Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bully Impressions

I've played Bully for 4:45 and have completed 9.61% of the game.

Usually, after five hours of play, I have a fairly solid idea of how good a game will be. With Bully, though, it's just not that easy.

Here's the basic setup. Jimmy's mother and stepfather drop him off at Bullworth Academy on their way to a yearlong honeymoon. Jimmy's pissed off, understandably, because Bullworth Academy, to say the least, is no prize. It's Dickensian and it's Lord of the Flies, with just a little Clockwork Orange thrown in for good measure.

Bully has terrific writing, and terrific voice acting as well. The music is excellent. Control is better than the GTA series, although it's still not ideal. Same goes for the camera--an improvement, but it will occasionally go wonky at a critical time.

Here's your daily schedule, at least in the early game. You have a morning class and afternoon class, and if you choose to attend (or get caught by a prefect and have to attend), you'll go to one of several classes--so far, I've seen English, Chemistry, Art, and Gym classes (Shop Class and Photography are also in the game).

Each class has a mini-game, and they're at least nominally amusing (art class has a version of Qix which is particularly fun). Completing an "assignment" (the mini-game) gives you some kind of character bonus, which varies by class.

In parallel with classes are story missions (that's what I'm calling them, anyway)--complete them, and you'll advance the story. They have a nice degree of variety, and usually involve some kind of minor juvenile delinquency--picking locks on lockers, using stink bombs, shooting a slingshot, stealing something.

And you'll fight--Jimmy's a tough guy in a school filled with them (along with every other standard clique you'd expect in a high school). You don't have to fight, though--groveling is available as a tactic, and while I'm not using it, I like the idea of having it there.

Oh, and you'll also make out. It's high school, after all.

It's all reasonably interesting and reasonably fun, and it's very clever at times, but somehow it's not quite grabbing me. I do appreciate that it seems more focused and polished than a GTA game, and the high school atmosphere is very well executed.

I've read elsewhere that the game map opens up at some point, and since all I've seen so far is the school itself (and surrounding grounds), I'm still hoping that my interest picks up from here. I'll keep you posted.

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