Released late in 2006, the original Bully was an interesting â€“ and largely successful â€“ deviation from the GTA games for developer Rockstar. The setting was highly original (for a video game, in any case), the gameplay fun, and the awkward thrill of reliving your adolescence made for some interesting times. Weâ€™ve already covered the original here, back when it was called Canis Canem Edit, and liked what we saw. So now, well over a year later, how does this expanded version of Bully hold up?
Essentially, itâ€™s much the same game, and the new features are all in line with what was there before. As is usually the case with â€˜extendedâ€™ versions of games, itâ€™s a bit hard to recommend buying it all over again if youâ€™ve already played through the original. However, if you never finished it off, or havenâ€™t gotten round to trying it out at all, then Bully: Scholarship Edition on the Wii is one of the more fun games on the system, and definitely worth checking out.
There are several major things going for this game. Its setting is the most obvious one â€“ you play the role of a troubled kid, dumped by ungrateful parents at the gates of Bullworth Academy, a school thatâ€™s hardly an esteemed centre of learning. Very quickly, youâ€™ll be shown around the various locales, groups, and rules. With its well-implemented time cycle (both day/night and seasonal), youâ€™ll need to juggle attending classes with navigating through the dense collection of stereotypical college groups, from nerds and greasers to jocks and prep boys. The whole thing feels wonderfully thought out and cohesive, and is brought to life by a generally excellent script and voice actors.
The gameplay aspects of Bully are almost as well presented, although a few aspects do undermine things a bit. Each of the classes (including four new ones) involves playing through increasingly difficult mini-games that take advantage of the Wiiâ€™s motion controls, generally to good effect. Chemistry starts off with some easy onscreen prompts telling you to rotate the remote or shake the nunchuck, but quickly ramps up into something more difficult. Music has you playing a simple rhythm of sorts, while biology has you carving up animal specimens. These mini-games are good fun, and provide a welcome distraction from the core gameplay.
Thatâ€™s not to say the core gameplay isnâ€™t a lot of fun. Even beyond the numerous and varied missions, itâ€™s easier to occupy yourself simply with running around the grounds of Bullworth academy. You can fight people, intimidate them, beg them for mercy, or even â€“ gasp â€“ try and be friendly. Depending on your actions, and the missions you play, youâ€™ll oscillate in and out of favour with the various social groups. However, some of the gameplay mechanics get a little tiresome after a while, such as the series of boxing missions you do at one point, and can become a bit of a chore. On the other hand, the main missions are extremely varied, and stay entertaining right through to the end â€“ something that happens all too rarely in video games.
The graphics appear to have been touched up somewhat since the PS2 version, and fit well on the Wii. Theyâ€™re certainly not going to win any awards, but the art style really lifts everything up and unifies it. The sound and music, likewise, do a great job of helping create the strong atmosphere of Bully, which makes simply inhabiting the school and its grounds so much fun.
While not every element of the game is on the same level of polish, the overall package gives you so much to do that you could conceivably be running around Bullworth for several dozen hours. Beyond the core missions, there are a ton of side quests, arcade games, and more to occupy your time. There are also a few two player modes, but they serve as more of a distraction rather than anything substantial. Still, if youâ€™re looking for something on the Wii to really sink your teeth into, Bully: Scholarship Edition may be just your thing. Itâ€™s not perfect, but itâ€™s a heck of a lot of fun.