Rockstar and Mad Doc have included a very robust stat page, which is your lifeline when trying to figure what you have done in the game. Almost every action you take is recorded somewhere in these stats. It doesn’t matter if it is how many kisses, how far you have driven the lawnmower or how many times students have told on you. It is all there. This is extremely helpful when trying to figure out just how close you are to getting certain achievements that require a specific amount of something to unlock it.
Bully: SE won’t win any awards for graphics of the year, but overall Mad Doc did a solid job of porting the game from the PS2. The limitations of developing originally for the older platform do show up from time to time, mainly in the cut scenes. However, the game physics are surprisingly good, as the characters and objects in the game seem to react accordingly when action and action is applied, such as being hit, kicked, bumped or knocked down. Some of the animations get old pretty quick (such as every chick at Bullworth apparently learning how to kiss from the same guy, probably the vagrant that lives behind the School Bus), what doesn’t get old is giving knees to the groin and kicking bullies when they are down.
The audio soundtrack is extremely good, and is anchored by the background music which complements the pace and activity on screen. If it kicks up to a fast pace, you know its time to run like the wind or swivel your head around to figure out where the danger is. Fortunately the radar tips you off to the closest prefect, cop or bully. Where the audio really shines is in the verbal interactions with the characters in the game. There are over 100 voiced characters located in the academy and the surrounding town, which really adds to the gaming experience. After playing through the game, it is easy to see that not only is Jimmy Hopkins back, but he is looking and sounding better than ever.
The Achievements in Bully: Scholarship Edition range from easy to hilarious and can be picked up primarily by letting the storyline run its course. Two real creative ones are “Over the Rainbow” for getting 20 kisses from the Gents and “Dual Nebula” for setting a high score on all the mini-game Arcade machines in the game. The great thing about the grinders (such as traveling distance on bike, foot, skateboard, etc) is that they should still be accomplished during the normal course of the game. Toss in the fact that there is an extremely comprehensive stats page, so it should be easy to know exactly how close you are to getting that next achievement. Overall, it is a very well balanced list with even the ones you have to work at being fun to get.
Bully: Scholarship Edition is all about keeping yourself busy all of the time. No matter where you are at in the storyline, what section of the bully universe you are exploring or what people you are interacting with, there will always be something to grab your attention, place to explore or an object to just screw around with. Very few games I have played combine mission completions with general sandbox play as well as Bully: SE has done. The main thing to keep in mind is that you simply won’t want to put it down because the game just becomes increasingly more fun to play the deeper you get into it. When the town opens up after Chapter one, it feels like an expansion pack has been added to the base game, as there are so many new things to explore, errands to run and missions to complete.
Fortunately, I took the opportunity to put this review together after experiencing both the pre and post-patch releases of the game. As a result, I have discussed the pre-patch issues, but have rated the post-patch version with all of the significant performance upgrades that were implemented. I would rather provide an accurate review of the game, than be the first to rush a review to publication. The reasoning is that if you rent or buy the game after reading this review, the patch will have been applied as soon as the game is connected to live. There should not be any additional framerate and freezing issues once the patch is implemented.
The bottom line is that Bully: Scholarship Edition is one of those games that you have an extremely hard time putting down and allows the mischievous kid in all of us to come out. It is engaging, fun to play and downright additive at times. There are some flaws that can’t be overlooked, but all in all it is worth buying and spending the time exploring the Bullworth virtual World.
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