Review: Bully: Scholarship Edition (Wii)

Playing as Jimmy Hopkins, a student trying to find his identity and survive the classes and cliques of private school, school is fun again… for the most part. The greatest strength of Bully: Scholarship Edition is the wide variety of mini games and activities to engage in, and the freedom to choose what to do and when to do it. That could mean playing hooky from class, putting a stink bomb in someone’s locker, making money by doing someone a favor, wandering around school grounds, beating up classmates who provoke you, shopping at the school store, sneaking into the girls’ dorm, pulling the fire alarm, or even actually going to class. Later in the game, when the town of Bullworth becomes available, your options expand even further as you can get a part time job, explore town, visit the carnival, get into mischief with the police, and more.

Jimmy has a routine, loosely. He has certain things he’s supposed to do, including: get up in the morning, change, go to classes, go to his dorm at curfew, change for bed, and go to bed at night. But this schedule is as malleable as Jimmy is willing to defy authority. He can skip class or curfew, complete missions that are not sanctioned by the school, interact with other students around campus, and ignore the appointed schedule as he sees fit.

There are a couple of classes per day, covering a variety of subjects, such as Biology, Math, Music, Geography, Chemistry, English, and Art. Each class involves completing a mini game. These mini games feel similar to activities in other Wii and DS games. For example, Music class involves shaking the Wiimote and Nunchuck in rhythm with the music, much like the band activity on Rayman Raving Rabbids 2. Biology class feels like a simplified version of the Trauma Center games, with choosing your equipment and making precise movements to simulate things like cutting incisions and lifting out parts that need removal. The Math class feels similar to the math oriented games on Brain Challenge as you complete addition and other problems as quickly as possible. The games are not especially original, but it’s nice to have such a variety all in one place.

After a mini game is successfully completed, the challenge is increased the next time the class is in session. Some of the challenges are fun and others frustrating, usually a direct result of the fun or frustration factor of the Wii controls for that game. Some tasks feel custom made for the motion sensitive controls and others definitely do not. Truancy being an option is a relief in some cases!

The controls are less than ideal for fighting, and considering fighting is the most frequent activity in the game this is a real let-down. Students around school will randomly provoke fistfights for no apparent reason. Fighting involves shaking, jabbing, and swinging the Wiimote and Nunchuck as well as pushing certain buttons on the controller. It gets tiresome, especially when a gang of thug students assaults you, and it really gets annoying constantly being targeted for fights when you may be trying to complete a mission or task or get to class. It gets old fast. It almost feels like going through an RPG trying to figure out a dungeon puzzle while random encounters keep launching repeatedly. The phrase "Ugghhh, not again" comes to mind. It is possible to sprint and get away sometimes, but the provocation is still an unwelcome interruption when it occurs so often. Also, weapons may be acquired but they’re really no more fun to use than fist-fighting. Fighting in this game just isn’t fun enough to be such a prominent feature.

The script is well written, often hilarious, and the voice acting is top-notch. The sarcastic humor highlights in an exaggerated way what a lot of people will remember as the perils of their school years: teachers that seem to pick on them rather than the kids who deserve it… cliques of students who turn their nose up at anyone who doesn’t fit in… obnoxious principals, staff, and hall monitors… and more.

Bully: Scholarship Edition has some extra content that was not available in Bully for the PS2. Mini games from the story may now also be played online with friends; there are also eight new missions, a handful of new classes, and new items. There is also some improvement to the graphics, but they are still nothing to write home about. Edges look choppy and the colors and lines are not clean and crisp. The Wii may not be a powerhouse when it comes to graphics, but this game definitely does not utilize the Wii’s potential in that area. There are also some glitches and technical problems, but nothing that really affects game play.

Bully: Scholarship Edition for the Wii is an entertaining story with an amusing script. It is loaded with a variety of different mini games which are hit or miss depending on how well they work with the controllers. Although not perfect, it’s a huge game with a lot of content and a welcome title for the Wii.

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