Sunday, 7 October 2012

Bully: Scholarship edition: Game Design Review

Developed by Rockstar Games, Bully was an open world sandbox game similar to the Grand Theft Auto series. Like GTA, it was released to some controversy about bullying and corrupting the youth. The scholarship edition is the expanded PC version with some additional content. Here are my thoughts on it after finishing it recently.

Good points
Fun with lots of mini-games- Despite it's age Bully is still a fun good game that's varied with lots of things to do.

Varied level design- Each of the areas is quite unique each with its own graphics and shortcuts. It feels very different running through school and town.

There are a few minor problems.
Game design issues
Slingshot is underutilised- I'm not sure what the heck the slingshot is for really aside from a couple of missions and generally just stunning enemies before you get up close and personal. It can't be confiscated which is a good thing so I'm guessing its a fall back weapon. Outside of missions and the occasion fight, the only use I had for it was climbing up to a tall building and then randomly shooting people just to see the panic.

Lack of customisation and static unchanging world- One of the main problems is the lack of changes in the game. The world remains pretty much the same and nothing you do will change it. It's always 'The Town' rather than 'YOUR Town'.  I think that's  real shame considering how other sandbox games allow you to customise so much more.

Lack of faction and social interaction- The social interaction is quite basic as are the factions in the game. Their relationship to you is governed by the storyline rather than by your actions in particular. It's a bit of a shame really but part of me understands that Bully isn't a sandbox management game but rather a collection of mini-games in a sandbox world.

Can't change the seasons- It was kind of cool seeing various outfits and seasons as the game proceeds but I couldn't find an option to change the seasons which is a bit of a shame if you're like me and concentrated mostly on finishing the main game quests first.

Needs more special festivals- There was a Halloween and Christmas but that's it.

Needs more end game content- While the actual story missions are great fun I feel the number of mini-games you can unlock steadily diminishes at about 70% of the way through the game leaving you to pretty much without anything to do at the end except more collecting and more upgrades rather than unlocking new activities.

As mentioned above, Bully is best described as a bunch of mini-games in fairly static sandbox environment. It's all about unlocking new areas and upgrading your character. The main story is ultimately fun and I quite enjoyed the game overall. It's still worth playing even now despite the criticisms I have.

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