Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Relive High School as a Video Game with Bully: Scholarship Edition



Throughout the years, video games have allowed players to assume exciting roles such as space adventurers, superheroes, ninjas, soldiers, spies, samurai and medieval knights. However, to assume the role of a surly teenager at a dysfunctional boarding school, you'll have to play Rockstar Games' Bully: Scholarship Edition. I usually purchase horror and sci-fi games, but the premise of Bully was too unique for me to ignore so I picked up a copy for my Wii a few weeks back. I'm glad I did--Bully: Scholarship Edition is one of the best open world video games I've ever seen. Read on for my complete review.

Bully was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2006, and then it was updated and released as the Scholarship Edition for the Wii and Xbox 360 in 2008. I didn't know much about Bully during its first release, other than that it was made by the same company that produced the Grand Theft Auto series of games. That detail alone stirred much controversy for Bully before its initial release, including an unsuccessful lawsuit filed in Florida to block the game's sale in that state.


In Bully, you play as Jimmy Hopkins, a teenager who has been enrolled at Bullworth Academy while his mother goes on a year-long honeymoon in Europe with her latest husband. Your goal is to make it through the school year, navigating your way between the various school cliques and exploring the four Bullworth township boroughs that surround the campus. The game's overall plot is simple, but it is loaded with enough characters, locations, missions, side missions, unlockables and gameplay variety to keep you entertained for hours. If Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop got you in touch with your inner anarchist, then Bully: Scholarship Edition will get you in touch with your inner juvenile delinquent.

The game never takes itself seriously for a second, which in turn adds greatly to Bully's entertainment value. The violence never escalates beyond fisticuffs, and Jimmy's "weapons" consist of stink bombs, firecrackers, bags of marbles and itching powder. Each type of character--school clique students, teachers, and the Bullworth "townies"--is depicted with campy gusto as a satirical stereotype. The nerds are especially wimpy, the jocks are especially dimwitted, the preppies are especially selfish, and so on.

Puberty is so much easier when it includes save, reload, and exit options.

The game's goofiness extends into how it applies the logic of role-playing and video games to teenage life scenarios. You can earn or lose "respect points" from the cliques depending upon which clique is the victim of your latest prank, and you can boost your health reserve by kissing your classmates. The missions and side missions are also funny and outlandish, and they can range from making odd deliveries around town to spray painting graffiti on public property to breaking a Bullworth faculty member out of the local Happy Volts Asylum.

Bully is essentially a third-person adventure game, although many of the missions and side missions involve changes to the gameplay format. Fights with other students utilize fighting controls, and your camera and projectile weapons (which include a slingshot, a firecracker launcher and a spud gun) utilize first-person shooter controls. Since this game is set at a boarding school, you will take classes and each class has its own unique set of controls. For example, English classes require you to provide a list of words based on a given set of letters, Music classes require you to provide percussion in time to different selections of music, and Biology classes require you to dissect different lab animals within a fixed amount of time. Such a diverse range of gameplay styles make Bully ideal for the Wii, as each style translates smoothly to the Wiimote and nunchuk. After finishing this game on the Wii, I can't imagine playing it on any other console.


If all of the cool things that I mentioned above aren't enough, there's also the township of Bullworth itself. There are so many places to explore on campus and in the four boroughs, and there's even an amusement park where you go to play midway games, ride the rollercoaster, and race go-karts. The amount of detail in Bullworth is absolutely astonishing, and there's still plenty left to do after you've finished all of the main missions.

Bully is so well written, designed and programmed that I honestly can't think of any problems that might keep gamers from liking it. The main missions and side missions are clearly identified, so you can choose whether to advance the game's story or just earn some extra bonus cash. You'll encounter some surprising and unintuitive quirks during a few of the missions, but none of them will keep you from enjoying the game.


Bully: Scholarship Edition is a must-have game for the Wii system. If you never played it, I highly recommend that you get a copy and try it for yourself. Click here to go to the Bully Wiki page to learn more about the game, its characters, and its locations.




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