Bully: Scholarship Edition

The following review is for both the Xbox 360 and Wii version of this game. This review features references to both versions of the game.

Kombo’s Review Policy: Our reviews are written for you. Our goal is to write honest, to-the-point reviews that don’t waste your time. This is why we’ve split our reviews into four sections: What the Game’s About, What’s Hot, What’s Not and Final Word, so that you can easily find the information you want from our reviews.

What the Game’s About
Rockstar is notorious for its video games, and we’re not just talking about Grand Theft Auto. Consider Bully, a GTA-style game set on the grounds of a school. When the game released in late 2006, it attracted attention because of its controversial theme. Consider the potentially potent combination: Rockstar’s history of violent games plus a game whose cast consists of children? It doesn’t get much more contentious than that. As you know, Rockstar isn’t one to back down, and thus it released Bully for PlayStation 2. A year-and-a-half later, we have Bully: Scholarship Edition for Xbox 360 and Wii, which is a port/remake of the PS2 title. The general formula is unchanged here: you still go to class, do missions for other kids in school and get into plenty of trouble along the way. However, Rockstar has completely rehauled the graphics engine for the 360 version of Scholarship Edition, and both the 360 and Wii version feature complimentary new content in the form of new classes, missions, weapons and an offline multiplayer mode to boot.

What’s Hot
If nothing else, Bully delivers a fun atmosphere. The game takes place in Bullworth Academy, a private school that’s crowded with bullies. On campus, you’ll find a wide variety of unique characters. For example, just moments into the game, you’re introduced to Gary, a teenage sociopath who simultaneously angers and entertains in one breath. Shortly afterwards, you’re making out with perhaps the fattest girl in school, who was in tears over her stolen box of chocolates when you first met her. It’s not just the kids in Bullworth that are dysfunctional, though. Your English teacher, for instance, is an alcoholic and regularly shows up to class hungover. Your math teacher? Yeah, he’s a crook. And the school coach? A perv and regular at the town’s adult video store. Indeed, Bully is populated by a combination of both likable and easy-to-hate characters.

Bully on Xbox 360
Bully plays similarly to any of the recent Grand Theft Auto games, minus the carjacking, hookers, murdering and other M-rated themes. The game is rated T, if that gives you any indication of what to expect when it comes to the level of violence in the game. The violence here is limited to punches, kicks and use of non-lethal weapons, such as your slingshot. When you’re not fighting with the other kids, there’s class – remember, this is a school, after all. Classes consist of mini-games, some better than others, but all moderately fun. If you’d prefer just to skip the whole class thing, though, you can. There’s a strong variety of missions to do, which you’ll play through to progress the amusing storyline.

The Xbox 360 version of Bully: Scholarship features a completely new graphics engine compared to the PS2 version. The biggest beneficiary of this upgrade is the game’s textures, which are noticeably sharper. Also, the 360 version supports 720p, which means the game will look crisp and clean on your HDTV.

Scholarship Edition for Wii employs use of the Wii-mote and nunchuck in a number of ways. The primary user of the controllers is combat. Rather than pressing buttons to clobber school kids with your fists, you use the Wii-mote and nunchuck. The setup is similar to Wii Sports’ Boxing game; you swing your real-life hands, which translates into in-game swings. Class mini-games also use the Wii’s motion-sensing controls, too, and some of these mini-games are much better because of it.

What’s Not
Perhaps you were the kind of kid that cut class in school, or maybe not. Either way, chances are you’ll become that kid when playing Bully. The class mini-games are decently entertaining, but some of them are considerably more fun than others. The lackluster mini-games eventually lose the little appeal they have, and they start to feel like chores. You’re rewarded by the game for attending class, but you aren’t forced to (thankfully). So, you can actually play through the game, spending a minimum amount of time in school.

Bully on Xbox 360
What would a game titled “Bully” be without a lot of fist fights? A weak sauce game, that’s what. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Rockstar’s school yard simulator. However, the combat system here isn’t flawless. As you progress, you’ll earn new moves and weapons, but for the most part, the combat is repetitive, and it’s hard to overcome this truth. Rather simplistic punching and kicking is only exciting for so long.

The Wii version of Bully: Scholarship Edition features enhanced Wii-mote controls, but while these improve some of the mini-games in the title, they feel gimmicky and tacked-on in others.

Final Word
If you never played Bully on PlayStation 2, you should consider checking out Bully: Scholarship Edition. Between the Xbox 360 and Wii versions, the 360 build is the superior game. However, both versions are well-done remakes/ports of Bully. It’s not exactly Grand Theft Auto caliber, but Bully: Scholarship Edition is still an entertaining open-world romp through Bullworth Academy.