The highly controversial sandbox game developed by Rockstar initially for the PlayStation 2 has found its way, after a two years long wait, on PC systems. Since it came after the Xbox 360 and Wii versions of the game and in the shadows of GTA IV, Mercenaries 2 or Saints Row 2, Bully: Scholarship Edition for PC was heavily ignored by the public. And it deserves at least a bit more – we’ll see why throughout this review.
The story is very simple: you are Jimmy Hopkins, a teen that arrives at Bullworth Academy after being kicked out of virtually every high school in the area. This new school, though, seems to be the perfect place for Jimmy as it has a bit of everything: nerds to beat, bullies to beat, cool kids to beat (you get the idea) and all sorts of girl which are present in an institute led by a tyrannical director and some rather strange teachers (for example, a questionable art teacher posing for her students). Oh, yes, and there’s violence. LOTS of it.
Following this intro, the story unfolds as you play it and I’m not going to spoil it here, but I do have one thing to note: it’s incredibly scripted, it allows for absolutely zero choices and, no matter if you’d like to follow one path instead of another, it’s not possible (except for, of course, the optional quests, but they are more of a dead weight for the story). However, this does not mean that we’re dealing with a bad or uninteresting story. On the contrary, it’s really complex and along the way you’ll do everything you can imagine a school boy bully doing: for bullying nerds to kissing girls, skipping class and many, many more.
Being mainly a bad guy, Jimmy Hopkins has an arsenal of weapons to aid his cause of provoking unprovoked (sic!) pain. The heavy weapons present in similar sandbox titles are replaced with slingshots, baseball bats, marbles and rotten eggs in Bully: Scholarship Edition, but they tend to be very destructive. Thankfully, there is no actual killing or blood splatter involved here: the most you can do to your opponent is let it crawl and whine on the ground after a few well placed hits.
Even though not at all one of the most complex combat system in video games, the one brought by Rockstar in Bully is pretty cool actually: there are lots of combos you can make using all sorts of combinations of just two buttons – combos that are quite pleasant to look at and very destructive. This, however, will only be done if you really care – if you don’t, you’ll simply stick to a chaotic button mashing that will prove to be as destructive as the most elaborate moves you learn. Because, yes, you have to learn all your moves from the gym teacher or from the hobo living nearby.
However, it’s not all about mindless kicking and fighting in Bully, but most of it is. I’m talking about picking locks, spying on girls, tagging bridges and doing all sorts of anti-social activities, including pinching girls’ asses when they’re not paying attention (unfortunately this has no effect whatsoever). Still, you’ll want to be careful because the “hand of the law” has a strong presence in the game (generally as prefects in the school, but you’ll see some police too) and as soon as you’re cornered, there’s not much you can do to escape. When you’re caught, though, you’ll only lose a few of your items and you’ll have no problem replacing them afterwards.
Although the story is linear (you can only choose the order you take on the quests) and scripted, it offers a lot of various challenges, from recovering lost goods to fighting against all sorts of people, doing stupid pranks and even winning bicycle races. You won’t get bored with the challenges and you’ll generally enjoy the course of the story, even though you will wonder how come Jimmy beats a “fatty” in one mission, just to help him recover his comic book in another…