Bully: Scholarship Edition Review

As it is written: All good things must have a sequel. The original Bully game was so well received that there had to be another version. This time there is more to do on more powerful platforms with extra missions, costume options, and everyone has a little more to say. The graphics have been touched up a bit as well.

One may worry about such endeavors becoming a pure money grab with no thought into the product. I can assure you that was not totally a driving force. While the game isn’t entirely new, it does enhance the original enough for die-hard fans to enjoy, and newcomers to experience this thing called Bully for themselves.

Bully: Scholarship Edition isn’t Bully v2 so much as it is Bully 1.1. Not that there were many bug fixes, but ported to more powerful platforms with a little extra bit of content in which one may delight.

In terms of Wii graphics, the game does very well. Many things that should have round angles almost have round angles and that sort of thing. The shading options just aren’t there, but Rockstar has used a few nice techniques that make you not mind so much. Highlights are used in place of shadows and there is enough 3D work to make you not yearn horribly for the power of the 360.

The grounds are extensive. There are many places to go and many things to see. There is enough unique content to prevent you from being bored by the scenery. It is obvious a lot of time was put into the campus originally that it was easily ported over to the Wii’s less-than-stellar powers to sugar-the-eyes.

Everything is clean, crisp and easily distinguishable and that’s a huge help give some of the other challenges in the game.

The game is mostly about the acting and dialogue. There are no real nifty riffs or music tracks to it. There are a few bits, but their job is to not detract from the rest and they don’t. I have been playing for a few days and while I spend a lot of time redoing failed tasks, I’ve gotten fairly well accustomed to the voice acting.

The actors are not necessarily brilliant, but they are pretty good. The lines are delivered with poise and meaning and its certainly a lot better than I can do. Some of it gets a little repetitive, but then again high schoolers are rarely charged with vastly original thoughts.

In a quick thought: useable. The Wii’s control system can be a tough beast to tame, and Rockstar has been putting significant effort into this crucial portion of Bully. You need both the Wiimote and the Nunchuk, and you spend a great deal of time pushing yourself around with the ‘chuks thumb-control. The camera has a want to stray off line when people are coming up behind you and maneuvering can be a tad tricky at times. Chasing down the kid that has pegged you with a slingshot stone, for example, can be an exercise in futility if you aren’t doubly dexteritous.

I am not wholly gifted in this aptitude, but with some perseverance I was able to largely get things accomplished. There were times where I could be accused of sitting too far back, and quite a few times where adrenaline makes it rather hard to make a clean stroke. Perhaps there were opportunities lost to makes things a bit more forgiving, but one can over-tweak a device as easily as undercook it when one has a deadline.

While not perfect, it is certainly useable without destroying your nervous system; as long as you have a healthy nervous system. I was, however, disappointed that the game wouldn’t allow me to be left-handed. Maybe they don’t have those in Canada. Maybe they drown them at birth or something?

Disclosure: I did not play the first iteration. Even with all the murmuring of excitement over it in the GamingTrend locker room, I just wasn’t really captured by the theme. Watching the others play, I certainly understood the allure, and I wanted to make sure I got my crack at it when the time arose. However, my initial reaction was confirmed after a few hours at the controls.

Most of the time is spent walking hallways and corridors getting pushed around by disheveled knuckleheads that have nothing better to do than push you around. Some of these can be avoided by dodging into a fortunately nearby room, or even a garbage can. In between skulking the grounds, there are a series of missions in which you may partake. These are designated by stars on the map and you can cycle through your choices with the ‘2’ button.

Now, given the attitude of the game, it should be no surprise that one doesn’t have a lot of options to start. When I’m trying to help a nervous nerd get to his locker I extort the kid for his money and then proceed to run the Gauntlet of Bullies to get him there. When I come to timid Petey’s assistance, it turns into roughing up some poor hobo on the street.

If you do actually go to class, you are met with certain mini-games to achieve passing grades. If art class you play a sort of Xavios(??) meets reveal-the-photo game where you try to make squares out of the screen before baddies get your cursor. You can go to biology class and dissect things. This one was quite maddening given the imprecision of the Wiimote impersonating a scalpel. The music class is little more than an attempt to play a percussion instrument while shaking the controls a la Rayman’s Raving Rabbids. The inability to reverse the handedness of the controls made this one tricky.

If you are uneasy with the theme of fighting and a school run amok, you are probably better off just walking passed this one. I’d like other options that aren’t necessarily altruism gone wild, but don’t end up bloodying noses and fists. Hell, I just got old, didn’t I?

The game is huge, and that increases gameplay time which makes for better value. If you really enjoyed the first one, and wanted to do the extra missions and see the extra clothing items then you’ll like it. If you never played the PS2 version, and look forward to this sort of theme, then this can be a lot of fun.

If you have young and impressionable children, this is not a game for your household. I kept myself locked away as best I could from the 7 year-old, but there were still difficult questions about why everyone is trying to beat everyone else up, and the sexual aspects — while limited to kissing — was a bit much to explain.

The game isn’t so much about gratuitous violence as it is about Imperialism. The point of the game is not to spend all your time fighting and running from the hall monitors as it is about conquering the groups and reigning over the campus. Sometimes this is done with violence, and sometimes it is done with a smile, a handshake, and your fingers crossed behind your back.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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