By cnlmullen 5 Comments
Bully was originally released for the PS2 October 17th, 2006. About 2 years ago it was released for PC and is now 15 dollars to download on Steam. I don't remember buying Bully (probably came in a collection I bought on sale), but it's been in my games list for a while, so I started playing it last week. I'm about 12 hours into the game, and so far I'm loving it.
What really stands out about Bully is its wit and charm. Ridiculously dumb jocks, a disgusting lunch lady, catty gossiping girls and a group of abused geeks come together to paint a gruesome picture of high school life that's both disarmingly hilarious and, in a weird way, accurate. These aren't strictly jokes for laughs: Take a step back and you'll find some social commentary on high school and beyond -- much more so than any of the Grand Theft Auto games -- and that's a big part of what makes this game such a delight to play.
Right before I started Bully, I finished Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009), which is an impressive game. Beautiful graphics, big world, complex fighting/stealth systems and rewarding set of secrets to uncover. The developers seemed to everything right with Arkham Asylum, it was polished to shine, but in spite all it was doing right, I was getting bored of it as I approached the end. Bully and Arkham Asylum have a lot in common: They are both beat 'em up style open world games with RPG elements and some basic stealth.
Honestly, I find Arkham Asylum somewhat bland compared to Bully -- and I think the reason has nothing to do with gameplay and everything to do with atmosphere and charm. Batman universe is predictable from the very beginning. We have all grown up with Bruce Wayne and the Joker and we know exactly what they are about.
The thing is: There's no real philosophy, satire or wit in the Batman universe. Arkham Asylum will immerse you in a world of brown and grey but it won't make you laugh or smile, it won't make you think very hard, and it certainly won't surprise you. In any media, I think that's what's most important.