|System: X360, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rockstar Vancouver||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Rockstar Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Leading up to the release of Bully for the PS2 several years ago, no one could quite predict the success -- or lack thereof -- the title would meet. Would it be dubbed a GTA clone produced for a quick buck by attempting to appeal to a different audience, or what it be remembered as a really cool, innovative, and stand-alone sandbox title? Fortunately, the latter is what actually happened, and now we've got Bully: Scholarship Edition for the Nintendo Wii.
For those of you unaware, Bully: Scholarship Edition is essentially a remake of the PS2 hit title, although there are some significant changes that, in my opinion, ultimately make it a better game than its prequel. The title is a sandbox game, in the vein of such popular games as Grand Theft Auto (incidentally, each game is done by the same dev team: Rockstar). However, the big twist is that rather than jacking cars and murdering innocent civilians, Bully takes on a less epic but equally fun feel by focusing on a prep school and the surrounding town.
You, the player, take on the role of Jimmy Hopkins, a kid who's been picked on for quite some time. He's unceremoniously dumped off at Bullworth Academy and left to fend for himself in what may be considered a high school student's nightmare-turned-reality. There are bullies (surprised? I didn't think so) around every corner, and Jimmy is by no means a very popular kid.
Plot foundation aside, it's the vast majority of things to do that really make Bully: Scholarship Edition what it is. As I've already mentioned, it's a sandbox game, meaning you're essentially given free roam of your environment (though there are some things you'll need to do before you have access to the town), and you're welcome to do what you wish. Of course, there are missions scattered about, and the game is not entirely without a backbone -- there are several classes (mini-games) and missions to complete that really add to the Bully experience.
A big piece of the game, outside of the free-roaming fun and character interaction to be had, is the mini-games that are offered in the form of different classes. For example, Biology is very much like Trauma Center in a nutshell, and while it's been stripped of its complexity, the fun is still very much there. One significant problem with these mini-games, however, is that while some of them are pretty fun, like the one I've just mentioned, others aren't. They lack a general sense of polish, and some of them honestly feel quite half-baked -- certainly not something you want in any game, and even less so in a sequel to a game released two years ago.
But what's the point? Even though it may not be your traditional "Go from point A to point B doing such and such along the way" video game, there's still an encompassing goal for your time at Bullworth Academy: you want to gain status and recognition and escape your initial position as target of just about everybody at school. And it is by completing missions, going to classes, and interacting with the huge cast of very believable characters that this goal can ultimately be reached. Missions gain you respect and gratitude from other people, as well as funds which can be used to purchase items (there are a slew of them available). The same goes for classes, and these need to be completed in order to make progress in this game.