Here are some random thoughts commenting on my Bully experience:
- Loved the music. Nice melody. I like how they spice it up a little in different areas or when you’re on different vehicles. I like musical themes.
- Love the design of the map, and I love how they slowly introduce you to it. Nice and slow, with lots of back-and-forth so you become very familiar with the layout. Feels like home by the end of the game. I could travel around that map with my eyes closed.
- Similarly, you hang around the same characters throughout. I like games where you grow with the cast, as opposed to meeting a character and then 5 minutes later discarding him to move on to the next character. Sure, new characters are introduced as you proceed through the game, but the old ones are never forgotten. Recycling is great.
- Mission difficulty was nice. Never hard. In a story-based game like this, you want it to be tough enough that it feels like a challenge without it becoming so hard that it is frustrating. I may have had to try a mission a second time here or there (I’d have to double check the stats), but for the most part I aced them all without it ever feeling too easy or boring.
- The only thing I found hard in the game was Biology. I failed that many times. In fact, at one point I kept failing the final class so I had to save before trying so I could keep trying. I was so happy when I was done with that one.
- Loved how much there was to do. Classes, errands, missions, mini-games, arcade games, collections… it never seems to end. There’s always something to do. (Except at the end when the errands stop firing prematurely because it’s bugged.)
- Also liked that because you’re a student, you have to juggle what you can do. That is, you can run off to the carnival to go on the rides but if you have a class to get to, you have to be quick on your feet in order to get back in time.
- I hate games where every attack is a different series of button presses and you never feel in control of the action. Bully is not that. Combat is easy to control. Hold LT to lock on to your target. Press X to strike. Press X multiple times to create combos. Press X once or more to start a combo and then hold X to change it up. Lots of moves made simple. That keeps the challenge focused on the opponent(s) and not the controller.
- On the other hand, the targeting wasn’t perfect. Your character didn’t snap to the direction of your target. So you’d be locked on to someone but facing the wrong direction and he’d be right on you so there was no room to play a turning animation. That forced you to run away and then run back to get properly faced.
- School was too short. Now, don’t get me wrong: it feels like a lot at the start. There are 8 or 10 classes and there are 5 levels of each. That takes a while to get through. But the problem is that I completed it in the second or third chapter. For the rest of the game after, I never had to acknowledge that I was a student. I could leave campus and never go back. That breaks the illusion a little.
- I was surprised at a few missing classes. A language class would have been nice. Political science could have been fun. Same with history. Shoot, they could have thrown in a religion course if they wanted. Maybe they should have even broken them up by chapter so there were always more to get to. And then, in summer school, you could finish anything you missed.
- I read a few complaints regarding the distances involved in getting around. One mission has you here, another has you across the map. My response? In GTA IV, that was a problem. Not in Bully. Bikes make for very quick travel. And with all the stuff to do in between, going across the map didn’t bother me in the slightest.
- Another criticism, they make reference to your standing with the various factions. This mission makes you a hit with the nerds but angers the jocks. That mission impresses the greasers but irks the preppies. I got excited about this at first thinking that meant I’d have choices and consequences. Would I strive to impress the nerds? Did I find the jocks more sympathetic? Ultimately, there is no choice. It doesn’t matter. The only difference is sometimes you complete some missions and nerds harass you along the way. And sometimes they help you take out jocks. I see that as good, but overall a missed opportunity for better.
- Some of the achievements were fun to go for. Tripping 25 kids with marbles? That was easy. Drop a bunch in the hallway and pull the fire alarm. Instant achievement. And hilarious! On the other hand, breaking 300 bottles was a chore! It’s my opinion that achievements should be rewards for creative thinking or for actually accomplishing something. They should be giving achievements for something that’s a challenge like hitting 100% while mowing the football field lawn — not for buying 100 sodas. You know how I bought 100 sodas? I stood in front of the pop machine and kept pressing Y while ignoring the TV and browsing the internet.
- Hey, I don’t know much about art but I discovered, thanks to a camera clipping problem (the camera dropped below the floor), that the geometry of the levels is mirrored! That is, the staircase in the school not only goes up like you’d expect, but also below the ground. Why? Because it creates a reflection effect when paired with a semi-transparent floor. Maybe that kind of stuff is obvious to artist types, but I thought it seemed quite the clever way to get an effect.
I think that’s it. If I remember anything else, I’ll edit it in. But overall, a great game. Very few complaints. Just fun. Makes me wish we had a Bully 2 on the horizon instead of Max Payne 3. This one was way more fun for me than GTA IV.