Behind the imposing iron gates of Bullworth academy, school life plays out in a customary fashion. Nerds spend each day running from the jocks and bullies, the prefects and teachers patrol the halls ready to grab miscreants by the ears, and the lunch lady serves up the same suspicious stew surprise. Merely getting through the day takes guts, so when new kid Jimmy Hopkins arrives, it’s no wonder he has a scowl permanently attached to his face.
From the brilliant minds at the Rockstar Vancouver studio comes an adventure into a hell unlike any you’ve experienced before. Forget drive by shootings and crack dealers – this time around it’s all about the younger generation of sociopath. After arriving at Bullworth Academy and receiving a less-than-friendly welcome from Headmaster Crabblesnitch, you’re thrust into the daily struggle of the schoolyard. Not angry enough to be a bully, not geeky enough to be a nerd, not athletic enough to be a jock and not rich enough to be a preppie, you’re on your own from the very beginning.
Each day comprises of a morning and an afternoon class. The schedule may sound relaxed, but the clock you’re measuring your day with runs scarily fast. In reality, you’ll spend half of your free time dashing around the grounds trying to make it to your next class on time so you’re not busted for truancy. When you do find yourself with time up your sleeve, the possible ways to entertain yourself really do seem endless. You can earn pocket money by running errands for classmates, start food fights in the cafeteria, break into lockers, chat to fellow students, learn to box, visit the local traveling carnival, get a haircut, go shopping, mow lawns, get hit by cars and even find time to celebrate traditional holidays like Halloween. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In customary Rockstar fashion, you can keep an eye on more inane and ridiculous statistics than you could poke a stick at. How many other games would encourage you to run around and collect rubber bands?
The appeal found in the later Grand Theft Auto titles clearly shines through in Canis Canem Edit. Instead of jacking cars though, you’re skipping class, stealing school equipment and beating up other kids. The style of play instantly appeals to the younger generation because you don’t need a long attention span to enjoy the game. You can spend as much time as you want between the main story missions doing a million and one side tasks, hunting for collectables, or just running around the place. Having to work against the clock means that you can’t just wander aimlessly all day however, which gives the game a solid and enjoyable structure. Staying in school past 7pm means you’ll get busted for trespassing, staying out past 11pm will see you getting done for breaking curfew, and not being in bed past 2am will have you falling asleep on the spot.
As the missions increase in difficulty and complexity, so do the classes you attend. Chemistry 1 is easy enough to pass in your sleep but by the time you’ve graduated to Chemistry 5 you’ll definitely need your wits about you. Don’t be thinking that knowledge is its own reward though - there is a small bonus for passing each class, usually in the form of a new social or physical skill (which can come in very handy when dealing with the snotty prefects).
The graphics aren’t much to shout about for a current generation game. Surfaces are chunky and plain and the cutscenes passable, but the environments are detailed and crazy enough that you don’t end up missing the sparkling graphics.
Amidst your frantic dashes from the law and frequent dabblings in petty crime, you’ll be surrounded by a surprisingly delicate theme tune. Reminiscent of a Harry Potter soundtrack, these songs are repetitive but unobtrusive and leave you with the feeling that you’re not in Kansas anymore. The groups of students populating Bullworth might seem unoriginal in appearance, but the character dialogue is outrageous and varied.
With dozens of hours of gameplay, this is the sort of game you shouldn’t mind shelling out $90 for. Canis Canem Edit is crass, bizarre and ridiculous but above all, highly entertaining. With frequent ‘LOL’ moments, this is the kind of game you can spend all week playing either alone or with a group of amused onlookers. Splash out and treat yourself and your PS2 – it’s not often a game this comical comes along.