Friday, August 8, 2008

Review: Bully: Scholarship Edition

Over the last two days, I've been playing the story mode of Bully: Scholarship Edition on the Nintendo Wii.

I've always been a fan or Rockstar games (though their Rockstar Ping Pong was pretty crap...and I played it only once! And State of Emergency was the pits too) so I get excited whenever a new Rockstar game gets released! Bully was actually by Rockstar Vancouver, but hey, it's still under the Rockstar banner.

I had played the original Grand Theft Auto all those years ago and while I never progressed past the third or fourth mission (hated the stupid bird's eye view from the sky), I found it just so fun having the freedom of choice in a world which was populated with gangsters, gunmen and people with violent tendencies!

So when I read about how groundbreaking GTA3 was on the PS2, I just had to try it out for myself. And I was absolutely blown away...I actually just completed the main story all on its own without doing any of the exploration of Liberty City and the side missions. And it was such a rivetting experience living in a full fleshed out 3D world where you had so much freedom just doing whatever you want outside of the main storyline missions, I went back and did it all again but this time, with the side missions!

And then GTA: Vice City came out and that is still my favourite game of all-time. The music was just to die for...combine that with the gameplay and you have a surefire winner for this child of the 80s! I purchased GTA: San Andreas when that came out but believe it or not, it still remains in its packaging to date and I haven't even played it yet!

When I heard that GTA: Liberty City Stories would be released on the PSP, I actually got a PSP just so I could play it and relive being in the world of GTA3 all over again. And then GTA: Vice City Stories was released...with even BETTER music than in Vice City! In fact, the only GTA game that I don't actually own is GTA4, and that's because I don't have either a PS3 or Xbox.

But enough about the Grand Theft Auto series. After all, this is supposed to be a review of Bully! I actually played the PS2 version a couple of months ago, despite the game having been released some time back, so I knew what I was in for. In Australia, there was this huge uproar about the game title so they actually renamed it as "Canis Canem Edit" which translates loosely to "Dog eats dog" or something like that.

In fact, if you want to read about the controversy Bully has generated, check out the Wikipedia entry:

Bully/Canis Canem Edit video game

Bully isn't anywhere close to as violent as the other games from the GTA series. What it does offer though is that same free-roaming expansive world that's now a trademark for most Rockstar games.

You play the title role of Jimmy Hopkins, who has been expelled from numerous schools and gets sent to Bullworth Academy, the strictest and worst school this side of America. Jimmy has a bad rep and sending him to Bullworth is the last resort for his mother and stepfather to "educate" him.

Strangely enough, with all the bad press that the game has received worldwide, one would think that Jimmy just goes around beating up other kids and bullying them into submission. On the contrary...Jimmy actually gets picked on and bullied by the other kids once he steps into Bullworth Academy! Jimmy doesn't take to bullying kindly though and thus kickstarts his adventure...fighting back, playing pranks on the other students and trying to romance the schoolgirls.

In the PS2 version, gameplay was fairly straightfoward especially when it came to the fighting, since you'd just mash a couple of buttons and you'd be beating up the other kids trying to bully you. The Wii version is much more order to throw kicks and punches, you actually thrust the Wiimote and the nunchuk forward! And there are combo moves, all of which are executed superbly with the Wii contollers. It makes sense that if you want to throw a punch, you should be doing it properly and not mashing a button!

And with the Wiimote innovation, you get to do other things that seemed unnatural in the PS2 version. The Wiimote is used as a targetting device when it comes to using the slingshot. When you use the camera, you can also use the Wiimote. Those who are used to the PS2 version and have moved onto the Wii version will find the changes a bit unnerving initially, but with an hour or so navigating the Bully world with the Wiimote and nunchuk, you'll feel it's as natural as it can possibly get!

The best thing about the Wii version? There are four extra classes: Biology, Music, Geography and Math. And there are extra missions too! With the four extra classes, I've found that everything is spaced out more evenly. In the PS2 version, I found that I had completed ALL the classes and I wasn't even halfway into the game. In the Wii version, I'm just about at the halfway mark but I've only graduated from two classes: Biology and Music, and still have at least one or two more classes for the rest before I'm done with them!

And the new classes are pretty fun too! Biology involves you to dissect various animals with the Wii controller...something that I can't imagine being done with an Xbox360 or PS2 controller! So you get that whole "Trauma Centre" feeling and gameplay. In Music, you get to play percussion instruments and try to shake the Wiimote and nunchuk in time with the music. Very Dance Dance Revolution with the Wii controllers!

Math is just like playing Brain Training or More Brain Training where you select the correct answers as quickly as possible. Geography is probably the toughest of the four classes as you need to have some working knowledge of world locations or you'll find yourself failing the class! You are given flags of countries or states and a map and you need to assign the flags to the correct country/state. Thankfully, when you point the cursor over the flag, the name of the country/state will actually appear at the bottom. I can't imagine how much more difficult it would be if you were running blind and had to try and identify the flag as well!

I did extremely poorly in the second Geography class where you needed to assign American state flags to the appropriate region they were located. What do I know about American geography? That's the one thing I didn't like...I knew where California, New York, Texas and Florida were, but the rest were pretty much a crap shoot. Either I could go grab a map of America and cheat or I could just randomly assign the flags to a state and try and remember what it was! Everytime you got something wrong, 5 seconds would be taken off the countdown clock. Took me four or five tries before I passed the class!

I really loved the Music class. It's just so fun trying to keep in time with the music! In fact, there's a new mission called "Nutcracker" during the Christmas period where you'd perform one long medley of Christmas songs. And that was absolutely awesome...I was laughing away in the background while playing the xylophone and humming to the Christmas songs I recognised!

Speaking of new missions, there are quite a number of new missions in the game as well. There are at least four new missions during Christmas including the aforementioned "Nutcracker". The other missions I played involve helping out a drunken hobo who believes he's Santa Claus! I really enjoyed the mission where he asks Jimmy to take out "the competition" and I went around causing mayhem, destroying Christmas props, Santa's sleigh, candy canes, presents, etc. And beating up midget "elves" was pretty funny too!

Still have quite a long way to go before I finish the game. But it's an extremely gratifying experience playing it. I thought the PS2 version was fantastic...but the Wii version just blows it out of the water and is an A-grade game. If you haven't tried out Bully before and want to just have some fun in a free-roaming world, get it today!

Here are just some screenshots of the game...I've got some of my own screenshots which I've saved and maybe I'll share them one of these days.

No comments: