Bully: First Impression

I recently picked up a copy of Bully: Scholarship Edition for the Xbox 360 (patched to version 1.03). For those who haven’t played this (older) game, here’s the overview:

You’re a kid dropped off at a boarding school. The school is tough and you’re the new guy. It’s your job to survive the bullies and attend classes and not get kicked out of yet another school (your character has a troubled history).

Classes are mini-games. For example, in English class you’re given a bunch of letters and told to form as many words as you can within a fixed amount of time. In music class, you’re basically playing a rhythm game. When you pass a class, you’re rewarded by unlocking a clothing item or coming up with a formula to make your own stink bombs or itching powder. Meanwhile, there are story-based missions: breaking into the school to steal a diary or finding an alcoholic teacher’s stashes to protect him from himself. These advance the story, affect relationships with central characters, and usually earn you a little bit of money for buying clothes or going to the movies or the carnival. And there are the factions: such as the nerds and the bullies. Every action or mission has the potential to impact your standing with the other groups.

My first impression? Love it. Tons of fun. I love going to classes and going through the mini-games. And the quests themselves are fun and create the game’s story experience.

I do have a few complaints, and that is the emphasis for this post.

Early on, it seems like everyone wants to fight you. I would get a quest to walk five feet and barely be able to accomplish it because I kept getting attacked and then the prefects would come after me. It was getting frustrating. Fortunately, I befriended the nerds and they started jumping in during fights. Then, after completing a few more missions, the fights calmed dramatically.

The second criticism is that I was enjoying the classes and hit level three in most of them. Then, I apparently triggered the boss fight against one of the school’s football heroes that closed out the chapter and fired up the second chapter. Now, it’s all new classes. The completist in me would have preferred to ace the first semester’s courses before moving on to the next semester. Alas. Maybe I’ll get to go back to the older classes in a future semester or as I cycle through them more in chapter two.

My final [first impression] criticism is a minor one. The controls can’t be re-mapped and the commands are slightly off from what I’d expect. I’m used to squeezing the right trigger, for example, to power vehicles, while using the left trigger to brake. Here, it’s the [X] button (brake) and the [A] button (accelerate) and that sometimes trips me up. All it means is that I sometimes have to think about which buttons do what before I can do something, but then I’m fine.

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