Bully, the semi-controversial story of a young student Jimmy Hopkins gets re-released on two other platforms aside from its original proving grounds, the Playstation 2. Now in high definition on the Xbox 360 and motion controlled on the Wii, we have a whole new way to explore the facilities of Bullworth academy.
Before I get started on this review, I have to attach a sticky note of sorts. This review is based on Bully: Scholarship Edition being played day one of the new patch that was released on the Xbox 360, and a virgin copy of the game on the Wii. Prior to the patch, problems have been reported of small glitches in the game and other ones including freezing. Since, my time reviewing Bully: Scholarship Edition, I haven’t experienced any problems with the game and can not verify any of the issues that gamers have been experiencing.
Rockstar Vancouver has created something special with Bully which continues to find a place in more homes with its re-release. This is my first time attending Bullworth Academy and now that I’ve spent some times in its endeared halls, I can see why so much hype surrounded the game when it was originally released on the Playstation 2. Bully is a unique experience that feels like that old familiar Rockstar patented gameplay set around a new relatively experience in gaming, high school. In this respect, Bully is like no other game. Its original approach, filled with standard gameplay elements is a real treat.
Bully follows a young 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins as he is abandoned at the esteemed private school, Bullworth Academy. Filled with adolescent antics, Jimmy finds himself wrapped up in school drama and placed in the role of friend and foe to many. Jimmy is an odd hero for a game that falls on both sides of defending students from the very nature that he advocates. Jimmy turns into the hero of the unforantue souls who don’t share high placement in the social status in and around Bullworth. You could think of him as a hypocrite because he uses the same tactics of bulling to fend of the Bullies that they use to intimidate the less fortunate population of the school. Fight fire with fire, you could say. It might not be the right answer, however in Jimmy’s world it works.
From the moment you settle into the boy’s dormitory in Bully you will be introduced to a young, un-medicated sociopath named Gary. This young champ starts the train rolling and you’ll quickly be running around getting into some serious trouble while shaking up the social structure that emanates at the school. If you have attended high school, which most of us have, you will have some sort of connection to Bully and you’ll laugh as you cause havoc, try to attend class and hook up for some sweet loving. Bully takes elements from all the high school movies over the years, while adding some memorable high-school hyjinks of its own.
Never running out of steam, Bully introduces Jimmy into a world filled with your typical high school cliques, of centered characters and the strange and odd. Bullworth is filled with every stereotype you would expect including role-playing nerds, alcoholic teachers, the road-kill cooking lunch lady, dysfunctional inbred families, the princess cheerleading snobbish girl, the greased up gear heads and more... You’ve probably already got the picture. All the characters in Bully are extremely well acted with a lovable charm, which even continues with the most despicable characters.
The way you progress in the Bully’s chapters is to complete a number of tasks in one social group and the move onto the next. Bully constantly brings out original tasks for the player to complete that never get dull. Each social group has their own events and interests that you will have to infiltrate and ultimately foil. For the greater good, Jimmy will have to be familiar with bike racing, plant life extermination, general humiliation and many other skills as he triumphs over ever situation.
Bully is set up on sandbox principles giving the player free reign on the way they want to experience the game. The trick that keeps Bully interesting is the juggling act between attending classes, completing missions and participating in side quests. The clock is always ticking in the game and which becomes the structure to Bully’s free roam approach. After 2 a.m. your character will automatically pass out due to exhaustion and wake up call is for 8 a.m. in the morning. This gives the player 18hrs hour in game to roam get things done. Time management is the key to success, thankfully Bully never feels overbearing.
Besides hanging around the campus of Bullworth and attending the classes like a perfect student, or you can branch out and explore the surrounding area. The Scholarship Edition of Bully has four new classes added to the curriculum for a total of eight subjects. The classes are as follows; music, geography, english, biology, math, photography, gym, and shop. The school work aspect of Bully are little mini-games that will have you hitting timed button presses like in Biology, or enjoying a game of Dogeball in gym class. Each class mini-game is enjoyable and surprisingly challenging. I enjoyed some of these games a little more on the Wii, but they are enjoyable on both systems. Stepping outside of Bullworth Academy you will find a small section of a town which includes the suburbs, a downtown area with shops, and a beach with unlockable beach house, a carnival and a few other areas. Initially the school is the only area unlocked as more will becomes accessible as your progress in the games storyline.
The controls in Bully are fairly manageable which fit the gameplay perfectly. Aspects like movement, inventory control and fighting are easily managed and kept simple. The social response system is easily activated and is simplified as well. Bully only becomes a little sloppy when dealing with fighting multiple enemies at once, or hitting exact spots on the map like opening a door under pressure. It’s as easy to say hello to someone as it is off up free wedgies. Aside from fighting, or egging random cars you can try your hand at romance with the female or male gender (the source of some controversy) by complimenting them, presenting them with some flowers and then a gift. Then it’s all wet lips and sloppy kisses from adorned lovers.
Bully can be a short experience, or a drawn out longer one depending on how you want to play the game. Running straight through the mission objectives will give you about 10 hours of humours fun, or you can spend many more hours exploring the games regions, getting straight A’s, running errands or simply searching for all the rubber bands, gnomes and G&G cards. The Scholarship Edition of Bully also added two local multiplayer games that take 10 mini-games from the single player game and put them into a competitive multiplayer mode. This isn’t going be a main attraction for any gamer, but if you want to show Bully to a few friends, the mini-games provide mild entertainment.
For problems, Bully has a few; however no one issue ever hurts the playability and fun of the game. The character movement is a little loose and the camera can get out of control and caught once and a while. The difficulty level is a little easy as well. Too bad there they didn’t include different levels of difficulty or a slider for self-adjustment. You also might want to question some of the Wii controls, but that is debatable in every single Wii title. Bully doesn’t need them, but at the end of the day they make the game a little more interesting, if you arm doesn’t get too tired that is.
If you’re headed out to purchase the Xbox 360 version, you should be fine with the new 1.03 patch that has been released. This will be automatically updated as soon as you load up Bully: SE if you’re hooked up to Live. I have heard about some freezing issues still being persistent; however in my case I haven’t encountered them. The biggest thing I could call a glitch on the Xbox 360 would be occasional frame-rate stutters that can be overlooked.
The extras added on to the "Scholarship Edition" part of Bully don’t really hold enough value to replay the game, unless you’re really interested in grabbing a few entertaining achievements on the 360, or trying Jimmy Hopkins unleashed with the Wii-mote. For specifics there are eight new missions, four new classes, additional characters, and new items and clothing apparel to find. The visuals have also been giving an upgrade on the Xbox 360 supporting 720p. This helps Bully look a little crisper, which in turn shows off the games visual limitations. On the Wii, Bully feels more at home with the production standards for that console. On either console, The Scholarship Edition is filled with a little more life than the original while delivering the unique style that only Rockstar games can achieve.
If you haven’t experienced Rockstar’s Bully in the past, now is the time to enroll into the Bullworth Academy. Bully is a great game for any console owner on any of the platforms, even the old PS2 version can count. The extra content in the Scholarship Edition don’t really justify another purchase, however everyone else should spend some time schooling some Bullies at Bullworth. This unique look into student life through the eyes of the new kid in town is an inspiration for gaming. Bully showcases that you don’t have to make an alien space shooters or another racing game to remain interesting and cool.
Rockstar Vancouver did an excellent job on Bully: SE and I’d love to see another adventure as the man on campus, Jimmy Hopkins. If you’re not convinced that Bully is that good, spend a few buck and rent this one out and you might just learn a few new pick up lines, insults, or even some geography with Bully: Scholarship Edition. Final Grade: A
Gameplay: 8.5, Graphics:8, Sound:9, Innovation: 8.5, Mojo:10 Final: 8.8 / 10