Bully was a PS2 game developed by Rockstar near the release of the Xbox 360. Rockstar felt that it did not get the attention it deserved so, in 2008 they released Bully: Scholarship Edition for the 360 and Wii, The re-release brought updated graphics, new classes, missions and music. Is the game an underappreciated gem, or a poor, poor port of a decent game?
Bully was a unique idea and definitely something different for Rockstar. Not the usual crime and violence oriented action adventure game. Bully puts you in the role of anti-hero Jimmy Hopkins, a boy who has been suspended seven times and dumped in Bullworth Academy by his mother and new stepfather. Jimmy is a noble bully; he only “gives what is coming” and just wants to be left alone. All hopes of that are gone when Gary, a psychotic classmate with a desire for power “befriends” Jimmy.
Bully’s story is full of back-stabbing, incest, teen romance and high school clichés. This is Bully’s strongest point; it excels in brining great humor with the assist of really great (but not so diverse) characters supported by their archetypes of Nerds, Preps, Greasers and Jocks. The highpoint of Bully’s characters is Gary who is a psychotic student with a made plot to control the school with (or without) Jimmy. Unfortunately he disappears at the end of the first act. All the teachers are interesting and fit their classes surprisingly well. And as you explore Bullworth you’ll over hear lots of funny things the citizens and students say.
Bully has gameplay – crazy, I know! It consists of doing missions, going to class and performing mini games in said classes. That is really all that is worth doing. There are collectables and bike races and the like but they’re not worth it, or fun. You have an entire campus and a steadily unlocking town to explore but it is empty, dead, boring and not worth exploring. The classes are fun for a while, but get old. I ended up skipping them near the end cause they were boring and repetitive, the rewards (costumes and kissing bonuses) are not worth the effort, well – the bike enhancements are nice.
The game would probably be a lot more fun if it weren’t so buggy. This is seriously the buggiest game I’ve ever played. Minor bugs, big bugs, mission breaking bugs, game crashing bugs, you name them, and Bully’s got ‘em. I failed so many missions because targets simply disappear or getting stuck in the map’s geometry The game runs on the Gamebyro engine (Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout ) which is usually pretty stable, but I experiences frame rate issues all the time and poor camera controls. Rockstar outsourced the porting, not a good choice.
The game goes on longer than it should. 15 hours is what I clocked in at and with tedious actions you’re always doing, 8 hours would have been fine. Without skipping class you only have 18 minutes to do missions before you pass out and must go to class (or not). You go to class at nine AM, go to class till three PM, and then at 11 PM prefects and cops will chase until two when you go to sleep (bed or not). These time constraints make completing tasks, a task and time management is just a gimmick. It really is not fun. You’ll need to deal with this until the last three missions!
The music is nice. It’s a little unfitting, but it fits, it’s odd. Every time you get chased by someone, depending on their faction a humorously fitting song starts. The music is atmospheric in a game that craves atmosphere and really benefits the game making it one of its few barely saving graces. Unfortunately there is this xylophone piece that plays when nothing is happening, and it gets stuck in your head. I can’t really hold this against the game though, it could just be me, and there is always at least one song in every game that does this.
The thing about Bully is that it has great potential. While Bully may have not been very good, it is a great spring board for a sequel. Despite the game not selling well, a sequel was accidentally confirmed by the original game’s composer. With Rockstar’s track record, a good sequel is pretty likely. So where Bully failed, let us hope for a fantastic sequel!
Bully is a decent game made awful by tedious activities, gimmicks, bugs and restrictions. It has great writing obfuscated by awful gameplay. It was a really neat concept that hopefully will be made more than just a failed idea with the coming sequel.
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