Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bully review

“Bully” is awesome.

Ever wanted to give those jocks who tormented you an Indian Burn? Ever wanted to wedgify the preppies that made you dread lunchtime? Wanna throw eggs at nerds?
“Bully” is for you.

The game is a sandbox-style first-person adventure a la “Grand Theft Auto,” just without firearms and death.

Also, there’s a whole lot more structure.

That’s what really makes the game brilliant. You have to go to class or the prefects make you mow the grass. You have to be in bed by 2 a.m. or you pass out and get robbed (why the high schooler you play as can’t pull the occasional all-nighter is beyond me ... wuss). Picking fights, bullying and vandalizing your school will cost you if and when you get caught.

That level of realism and the message of “Behave you scamp!” that the game sends is what keeps “Bully” from being the moral corruption it tries to convince you it is. Don’t believe the hype or the ads or the box art. At the end of the day, the game wants you to do the right thing ... and punish those who don’t.

Now, you can skip classes and get away with it, but going to class and getting good marks gives you bonuses. You get more health every time you get some smooches. You unlock new outfits and learn how to get off the hook for minor infractions. Besides, classes are minigames (such as a version of “Text Twist” or “Trauma Center”) that are quite a bit of fun and decently challenging.

That’s another great side effect of the realism. It makes this game tough. You can’t vaporize the prefects, teachers and other authority figures. Outrunning them is difficult. So you’ve got to be stealthy, sneaky and all manners of clever.

Sometimes though, the game does demand you pull out the whuppin stick. Actually, it demands that a lot. Whenever you antagonize a clique, they come after you.

Relentlessly. You can run, get beat up, or dole the pain right back out. As always though, don’t get caught.

I’m through about 1/4th of the game, but the story is pretty cool so far. You play as troublemaker Jimmy Hopkins, the new kid trying to fit in. You get manipulated my a psychopathic teenager, Gary, who wants to ‘rule the school.’ Gary is so evil, so well-written, he’s already leapt into the pantheon of great teenage villains.

As far as the mechanics, playing is easy and your Wii-motions rarely get incorrectly registered. Controlling Jimmy is pretty smooth, the graphics are good for the Wii, the sound is clear and there are some nice tunes. The music doesn’t approach “Smash Bros. Brawl,” but I doubt anything will anytime soon.

The only gripes I have are that it takes a while to really unlock the games’ potential — being able to leave the school. Also, you get no weekends. You have class every day and that clock never slows down or goes away. You’d think that the game designers would have given you two full days of in-game clock time for mayhem. Nope. You’ve got class. So buy the game, learn the ropes, and claim that “coolest kid in school” title you probably never had growing up.

I’m giving “Bully” 4.5 buttons out 5.

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