Previews// Bully: Scholarship Edition - Preview

Posted 24 Jan 2008 16:51 by
I love a bit of Bully, so I was thrilled when Rockstar invited me in to see a preview of the latest builds of Bully: Scholarship Edition ? currently in development for Wii and 360 - with both due for release early March. With new missions, up-scaled graphics, loads of new mini-games and Wii-Remote functionality there was plenty for me to get excited about.

For those who have not yet enjoyed the PS2 version of Rockstar?s schoolboy high jinx caper (released back in 2006 ? see SPOnG?s review) then you are in for a proper treat. For those who fondly remember playing through Canis Canem Edit - as it was hilariously renamed due to misplaced tabloid fervour (shock! horror! game as bully simulator!) ? then you can look forward to getting stuck into all the new content in Bully: Scholarship Edition. Win. Win.

Tabloid noise aside, those gamers who were canny enough to buy the (clumsily renamed) PS2 game discovered a beautifully crafted and hilariously-scripted piece of interactive entertainment. It drew inspiration from a whole range of schoolboy caper stories and reminded SPOnG of some of our own personal favourites ? from Just William through to Grange Hill, Ferris Bueller?s Day Off and more. Put simply, it was in no way, shape or form a bullying simulator. The Jack Thompsons and misinformed, anti-gaming hacks were treated to a welcome serving of egg on their face.

Read on to find out what I made of the latest versions of the game on Wii and 360.

I loved Bully first time round. It was almost flawless, both in concept and in execution. For me it was easily one of the best PS2 games of 2006, it looked lovely, it played well and it made me laugh a lot, pretty much ticking all the boxes of what a game should do. However, it was overlooked by many at the time due to the heavy media focus on the new, shiny, shiny next-gen consoles that Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony were gearing up to release that Christmas. (Or failing to release, in the case of SCEE, but that?s all water under the bridge now?).

So, I was pretty happy to be invited to Rockstar?s swanky Chelsea offices recently to be shown the latest preview builds of Bully: Scholarship Edition on Wii and 360. Was it going to be a straight port with prettier graphics? Or would Rockstar Vancouver have put a little more effort in to please both the new audiences and the old fans of the original? Luckily, for gamers, it seems to have been the latter.

Story-wise, Scholarship Edition is pretty much the same as the first game, you play as Jimmy Hopkins, a young ne?er-do-well who?s money-grubbing mother heartlessly casts off at Bullworth Academy, a typical ?school of hard knocks?. So, while ?mom? takes off on honeymoon with yet another ?mook?, Jimmy is charged with forging a life for himself at this hellhole, trying to make friends, maintain popularity (and his grades) while dealing with the various student cliques, of which ?the bullies? are just one.

I was initially shown the Wii version of the intro level to the game, where Jimmy makes his first tentative steps into Bullworth Academy, gets a dressing down by the headmaster and meets his first (evil) friend Gary. Overall, my first impressions were that it looked slightly better than the PS2 version I remembered (as you would hope); and, while the graphics were certainly not on a par with some of Nintendo?s best first-party Wii titles, they look okay. I?m watching this on a 65-inch wide mega-telly, so I?m fairly sure they?ll look even better than okay on my old 28-inch standard def dinosaur telly.

But you don?t buy a Wii game for high definition graphics. It?s really the Wii Remote motion control aspects of this version that are the appeal, as you soon come to grips (literally) with various opponents in hugely enjoyable playground fisticuffs. While, for me, Wii Sports Boxing was the least fun game of the five that were bundled with the console, Rockstar has really nailed the fighting controls in Bully. Learning to wedgie and Chinese burn bullies, with clever control mapping to the Wii-Remote and Nunchuk, brought a massive grin to my face.
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