Earns a Passing Grade, With Only a Few Demerits
Bully, or as I like to call it – Grand Theft Auto Junior, made a huge splash when it was released for the PS2. Many people, including every gamer’s favorite lawyer Jack Thompson, were up in arms about the prospects of what a Rockstar game targeted at a younger audience could contain.
As with most of these situations, this was clearly just an overreaction by people who don’t really understand anything about video games and fear them because of their overwhelming ignorance about the subject. The original Bully was an excellent sandbox game that was both appropriate for a teenage audience and extremely fun to play. It isn’t hard to see why Rockstar would choose to revamp and re-release this game on the next generation consoles (sorry, PS3).
As with the original Bully, the Scholarship Edition will center around Jimmy Hopkins, a troubled youth who is sent to Bullworth Academy against his will. Immediately upon his arrival, he discovers that Bullworth is an extremely hellish school filled with more mean teachers, bullies, and all around jerks than can be counted. Since no one at the school knows you, you will need to build relationships with other students in order to survive. There are several different cliques in Bully, like in real schools, that you will either befriend or annoy depending on what you do. Most of the characters in Bully are over-the-top stereotypes, like the typical disgusting lunch lady, stupid jocks, or rich snobs. While the character design is a little shallow, they do a good job of portraying things that we all remember from our high school days. The story is a decent approximation of what it is like for younger students in this day and age, although it can often seem somewhat over-exaggerated. Still, it is a great story of teenage angst that is quite easy to relate to and will surely satisfy almost anyone who plays through it.
Bully will have you playing through several days in the life of Jimmy. You will wake up every day and attend a couple of classes, then use your evenings to take on any of the slew of missions that are available. You are never actually forced to attend these classes, but if you don’t, you won’t receive any of the benefits that are gained by completing them. Attending class consists of showing up to the correct room at the correct time and then participating in a mini-game to see if you pass that day’s test. Along with all of the classic mini-games that were included in the original Bully, the Scholarship Edition adds some new ones including biology and music. The music mini-game is not very exciting, having you pull the left or right trigger to match falling notes. However, the biology mini-game is quite fun and yet entirely gross at the same time. To complete these classes successfully, you will need to dissect various animals before your time limit runs out. While these surgeries may not have been on par with the likes of Trauma Center, it did work rather well. Dissecting animals virtually is definitely a lot more fun and slightly less disgusting than having to do so in real life.
Another new addition to the Scholarship Edition is the inclusion of a multiplayer mode. Anyone looking to bully students cooperatively with a friend may be extremely disappointed by this mode. Instead of allowing two players to tackle Bullworth Academy’s endless hordes of bullies, the multiplayer mode just allows you to compete head-to-head in the game’s mini-games. You can choose to play first to three, six or nine victories, with the loser getting to choose the next mini-game type. While this mode can be entertaining for a brief period of time, it really lacks longevity. The mini-games will continue to change slightly, having you dissect different animals or matching countries and flags in different areas, but you will still tire of most of these mini-games within one to two hours of competition.
With its leap to the next generation of consoles, Bully also got a nice new coat of paint. The Scholarship Edition, as a whole, does look quite a bit better than the original, but its PS2 roots are still clearly visible. Character models look much better and move more realistically then they did in the original. The environments, while still looking a little dated, are crisper and more detailed than before. Perhaps the best upgrade that Bully received visually is in its lighting. The lighting effects are beautiful and immediately apparent. Having accurate shadows and lighting on the game’s characters and environments surprisingly makes this game look quite a bit prettier than its last generation brother.
This is definitely an excellent new edition of an already exquisite game. But unfortunately, that is where the problem lies in the Scholarship Edition. If you never got a chance to play the original Bully, you are really missing out and should pick up a copy of the superior Scholarship Edition as soon as possible. However, if you have already played Bully on the PS2, there really aren’t a lot of compelling reasons to play through this version. While it does add a few new missions, new classes, new characters, better graphics, and a limited multiplayer mode, it is still basically the same game as before. None of the new additions really make this game worth buying again or even going out of your way to play through it (about 30 hours) a second time. Still, for anyone who missed the first version of Bully, first of all shame on you, and secondly, you should certainly play through the revamped Scholarship Edition.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
While the graphics are certainly a vast improvement over the original version’s, some texture popping and framerate issues keep it from the head of the class. 3.5 Control
The camera and lock on controls continue to cause problems just like in the original. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent music and voice work throughout make this game sound fantastic. 3.9 Play Value
This game is extremely fun and will keep you playing for a long time to come. The only problem is that there isn’t enough new content to appease anyone who has already played through the original. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.