Jimmy Hopkins is not your standard video game hero. In Bully: Scholarship Edition, he breaks a drunken schoolteacher out of an asylum, helps the lunch lady drug her date, steals panties from the girls' dorm, and takes pictures of snotty kids sitting on a homeless Santa's lap. But this is not your typical game, and 15 months after its release on the PlayStation 2, Bully's gameplay stands tall and proud. On its own, the original was already an embarrassment of pleasures, but additional features have been added to this enhanced version, including some local two-player minigames, new missions, new classes, and other less-noticeable goodies. If you haven't yet played Bully, now is the time to catch up with one of the better gaming experiences in recent years. However, Xbox 360 owners should stand warned: though Rockstar Games has promised that a patch is in the works, we experienced major bugs on that platform on multiple machines.
Jimmy Hopkins is smooth with the ladeez.
Provided that you play on the Wii or escape the wrath of the Xbox 360 version's bounteous bugs, you'll find an insanely entertaining experience that overcomes its small gameplay frustrations with heavy doses of humor and attitude. As new-kid-on-the-block Jimmy, you find your sneering self dumped at Bullworth Academy, a private school populated by the usual cliques we all came to know and hate in our own adolescences. By fulfilling missions, you'll progress from one chapter to the next, alternately gaining sway over one social circle while alienating another. One of Bully's many brilliant aspects is the variety it throws into these tasks. At one point, you'll man a potato-spewing turret to defend arm-flailing, bedwetting nerds from invading jocks; at another, a professor instructs you to infiltrate the preppies' dorm and kill a prized Venus flytrap. In fact, some of the most amusing missions were created specifically for the Scholarship Edition and revolve around a Kriss Kringle gone bad.
The story at the heart of Bully is incredibly involving, and Jimmy is both charming and exasperatingly cocky. He's also believable, and likely to remind you of at least one person you know or knew in your younger years. The enormous surrounding cast of goofball nerds and slick-haired greasers deserves equal praise, from the obese and enuretic Algie to Mandy, the head cheerleader with a surprising streak of insecurity. The success here is twofold. Firstly, you have an incredible script bursting with both cringe-inducing realism and snort-out-loud one-liners. A romantic interest says "I'm such a player" after flowers and a kiss; cafeteria cook Edna tells you that hawking a loogie into the mystery stew gives it flavor. At first glance, these moments seem to play to stereotype, but each character transcends labels and comes across as remarkably individual. Secondly, the voice acting is utterly spectacular, from the main cast to the hysterical quips from minor characters you overhear in your travels.
You're hardly stuck moving in a straight march from one mission to the next. As you play, more and more of the academy and its surrounding community open up, giving you plenty of leeway to explore Bully's many unique nooks and crannies. If you choose to stay on campus, you can attend class in the morning or afternoon. Standbys such as gym (dodgeball time!) and chemistry are still here, but four new classes have been added, and they are arguably more entertaining than the holdovers. In biology class, you must carve open a specimen and remove its vital organs in an allotted amount of time--and it's much tougher than it sounds. In geography, you must place the appropriate flag on its corresponding country. Math takes a Brain Age approach by asking you to quickly solve simple math problems, whereas music class involves a rhythm-based minigame. Passing your lesson means gaining a new reward, whether it be new clothing, new melee combos, or better aim with your slingshot.
Of course, you can skip class entirely (and risk being seen by the keen eyes of prefects and police officers) and tool around on your own. Here, you can bully other kids to your heart's content, or save the meeker students from their own bullies by beating up the aggressors. Close combat is on the simple side, especially after you unlock various combinations. However, there are times when you'll need to handle multiple enemies at once, which makes for a greater challenge. If you choose to explore your inner intimidator, there are plenty of ways to do it outside of fisticuffs, though. You can shoot bottle rockets at fellow students, give wedgies, stuff them into lockers or garbage cans, or taunt them once you've sufficiently whittled down their health bars. If you'd rather follow the straight (mostly) and narrow, you can romance the ladies (and a few gents) by giving them flowers--or chocolates, in the case of the big-boned gals--which usually merits a sloppy-sounding kiss. Alternately, you can run quick errands for townspeople, mow lawns for extra cash, participate in bike races, drop some quarters into arcade machines and gun for a high score, egg cars, take yearbook photos, or head to the local carnival and lounge with the little people. You could probably sprint through the main quest in 10 hours or so, but could easily spend four times that number if you wanted to see everything Bully has to offer.