Rockstar is the well-known developer behind the Grand Theft Auto series, but when they aren?t focusing on creating games about stealing cars, they come up with other unique creations. Initially released on the PlayStation 2, in October of 2006, Bully gained little attention from gamers, many of which have not even heard of the game, but upon the announcement of a revised version of Bully coming to the Wii, the buzz began. Now available on both Wii and Xbox 360, Bully: Scholarship Edition brings the game into a whole new light, with multiple updates that, as a whole, ultimately make the game a success.
Bully: Scholarship Edition is simply an updated version of the original Bully for PS2, but these updates come in many forms, from the addition of more missions and classes to attend, to a complete graphics update. Moving to a new platform, with the Wii, makes Scholarship Edition feel new through the use of the Wii?s unique controls from aiming the remote to shoot with a slingshot, to completing mini-games, like classes, through the motion sensitive remote and nun-chuck. Bully follows the path of a mischievous 15-year-old, Jimmy Hopkins, as he is thrust into the fictional New England boarding school known as Bullworth Academy. But school is not just about learning school subjects in the classroom; Jimmy must also learn about and become liked by each of the various cliques, so as not to be pushed around and, in the end, conquer the school as one not to be reckoned with.
The point of each of the game?s first five chapters is to gain respect from one of the various cliques: Nerds, Preppies, Jocks, Greasers, and Townies. Once Jimmy proves himself, he will be allowed to use each of the cliques? hideouts, giving him a new place to sleep and possibly some other loot. As chapters are completed, seasons pass in the game, from summer to fall, followed by winter and spring. Holidays like Halloween, Valentines Day, and Christmas have also been thrown in for good measure, and offer their own set of special missions for Jimmy to complete. Aside from being picked on by each of the cliques, another bully named Gary seems to be causing trouble around the school and pushes Jimmy around quite a bit, even while pretending that they are friends.
During chapter 1 of Bully, Jimmy is captive within the school grounds to learn what he can about his new environment. In each consecutive chapter, new areas outside the school grounds will be made available to Jimmy. As much fun as going back to school to do class work may sound, each of Bully?s ten classes take the form of short, timed mini-games, though they can be quite challenging. Each class has five levels that can be attempted to complete the class, but the class is only available at certain times, so players will have to come back a minimum of five times to make it through. Though an attempt was made to make each class level increase in difficulty, only a few of the classes really make this distinction apparent, namely Art and Music. In Art class, players must move a pencil pointer around a picture, blocking off areas while avoiding moving enemies. If enough of the picture is blocked off within three tries, players complete the level. To make this mini-game more difficult, more enemies are added at each level. Music class is a hand variation of DDR, though it is a bit harder on ones ears than DDR ever was. Players perform the percussion line of various band songs by moving the remote and nun-chuck up and down when an arrow is displayed within the corresponding controller?s box. Music class is manageable, but the songs increase in speed on each level. The other eight mini-games include: Math class (multiple choice), English (given seven letters, spell as many words as possible), Biology (dissect various animals, just like the real thing, without the smell), Geography (match the correct flag with its corresponding place on the map), Photography (run around and take pictures of things), Gym (wrestling and dodge ball), Chemistry and Shop (match the correct controller motion or button combinations).
Each completed class level grants some sort of reward. Many classes give players new clothes or hats, though a select few have more useful rewards. English class unlocks the ability for Jimmy to sweet talk his way out of some trouble. Photography class unlocks items such as a blank Bullworth yearbook that Jimmy can fill with pictures by going around and taking pictures of the students. New BMX bikes are unlocked by completing levels in Shop class, while new weapons, such as stink bombs and fire crackers, are unlocked by the king of Chemistry class. Art class provides Jimmy with the ability to kiss girls. Kissing a female student increases Jimmy?s health, but early on, it will cost him. To woo a pretentious member of the opposite sex, Jimmy will need to bring with him a gift of either flowers or candy; though completing all five levels of Art class removes this necessity.
Beyond attending class, Jimmy has the option to take on missions around town, complete small tasks for various folk, or do a job, each given to him at specifically marked spots on the mini-map. Usually, Jimmy will simply be paid for completing a mission, task, or job, though missions are introduced with a cut scene and tend to further the game?s story. Missions can be quite amusing with such highlights as snow-balling a bunch of mischievous townies for Santa and breaking into an insane asylum. Tasks and jobs also include some excitement, from causing mischief to mowing a lawn within a short amount of time, but there are other happenings around town that should also not to be missed. At one edge of town lies a carnival, full of all sorts of interactive carnival games, rides, and circus side-shows. It even comes complete with a fortune teller machine and an arcade with five different, fully functional games that can be played. Several places around town also allow Jimmy to compete in bike races, though these tend to be tiring to one?s hands.
Even with all there is to do in the single player game, Rockstar still had time to add in some multiplayer mini-games for two players. Multiplayer is composed of ten mini-games that can be played, tournament style, in increments of three, six, or nine, with a winner crowned at the end for the player who has won the most games out of the set. While many classes have been chosen to be incorporated into the multiplayer mode, including: English, Art, Geography, Math, Music, Chemistry, Biology, and Photography, a shooting gallery (similar to what is found at the carnival) and the arcade game Consumo (out-eat an opponent while moving around a sumo wrestler) are also available in multiplayer mode. Most of the classes are the same games as what are found in single player mode, except that a running total of correctly answered questions appears next to the player name at the top of the screen and it is a race to correctly answer a question since each player is given the same question and the first one to answer correctly nabs the point. Photography class is completely different from the class that appear in the actual game, only showing players a room and asking them to be the first one to identify the location and take a picture of the object shown to them, rather than controlling Jimmy and having to run about the school grounds taking pictures. Chemistry class is also slightly modified, allowing players to sabotage each others? experiments to gain the upper hand at completing their experiment first.
Given how large of a game Bully is, it comes as no surprise that it will have some noticeable bugs and glitches. No bug actually kept us from continuing to play, however, we managed to get Jimmy stuck in one mission and had to wait until the time ran out for him to be reset in a different location. Thankfully, players can save their game in many locations throughout the town and have the ability to create multiple save files, thus one can nearly always pick up where he leaves off. The most noticeable of bugs involved some pixilation of the graphics and blocky textures. A sound glitch also appears whenever Jimmy is brought to the principal?s office as they both begin talking at the same time.
The game?s controls could have been tweaked further. During some classes our motions and button pressing was misinterpreted or ignored. We also had trouble using the breaks, which also happens to be how one makes a bike back up, due to the position of the breaks being set as up on the remote?s d-pad. A little adjusting would go a long way for improving the experience at Bullworth.
Jimmy tends to get into quite a bit of trouble at Bullworth Academy. Picking on nerds, picking fights with jocks, and pinching girls? bottoms is just the beginning. Jimmy always seems to have the school prefects on his trail for spray painting a wall on the school grounds, breaking into someone?s locker, or simply being late to class; however, these acts seem to pale in comparison to what else is happening on school grounds. One teacher is constantly seen in a drunken stupor and even drinks in front of Jimmy, offering him alcohol before realizing Jimmy is not old enough to drink. Another sells test answers to students. The cook is also disgusting ? smoking while preparing food and coughing and spitting into it while preparing it for students to consume. It would seem Jimmy is not alone in his wrong doing.
Around town matters are not any better, though instead of prefects, the police patrol streets. Fights break out on street corners between cliques, and people steal bikes right out from underneath one another (similar to Grand Theft Auto); Jimmy even participates in some vandalism in several missions, both to peoples homes, breaking windows and damaging their property, and by destroying a set for Santa?s photo shoot ? midget elves and all. Speaking of midgets, there is a lot of betting that goes on in a midget wrestling match and several portions of the game set out to make fun of the little people. There are also several opportunities for Jimmy to place wagers on tasks he plans to complete. In several missions Jimmy must run from the police for dealing in some sort of illegal matters, and it is a reoccurring theme of Bully to undermine the authorities.
It is quite amazing Bully managed to side-step a Mature rating from the ESRB, due to the sheer amount of language found in the game. Just about everywhere around town and the school grounds, one will hear a character yell out some variety of profanity, though these are kept to the lower end of the language spectrum, similar to what would be allowed to air on the radio. Sexual references are also found throughout the many conversations Jimmy has with people around town.
While Jimmy may be able to make out with just about any girl he wants at school, pinch their bottoms, and grab their behind while kissing, aside from some cleavage, Bully is fairly clear of sexual images. Jimmy goes on a couple dates while attending Bullworth, where he holds the hand of the girl he is taking with him. One mission, given to Jimmy by the Nerds, makes Jimmy take pictures of the lead cheerleader, including a shower photo, though nothing but a silhouette is show to the player.
Violence is a fairly common occurrence in Bully. A bum that lives hidden on the school grounds teaches Jimmy several fighting moves that prove useful in the many fights he manages to get himself into at school. Not only will Jimmy wrestle in gym class, but he will need to knock out several preps and jocks both inside a boxing ring and even on the streets. If a clique is not happy, they may even jump Jimmy if he is on their turf. Fighting is achieved in a semi-realistic manner, making use of the Wii?s motion sensitive controllers. Players will learn to swing the remote and nun-chuck to hit someone, and press buttons to block or perform more damaging attacks. It seems that unless Jimmy beats up the head of each and every clique, he will never have any respect.
Given all the objectionable content to be found in Bully, we were surprised to see a Teen rating from the ESRB on its box, rather than Mature as it more rightly deserves. Also questionable is the subject matter of the game, given the negative attention school bullying is receiving in the media. Content aside, Bully provides an entertaining look at what causing mischief around a boarding school might be like and the game?s numerous missions, classroom activities, and characters really bring Bully to life. Bugs and all, Bully: Scholarship Edition provides hours upon hours of playtime, and makes good use of the Wii?s unique control style.
» By Stephan Mack, Plain Games. Published 4/15/2008 12:58:40 PM.