Game Reviews
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Bully: Scholarship Edition – Review

What better way to kick off my Couch Campus reviews than with the game, Bully: Scholarship Edition. Back in 2006, Rockstar released this little gem on the PS2. It was pretty well received, but not near as big as the epic Grand Theft Auto series. The game almost felt like “GTA-Lite”, seeing as it had only a Teen rating and you never kill anybody, you only knock them out. Now, a couple years later, they decided to port it over to the Xbox 360 and Wii, and it turned out surprisingly well. In most cases, ports add nothing new and rarely ever update anything within the game. In Bully’s case, the developers updated the graphics (still not very next-gen, but MUCH nicer than the PS2), added a few missions and a few classes as well.

The gameplay is rather simple for anybody who has played a GTA game. Generally, it has the same fighting system, mission setup, and layout. In this game you star as Jimmy Hopkins, an angst-filled teen whose family sends him to Bullworth Academy. From the start, the player will notice that Jimmy was never a good kid, but at the same time really just wants to be accepted by his peers. I think that is where Bully really pulls people in. As you explore the academy and see the different cliques and groups of people on campus, you really start to relate to at least one of the characters (if not Jimmy himself), and it starts to engross you into the game. The academy itself is a very interesting setting. I really enjoyed skipping classes, just to check out every nook and cranny of the school grounds, until eventually I was able to explore the town. Another cool idea within the game, is that it takes place over the entire year. You will experience Halloween, Christmas, Spring, etc. at the school, and it was kind of nice seeing a change in scenery every chapter.

The story has a few interesting characters, mainly being Jimmy and his rival, Gary. Throughout the missions you will find that the prefects (teachers and staff), are not as perfect as they seem and have MANY problems. You will end up helping a teacher with a drinking problem, panty raid the girls dorm for one of the prefects, and even help break a teacher out of an insane asylum. One thing many gamers may notice is that many of the missions are the same. You really will just do fetch and escort missions the entire time, I am not going to lie, there is not a lot of variety in the missions. Although, the dialogue and clever setups for each mission are what keep you going. The biggest letdown about the story is that after Chapter 1, the story really comes to a halt and is nothing more than random missions. In the final chapter (Chapter 5), the story picks back up, and has a great ending…its just a shame they could not keep a good story throughout. Most of the fun in this game is not really in the story, its in the humor. You will spend a lot of time laughing at how perfect Rockstar has capture the stereotypes of school cliques. All the preps are rich snobs, greasers have hot tempers, jocks have the IQ of a jock-strap, bullies pick on everyone and everything smaller than them, and the nerds are always found congregating at the local comic book store.

As I said before, there are a few updates, but nothing too special. This game still feels very “last-gen” in the fact that the sandbox world, really does not feel as open as it should. Don’t get me wrong, the pacing for the game is perfect. As soon as you get tired of an area, a new Chapter opens, as well as a new part of town. However, this town really does not feel alive (for people who are playing GTA IV now…they really know what a living, breathing city feels like in a game). Even with an amazing game like GTA on store shelves now, it really would be a shame not to check out Bully, because it is a very different game in the way it is executed.

In the end, it’s worth the fifty dollar price tag for anybody who as not experienced the game on the PS2. When it was first released there were framerate and freezing issues, but since then an update has been released and seem to have fixed the problem. However, once in the fifteen hours I put into the game, it froze. The only reason I spent that long with the game, is I was playing side-missions and fulfilling many of the grinding achievements (collecting things, running for so long, etc.). The game it self is probably less than ten hours if you just blow through it from mission to mission without really checking out all the cool things in town. So gamer, I think you have what it takes to graduate from Bullworth Academy, so make a reviewer proud and don’t become a drop-out.