, with all sorts of side missions, a lightweight crafting system where you can create different mischievous items like stink bombs and similar, and the ability to have romantic flings with other characters in the game. Without spoiling anything, while the main storyline is incredibly linear, there's more than a few twists and turns along the way as you inevitably become king of Bullworth. Every line of dialog in the game is voiced over, and the idle chitchat as you run around the school yard is just as ridiculous as the things you hear people say wandering around any GTA city. The whole thing feels alive.

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As far as the quality of the port is concerned, Rockstar has done a fantastic job. Utilizing the assets from the previous rework of the game combined with higher resolution textures and other graphical boosts results in a game that still obviously is from a previous generation of consoles, but manages to be visually appealing enough to play today. Many older 3D titles look a little rough by 2016 standards, and that's not the case here. I played it on my iPad Pro, and the game unsurprisingly ran flawlessly, but if you're playing on an older device there's options to lower the graphics settings to get higher framerates. Just like other Rockstar mobile games, Bully features a cloud save system through the Rockstar Social Club. This review was based on an early copy of the game, so I wasn't able to test any of them, but they've even gone as far as to turn the different school class mini games into turn-based online multiplayer friend challenges. Much like cloud saving via the Social Club, it's just one more thing Rockstar totally could have skipped out on and Bully would still have been a fantastic game.

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Controls are... Well, they're about what you'd expect if you've played any of the previous GTA games on mobile. If not, they did about as good of a job as they could have making the game work with a touchscreen. Movement is handled via a virtual joystick on the left side of the screen, while an array of buttons on the right side of the screen handle all of your actions. Rarely does the game require much precision, largely thanks to how the lock-on system works in combat, but I did run into a few action-packed sequences that felt a little more difficult than they should have been using virtual controls. Regardless, they totally work. Thankfully, MFi controllers are totally supported and if you've got one connected all the clutter of the on-screen UI goes away and the game prompts you to do things using the various MFi buttons instead. While I have no doubts you can play Bully start to finish with the touchscreen, the best way to play this game is definitely going to be with a controller.

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I'm really not sure what else there is to say about Bully. The game, when it was originally released, scored an impressive 87 on Metacritic, and it's only gotten better over the years with the various visual improvements and minor gameplay additions. If you missed Bully when it was first released on the PlayStation 2, then skipped it again when it was re-released on other platforms, don't miss this new re-remastered iteration. Hell, I'd say the entirety of the Rockstar iOS catalog is worth owning, and Bully: Anniversary Edition is no different.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • brantov

    Wow...

  • Stetch

    Woo! Woooo!!! YES!!!

  • Son of Anarchy

    No way... I'm a bit blown away by this... perfect surprise ending to the year.

  • Exact-Psience

    Holy crap this out now? It's my favorite Rockstar title by far!

    • metalcasket

      Yep, mine too. ๐Ÿ˜€ As soon as Eli teased the game yesterday, I had I gut feeling it was going to be Bully. Rockstar releasing a game this time of the year has indeed become a tradition, and as amazing as it would have been to complete the GTA collection on mobile, I don't think VCS would have warranted that kind of teasing. It's all too obvious. Anyway, enough babbling, more refreshing of the App Store! kthxbai

    • Purp Mete

      Great story, great game.
      I hope rockstar consider to make bully 2. There are so many players who want next sequel.

  • rezn

    Hell yes. This was a true treat and surprise Eli.

  • Shkrbby

    Was hoping for GTAIV

    • bigmonkeynads

      lolz

  • bigmonkeynads

    lol GTA IV

  • speedyph

    Where two years away for gta 4 guys that's 2018 lls

  • orangecan

    Can't wait to give this another go - it's one of my favourite games ever, I do remember there being a really annoying mission late on though - the water tower I think?

  • GiHubb

    Do missions have checkpoints? This was added to recent GTA ports, I wonder if it was added here too.

  • Duane Locsin

    Never got to play this.
    Now more of the classics are coming with MFI too!
    Will add to my collection of classics + Gamevice controller

  • TripMX

    If it's compatible with iOS 8, then INSTA-BUY!!!

    • mabus51

      Why use iOS 8 at this point? It's garbage let go of the legacy.

      • MidnightKing15

        cause you cant update some, i just got an ipad 2 last year and it cant upgrade past ios 8, its fucking bullshit

      • Railgun

        iPad 2 is 5 'fucking' years old, champ. Time to put that McDonald's money into a new one, if it's that important to you.

      • MidnightKing15

        im not buying a new one, i just got it last year...

      • http://lickmynuts.com Railgun

        Point totally understood, but next time don't buy a 4 year old piece of hardware and expect developer support.

      • MidnightKing15

        fair enough, but i had no idea it was that old, i needed an upgrade and got the 64 gb, i dont keep up with every new thing bc they make like 5 new ones a year lol

      • Tom Swayer

        a closed system for sale in a SO CALLED "free market"
        perfect for capitalism.
        fair enough? I think not.
        you do know why it is a "closed system" right?

        So they can force hardware upgrades for almost no reason--- This game is what ten years old? Well, way to excuse capitalism and insult the fast food profession, and assume this guy is 15 I guess and needs to be taught that he doesnt have big boy money for big boy toys

        way to celebrate the release of a game called bully by being a

        bullyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

      • http://www.1singur.deviantart.com/ Stefan Dumitrache

        You DO know it is also available for Android, which has cheaper hardware, right? Rockstar doesn't "bully" you into buying expensive hardware, and the review DOES mention the ability to lower visuals to accommodate older devices. Hell, Google Play says my Galaxy S4 can run it, which is fine by me ๐Ÿ˜€

      • TripMX

        iOS 8 is still a very functional and viable firmware even today; I'd even go as far as saying it's even more stable than iOS 9. I have the 6th generation iPad, and it runs iOS 8 as fluid as water. If the massive XCOM can run on iOS 7+, surely Bully (iOS) could also do the same while at the same time opening up the possibility of more purchases of the game aka more money for the devs.

      • WhoaManWtF

        There is no reason for them to make a new game support an old OS if it makes it more difficult to make it support newer OSes which it apparently does.

      • TripMX

        If the devs want a chance at maximizing profits, they would consider supporting the lowest firmware possible in the project's planning phase.

      • WhoaManWtF

        But if they take advantage of the newer dev kits and things like new versions of Metal and what not they just plain are not compatible with older versions, they do not do it to exclude people. There is also always the fact they have better DRM control on higher firmware and we are talking premium priced games that are more prone to piracy.

      • TripMX

        In regards to them taking full advantage of the latest versions of Metal, it is not written in stone that the devs still can't support older devices/firmware albeit they'd have to lower textures and turn off some high-end features when a lower firmware/device is detected.

      • WhoaManWtF

        Realistically though if that was your livelihood as a developer would you take the extras development time/resources to add that to satisfy a subset of users who are less likely to buy/more likely to pirate your game? A lot of users on lower versions of iOS are on it because they are jailbroken, not all jailbroken users pirate games but the numbers do not lie and a lot of them do.

      • TripMX

        To put it simply, if I were the developer, I would have already aimed for supporting the lowest possible iOS firmware from the beginning of the project. Undermining support for lower firmware(s) results in a loss of sales of some proportion. In the case of this game (Bully), honest consumers using firmware below iOS 9 will not be able to play this game, hence a loss of sales. On the flipside, pirates in the same boat as the honest consumers also cannot play the game. From this perspective, the inevitable loss of sales was a direct result of restricting the firmware requirements in lieu of "combating piracy".

        The iOS 9+ firmware restriction results in a loss of potential sales from iOS 7 and iOS 8 users (assuming iOS 6 is too out-of-date to run the game [Bully] properly).

        I would suggest that the dev support as low a firmware as possible to maximize revenue:

        [Support for iOS 7 and 8]
        -Some may pirate game (no $$$ earned)
        -Many will buy game ($$$ earned)

        [Support for iOS 9 and higher]
        -Some may pirate game (no $$$ earned)
        -Many will buy game ($$$ earned)

        If we combine the above support, then we're looking at two large venues from which potential revenue could be earned instead of just one closed bracket. In other words, there is money to be had from both supported sides.

        Money that is earned can be deposited into the bank while money not earned is simply $0.00, which cannot be deposited into the bank (aka "loss of sale").

        To put it simply (and hypothetically):

        In one hand you got $1,000,000 from total sales.
        In the other hand you got $0.00 from total piracy.

        POTENTIAL money was lost while ACTUAL money was gained; the actual money could be deposited into the bank. Let's say we cut that amount in half ($500,000)....would you be content with $500,000 or $1,000,000?

      • WhoaManWtF

        You are not counting the initial development time and money spent to make it compatible and then the further trouble shooting and updating that is required to keep it compatible every time you update your game/app though. At some point and likely very soon talking iOS 7 and 8 the extra effort/time outweighs the value. Especially when you have a large percentage of the buying market on one OS version that you can continuously support without worrying about the others.

        I understand your point, and it does seem without taking in all of the factors of expenses and payroll and support and bug fixing caused by supporting all of the different versions that the bigger pool would be more profitable. But this is a huge reason that development on iOS is more profitable than on Android even though Android has a much much larger pool of users.

      • http://www.1singur.deviantart.com/ Stefan Dumitrache

        The game is ported to mobile platforms, not developed on them, so I don't see how the "new versions of Metal" would benefit the game, as opposed to previous versions of Metal. Most probably the game runs just fine on iOS 8.

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/rrvirus redribbon

    hell yeah!!!

  • D. Bida

    Officially available!

    • D. Bida

      Unfortunately you can't search the title. You gotta search Rockstar Games and go to their dev page from one of their other titles

      • jamesmcadams82

        Now downloading over the painfully slow wifi at work.

  • Cheeseball

    US App Store Link. Looks like it just went up a few seconds ago.

  • Cigarekt

    Minimum OS requirement 9.0 eh... sorry to pop your joyful bubbles (if any)

  • conscript

    While it's not the GTA I was hoping for, after reading your review Eli, I think I'll give this a try. Of course that's after I play a bit more of GOF3!

    • cmmc38

      [waves hand] This is not the GTA you're hoping for...

  • Taeles

    Downloading now

    • Railgun

      Thanks, we were all waiting with bated breath to see what you were doing just now.

      • Taeles

        just now? reading dick-wad replies to ta article comments.

      • Railgun

        Oh nice, how's that working out for you, princess?

      • Taeles

        pretty darn good buttercup, always seems to be a plethora of such replies to read and sometimes the dick-wad replies multiply on themselves which makes it even easier to find for reading.

      • http://lickmynuts.com Railgun

        Oh well, glad to have kept you entertained, sunshine! Maybe you should get a life and actually have something important to contribute to the conversation. Never let your mediocrity hold you back, you ponce.

      • Taeles

        Really impressive how much your comment applies to you as much as you feel it applies to me. o/

      • http://lickmynuts.com Railgun

        You went with a less creative version of the old school "I'm rubber and you're glue" comeback. Your talents really know no bounds. We should just be friends.

  • Just4today77

    What's the best controller for iOS? Mifi? I tried a Bluetooth and it lagged

  • Timmy2x

    Wonder if I should just wait for backwards compatibility for the Xbox One or snag this for my iPad hmmm

  • mcorleonep

    I may pick this up when it goes on sale since I did play through this on the XBox 360. Highly recommended for those who skipped it. I was really hoping for a follow up to this one...

  • curtisrshideler

    If I can pull myself away from the PS4 that I'm expecting, then I'll snag this up. Love their porting. Wish more devs could afford to do this kind of stuff!

  • walruseater

    holy crap this looks amazing!
    such a great game. a true underrated classic.

  • Montanx HS

    Dude...Bully is amazing. Such a great game. Wayyyy up there with even the best Gta games.

  • Lewis J Neal

    It's ment to GTA vice city Stories its anniversary maybe they could be Releasing 2 games

  • tubaros

    Insta bought this. Runs well and looks great on my 6s. Will try mfi later ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Luq Celi

      How well? 60 fps? No slowdowns? ๐Ÿ™‚

      • markhiblen

        No shadows!!!

      • Luq Celi

        Wtf, bug or what?

      • markhiblen

        Android has shadow option, nothing on iOS!

  • Showmelater

    Man, i want this on ATV 4 with controller support. Come on!! Look at me..., "doing My best jedi trick"
    -We gonna make it work for ATV....mmm

    • Railgun

      Get back on your meds...

  • markhiblen

    Where are the shadows in the game?! Playing on latest iOS Air 2

  • markhiblen

    I've checked all over in settings, just 'clarity' can be changed, tried all three options, restarted the iPad, checked the alleged screenshots of it playing on iOS, shadows should be there, but nothing

  • boydstr

    Never played the game on consoles but after reading so mutch positive reactions on game forums I decided to buy it for my Xbox so you can imagine my surprise that the game is now available on iPhone so this is such a great surprise๐Ÿ˜‚and it's playable in the best possible version thanks Rockstar its my Christmas present ๐ŸŽof the year I hope to see more of Rockstar's finest on iPhone.

    • markhiblen

      Not best version, no shadows in the game

      • boydstr

        So you to say that the original version of Bully had shadows but the enhanced version of the game not ๐Ÿ˜ณ.......very strange b.t.w on which iPhone you played the game?

      • markhiblen

        I've found out that all of the versions of it have had shadows. On the Android release it actually has a SHADOWS option offering low/medium/high in the graphics settings. But nothing in on the iOS version, just a clarity setting (also present on Android). I'm playing on iOS 10.1 iPad Air 2, so I would have thought SHADOWS would have been an option...
        People are just seeming to become aware of this as I think iOS was sold short on the graphics front

      • boydstr

        That's strange but I can live without the shadow option so long the game can deliver great gameplay and Rockstar is wel known for making fantastic games an mabey they fix this with an update.

  • giantfart12

    Sweet called it lol cant wait to try it out

  • HariGovind Thinakkal

    Now this and next gangster new orleans, this Christmas is going to be AWSOME! !!!!!!!

  • Abdirahman Yassin

    If anyone's downloaded it on android or iOS can you tell me how I can look up or down in the game??????????

  • Edris Azim

    Guys help me
    I have iphone 5 and it supports bully but i am confused if it runs it laggy or smoothly

  • matus

    Apple TV?

  • Leon Noble

    Do any of the missions and gameplay from playstation 2 get left out on the mobile version? Just felt at first like they've made the overall mission line a lot shorter? Or is that just my dodgy memory?

  • Jamessmooth

    Man this is a great game. I remember getting it the day it came out 10 years ago.

  • markhiblen

    So apparently the 'shadows' setting has been omitted from what I can gather, anything under the A8 chip, so even recent iPads such as Air 2 won't get shadows...
    Considering you can scale back the 'clarity' then I'm pretty pissed they didn't bother to include the option on other devices. I can see issues on an iPad 2, but on the Air 2?!
    I've tweeted rockstar support, emailed and put the word out. No response as to why or if there will be a fix

  • CraigAlot

    So I ordered the nimbus controller through amazon prime just for this game but I can't get him to run full speed when using the controller so I get caught all the time. Anyone have a nimbus and figured out how to run full speed? A makes you jog but not run.

  • Endscrypt

    Yeah no shadows on my iPad Air 2, but there in the settings on my iPhone 7. Well it's no shadows for me then! can't play games like this on my moby.

  • markhiblen

    The bottom line on the 'no shadows option', specifically lack-of in devices as new as iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 seems to point to the difference in the chipset (A8x= shadows options, A8=shadows permanently disabled), but it's not good enough...

    There's is no mention of this in the App Store write up of the game, just 'supported devices', and the option is present in ALL Android devices, no matter the power, a little insulting to all but the very latest Apple device users

    TouchArcade couldn't wait to get this out as 'game-of-the-week', hell they even used screenshots with shadows on!, and no mention to us about the missing option in our devices. I've tweeted several times to Rockstar Support about why the option is completely missing, and sent a couple of emails but no response as yet.

    As an iPad Air 2 user put it in the reviews section of Bully on the App Store, shadows make a huge difference to the graphic quality of a game, and can sway our decision wether to purchase the game or not, and to give us a 'clarity' option but omit the shadows one completely is a pretty crappy thing to do

    Bully is an awesome game, but this is NOT the best version on iOS, and I wondering how many people own a pro, mini 4 or iPhone 7 compared to the millions with an Air2, iPhone 6 .etc, is it just lazy programming?

    I'm hoping in the very near future Rockstar roll out an apology for misleading advertising and an update that can allow most iOS users to make up our own minds what is a decent frame rate compared to graphic sacrifices, and it may pay some of the reviewers of said game to inform us as much as possible on the option or lack of, and not just get giddy, slap GAME OF THE WEEK on it and give it a less than cursory look

  • EZ Ice

    Awesome...

  • Neil Robinson

    How do you do the 3 hit combo in the gym? I'm stuck.

  • Galbraith

    All I have to say is wow. It is amazing. It might keep me off my 360 for a while.

  • Jacob

    I'm running bully on my iPhone 5s and it's running on iOS 10.2 and it's working fabulous

  • Gustavo Cardenas

    Do you need wifi to play

Bully: Anniversary Edition Reviewed by Eli Hodapp on . Rating: 5