Bully: Scholarship Edition Hands On
We were given a hands on revision class in Rockstar's remixed juvenile adventure game, and the results look promising.
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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 offers a next-generation polish to its body while also adding 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, particularly on the Xbox 360 version. 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 who is dumped at the gates of the prestigious Bullworth Academy boarding school by his mother, who abandons him to leave on her latest honeymoon. Jimmy enrols at Bullworth out of necessity: 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 great additions to the game, although multiplayer is still a purely offline affair for both consoles. The music class follows a method similar to other rhythm games and reminded us of the minigame in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in which you have to pump your car's hydraulics to the beat. Duking it out as Jimmy or Gary, we took our controller, which represented onscreen maracas, and had to follow along with the dismal-sounding school band. You'll need to get the timing right by matching 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; puzzles range from simple arithmetic to questions with dimensions, weight, and more, and the multiple-choice answers are chosen using the controller. Biology, which we saw previously, involves the dissection of a particular animal by using a magnifying glass, scalpel, forceps, and pins. We attempted to dissect a rat in a race against both the clock and another player. Points are awarded for speed and accuracy, so it pays to be careful rather than just hack through it at record pace.
The geography class involves placing named flags on the appropriate countries within a region. We tried our luck at the Middle East and North Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. Even with the flags and country names as a memory jog, 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 help spice things up with some ornaments, which are located around town in trash cans. 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 trash can.
It's not over when you bring 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 due to the disobedient brats Rudy meets, as well as his drunken demeanour and alcohol-drenched odour.
Although the 360 controller was fine most of the time, it felt a bit clunky for minigames in comparison to the Wii Remote. It's not a bad experience, but it certainly felt more intuitive and natural with the remote, especially when trying to delicately dissect critters or "grabbing" flags in geography.
What we saw appeared to be a near-final build, and the graphics looked much improved on the Xbox 360, especially on a 65-inch display. Rockstar said the mechanics on the Xbox 360 are much the same as in the PS2 version. Achievement points were yet to be finalised.
Rockstar said that the new version will take more than 30 hours to complete, including side quests, attending 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 current scheduled for a European release date of March 7.