Scholarship Edition is somewhat of a director's cut for Bully, the game released as Canis Canem Edit in Europe in 2006. The new version keeps the soul of the original PlayStation 2 game and adds a next-gen polish to its body. It also adds new graphics, extra solo missions, and multiplayer games.
As we saw in our previous visit to Rockstar London's offices, Scholarship Edition--coming to the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii in March--offers new control mechanics with the Wii Remote, as well as improved visuals. In addition to eight new single-player missions, four new multiplayer "classes" (minigames) have been added: music, maths, biology, and geography.
You'll fill the shoes of Jimmy Hopkins, a teen delinquent with a troubled past dumped at the gates of the prestigious Bullworth Academy boarding school by his mother, who abandons him to go on her latest honeymoon. Jimmy enrolls at Bullworth through necessity because he's been kicked out of a string of schools, and Bullworth is the only one willing--or stupid enough--to admit him.
We tried the four new multiplayer classes and found them to be a great addition to the game--multiplayer is still a purely offline affair. The music class follows a method similar to other rhythm games and reminded us of the minigame in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas where you have to pump your car hydraulics to the beat. Duking it out as Jimmy or Gary, we took the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in hand, which represented onscreen maracas, and had to follow along with the dismal-sounding school band. You control the maracas by shaking either hand to a series of vertically scrolling notes that pass through a reticule much in the same manner as Guitar Hero. It takes a bit of practice to master, but getting the timing spot-on or pulling off a string of correct notes, rewards you with a higher score.
The maths class takes a page out of Nintendo's Brain Training, with puzzles ranging from simple arithmetic to questions with dimensions, weight, and more. The multiple choice answers could be chosen using the Wii Remote by pointing and clicking. Biology, which we saw previously, involves the dissection of a particular animal by using a magnifying glass, scalpel forceps, and pins. We attempted dissecting a rat using the Wii Remote in a race against the clock and another player. Points are awarded for speed and accuracy, so it pays to be careful rather than just hacking through it at record pace.
The geography class involves placing named flags on the appropriate countries within a region. We tried our luck with the Middle East and North Africa, Central and South America, and South East Asia. Even with the flags and country names to help jog our memory, it was surprisingly challenging to identify some of the more far-flung countries.
After a lesson in multiplayer, we graduated to the single-player campaign. We played a mission originally from the PS2 version, Character Sheets, in which Jimmy Hopkins has to help fellow student Melvin get back stolen sheets for his favourite role-playing board game, Grottos and Gremlins. Using the skateboard, we roamed around the schoolyard until we found the culprits indicated on the map and proceeded to teach them a lesson in schoolyard bullying.
Rockstar then showed us a new mission, Rudy the Red Nosed Santa, located in downtown Bullworth and starring a hilarious new character: Rudy--the town's drunken Santa. It seems Rudy's winter wonderland is lacking some wonder, and it's up to Jimmy to find some ornaments, located in the town's trashcans, to help spice it up. On your journey, you'll be assaulted by elves and their pet bulldog--presumably sent from a competing Santa--which you'll need to fend off. If you get close enough to an elf, you can pick him up and dump him in a trashcan!
It's not over when you get the ornaments back to Rudy. You'll need to be his photographer as he sits for some happy holiday snaps with the kiddies. Using the camera, you'll need to take four "happy" photos, which are harder to take than it sounds given the disobedient brats Rudy meets, as well as his drunken demeanour and alcohol-drenched odour.
We found that the Wii Remote worked well with Bully. Compared to the 360 controller, the Wii Remote certainly felt more intuitive and natural, especially when trying to delicately dissect critters or move flags in multiplayer. Many moves, such as throwing punches or performing humiliation moves, are done by shaking the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Other moves, such as performing an ollie on your skateboard, are performed with buttons. Some moves are made just a bit more amusing with the Wii Remote, such as giving a wedgie, which is done by pressing right on the D pad, then jerking the Wii Remote and Nunchuk up quickly.
What we saw appeared to be a near-final build, and the graphics looked good, even on a 65-inch display. However, the graphics were noticeably more detailed and sharper on the Xbox 360 version.
Rockstar said that the new version will take more than 30 hours to complete, including side quests, classes at Bullworth Academy, and other amusements spread around the world, such as arcade games. With new graphics, music, background dialogue, missions, and multiplayer games, Bully: Scholarship Edition is likely to appeal to old and new players alike. It is currently scheduled for a European release date of March 7.