Bully: Scholarship Edition Xbox 360 / Wii

Bully: Scholarship Edition Xbox 360 / Wii
Rockstar Games is no stranger to controversy. For years, they’ve been dealing with the fallout from the Grand Theft Auto games and the recent banning and un-banning of Manhunt 2 has cemented their status as the company that publishes games no one else dares publish. Yet it has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse, as was the case with Bully. When it was first announced for the PlayStation2 a couple of years ago, it was greeted with the kind of media uproar usually reserved for school shootings. This, apparently, was going to be a game where you got to bully children and do all kinds of despicable acts that glorified bullying in general. Naturally, these complaints were made before the game appeared and had absolutely no foundation because Bully is actually a rather sweet game with a very soft centre. It tells the story of Jimmy Hopkins, a troubled 15-year-old who’s sent to Bullworth Academy, one of the worst boarding schools around. Naturally there are shenanigans but what makes Bully more than just GTA for kids — because that’s how it actually plays — is that it somehow manages to capture just the right mix of adolescent humour and angst to make this more fun to play than GTA ever was. First of all, bullying isn’t tolerated by the game and many of the missions involve protecting other students from bullies or delivering comeuppances to bullies or teachers. Even without the missions, there is a lot to do, with a surprisingly large environment to explore and a healthy dose of hidden stuff to collect. It isn’t all about going to class though, because negotiating the school’s social network is important too, with its various cliques and romantic liaisons. Your education is delivered via a series of mini-games, which include timed button pressing to represent Chemistry, a variation of ancient arcade game Qix for Art Class, word puzzles for English and virtual dissection for Biology. Not only do these help break up the missions, they also allow Jimmy’s skills to be increased in various ways when completed successfully. The range of classes has been expanded on this new version and there are some two-player mini-games to try and keep players coming back even after completing the main story. The only real issues with the game are technical ones: there are lots of breaks for loading and the game suffers from more slowdowns than a game on the 360 should. But worst of all are the occasional crashes where the game just freezes for no good reason. There is supposed to be a patch for the game now that deals with the crashing but it does provide a real incentive to save obsessively, just like in the old days. (Rockstar Games)