Review: Bully – Scholarship Edition

I’m sure people will say in response to this release; ‘Why on earth would I want to buy a two-year old Playstation 2 port on my shiny all-powerful next-generation console?’ And to a certain extent, they’ve got a point. The game lacks originality in the gameplay department, the graphics are about as blocky as a next-gen machine can get (and that includes Wii Sports) and many of the in-game mechanics truly feel like they wouldn’t have been out of place in “Grand Theft Auto III”. But anyone who gives “Bully” a chance will find a gem of a game, maybe not a top quality gem like a diamond but at least a turquoise or amethyst.

The comparison to GTA was deliberate, as the game is made by Rockstar is basically just a clone set in a public school with the criminal element reduced accordingly to fit in with the surroundings. Missions occur in an open-world setting, with additional quests, missions and races to add some variety along the way. There’s nothing new here game-play wise, but that’s because it’s a classic template and here it’s done by the people who invented it, so that can hardly be considered a major negative point. In addition to this, the game has a certain charm and, despite the New England setting, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in an interactive episode of “Grange Hill”, just one that realises the irony. The story is similarly appealing, involving every high school cliche you an think of.

On the other hand, the graphics can’t really be defended. They’ve had two years to successfully port this game, and to do it so shoddily is a bit of a disgrace. Also unacceptable are the various bugs that blight the Xbox version, which are so much of a problem that a patch had to be released. The lack of an auto-save dates the game as well, as manual save points should no longer be necessary anymore. In addition the game is very easy; failing missions mostly being cause by accidentally riding a bike into a policeman.

So there are problems with this game, and if you’ve played the original version, there’s little to recommend, but if you haven’t, take note of the reduced price tag and enjoy a fun, witty and intelligent game, even if it’s somewhat simple and noticeably aging.

Final verdict: 8/10

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