Immerse yourself in this back-to-school version of virtual reality games, this time exploring college life
Windows Vista / Windows XP
Rockstar New England
Bully: Scholarship Edition takes the mechanics of open world action games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row and superimposes them onto the life of a boarding school student. Rockstar Games may be best known for their bloody and violent satires of real life, but their side project Bully proved that the formula they're best known for can adapt well into a wide variety of different settings. Despite its schoolyard setting, this is not a game for kids. It's often a funny and irreverent look into the troubles of growing up, but it carries with it the warts of adolescence.
This third person, single player action game stars Jimmy Hopkins, a rebellious student at a prestigious boarding school. The game pulls from the standard mechanics of the Grand Theft Auto series, asking you to take on jobs from a number of quest givers that allow you to rise up in the ranks of the setting's hierarchy. But where the GTA series has you working for thugs and mob bosses, Bully trades those stock characters in for a different variety of stereotypes. The NPCs here are jocks and bullies, nerds and preppies, and working your way through the linear story means navigating your way through every aspect of the hierarchy to get what you want. Similarly, the high powered weaponry used in more adult games in this genre are traded in for something a bit more appropriate to the setting. The tools of your trade include stink bombs, marbles, and slingshots, and you can navigate the environment using conventional vehicles like bikes and skateboards. While the story itself is mostly linear, you have the ability to wander the setting freely between missions and wreak havoc as you see fit.
While Bullworth Academy serves as the titular centerpiece of the game, the setting is far more expansive. Five different environments offer a lot of opportunities for exploration. These include the school grounds themselves along with the surrounding town and industrial area. In another nod to the Grand Theft Auto series, Bully utilizes a "trouble" meter that tracks your bad behavior and sends increasingly severe authority figures to track you down. The map is filled with a variety of side quests to perform as well as classes to attend which serve as unique challenges and reward you with special abilities for completing them.
The Scholarship Edition of Bully is like a supercharged edition of the original game. It includes the core content with some minor alterations to the script, but it also plugs in new characters, missions, and items. While it might not be worth it if you've already finished the core game and got your fill, it's undoubtedly the definitive version of the game and well worth the investment if it's your first time or you're eager for another spin on what Bully has to offer.