You may remember, reader, that I traded this...
A better choice I have seldom made in my short life's comings and goings. If there is one single problem with Assassin's Creed, it's that it sorely lacks fun. Its full of frustration and boredom and tedious repetition.
"Oh, gee, Dude, that first view of Damascus, oh man, it made me wanna jizz." "Totally, bro."
Here's the crux of what I'm trying to say:
It's just pure, silly fun, from start to finish. There's no silly sci-fi, there's no layer upon layers of reality and you can't jump off very high towers. Bully may not be particularly clever, but it's a game that loves you. A game that wants you to play it and have a good time.
The loving carress of Bully is so much more appealing than Assassin Creed's insistence on slapping you around the face at every opportunity.
All those interminable, non interactive cut scenes... In Bully the cutscenes but they're skippable (always a good choice) but they're actually mildly amusing to watch if you don't skip them. The humour can be misfiring at times but even misfiring humour is better than the staid, dour discussion of Middle Eastern socio-politics every single chat in Assassin's Creed seems to become.
In Assassin's Creed, you are constantly chased by guards, muslims, Crusaders (and, perhaps the game's worst idea - tramps) in Bully you are similarly pursued by Prefects and teachers and greasers. Not every chase becomes the same irritating block-block-kill swordfight. You can outrun your pursuers. Generally, the teachers get tried and give up. Alternatively, you can outwit them quite neatly and give them the slip by doubling-back or sprinting down a short cut they can't reach.
This, again, is infinitely preferable to the belief shattering instances in Creed where you sit on a bench and everyone quietly forgets about you.
Total Film employ an entertainment graph, charting an audience's approximate reaction to a film's highs and lows. It'd be interesting to apply this to games. Certainly, in Bully, every chase nudges your enjoyment up just a little. It's a short adrenaline rush before returning you to the game proper.
In Assassin's Creed, I found all too often, the chase resulted in the termination of the level and, subsequently, all enjoyment.
In Bully, if you get caught, you can hammer Y to escape. You stomp on toes and grab a handful of scrote and flee. You have literally minutes to escape in.
If you can caught - the penalty is not death. You simply get slightly relocated - you may fail the mission a bit - or dragged to class.
This is a game that thrives on giving the player second chances to remedy their mistakes. And that punishment, going to class... well, that's actually fun too.
It should have been a case of "Fucking mini-games!" but the tasks are simple, diverting and actually a little addictive. I became something of a star pupil for a while, trying to complete them. Nicely, and in keeping with the game's very laid-back massage of the player, there's very little in the way of penalties for totally messing up.
In Biology, you dissect animals. In Geography, you have to label countries. Music is a rhythm game. They're all fun to do. If you complete them, you do get certain bonuses (back to this in a moment).
Failing missions. Another aspect of both games where we can draw a direct comparison. In Bully, I failed about three and completed them on a second or third attempt. The game really feels as if it's trying to help you, not setting out to defeat you, to stumble you and nudge you off that last rooftop before the Assassin's Bureau... into the path of forty-five enraged infidel invaders, you then hack your way through.
Another example: all games like this have their collectibles. It seems to be something that died out for a while but is now back with a vengeance. There's always laptops to discover or packages on top of the buildings to pick up. Crackdown actually made it an absolute crucial part of the gameplay (and, in my opinion, that really worked).
Most collectible based side-quests (if they really warrant the term) are walkthrough-requiring, nagging, horrible bits of padding. The flags in Assassin's Creed are useless and snucked away in little nooks you'd never actually have a reason to visit in the game properly. I genuinely believe that you have to be wired differently, as a person, to want to hunt such things out.
In Bully, if you complete Geography, it unlocks the locations of the collectibles on your minimap, meaning you essentially have a built in guide to finding them. Like the greyed locations in Fallout 3, this is actually a huge encourage to explore and find the things. More games should do this.
In general terms, Bully's learning curve is so meanderingly slight, its really less of a curve, more of a lean. Its like one of the cool kids, foot jacked up against the wall, propped in the corner looking moody and dangerous.
In short, it's easy. For some reason, the word "easy" has negative connotations.
Easy women are riddled with disease. Easy money is to be treated suspiciously, it's how the shadowy cousin who you never see at Christmas can afford that new Jag. Easy decisions spell catastrophe. Easy games are to be feared like casual racism or the Bubonic Plague.
I think the reasoning for this is that people assume, if a game is easy, the player will simply breeze through it. If there's no challenge, surely it's boring?
You can actually apply that exact criticism to Assassin's Creed. The fact I can hold three buttons, choose a direction, and the game will happily do the rest - is boring. It's actually disappointing. If there's no challenge to climbing that tower, if scaling it is not an act of player skill, then what's the point?
I would generally think, "God, this is easy," immediately before slipping off that final rooftop. The arbitrary spikes of difficulty, secreted in the game, that feel almost exactly like running hard into a thick, unrelenting wall.
In Bully, there is too much to do and too much fun to be had. The ease in which you complete tasks feels like a triumph in the design of the levels and the design of interface.
It's impossible to categorise Bully into a "Its a bit like X or Y, with a dash of Z." Particularly in terms of finding a game with a comparative difficulty level. It's an Open World game and we've basically all had enough of them now, but, because it features a smaller play area full of incident and character (as opposed to vast expanses of open ground full of exactly nothing) it transcends the form.
Allow me to get a little wanky for a moment. Bully was not comparable to my usual game-playing experience. My standard operating procedure, in the form of a stream of conciousness, is as follows:
"DIE DIE DIE RUN PRESS A ARGH WANKER DIE RELOAD SHIT ON ME RELOAD YOU FUCK DIE DIE DIE DUCK DUCK JUMP - Phew. Cutscene - WHAT THE FUCK NO SKIP WANNA SKIP DIE DIE DIE DIE CAN'T SHOOT BUGGER"
Bully, by comparison, was more a warm feeling as one might feel at the end of a rather spiffing summer day. It was a fun, gentle, endearing experience. It was refreshing not to obsess over the difficulty, over sudden cul-de-sacs in the game's progress where you die over and over and over again, and just enjoy the experience.
Indeed, it will always be a puzzle to me why some people obsess over difficulty so much...
"I completed it on Legendary."
"Oh, I did it on Normal."
"YOU FUCKING SUCK!"
"I have several other endeavours in my life that I prioritise above game completion!"
"YOU. FUCKING. SUCK."
This XBox Live, Gamerpoint, One UpManship has always irritated me.
Unless the difficulty settings add something to the missions (Hello, Mr TimeSplitters, Monsieur Goldeneye) or are cleverly assessed (Good morrow to you, Dr Call of Duty 4 OBE) or, in fundamental ways, utterly affect the game (Great to see you, Madame Crysis, Lord Flashpoint) - surely the game should have one single setting. The "Just Challenging Enough" setting. Anything below this is just patronising.
This difficulty setting is for players who have never held a controller before and, up until this point, thought Solitaire and Minesweeper were the only computer games that existed.
Anything above? Masochism, pure and simple.
I don't want to get stuck in a bin by a game and pissed on by all the cool kids. I want to chortle away happily, as I'm the one who deals out the punishment.
Hello there, Monsieur Crackdown and young Bully, esquire. Its an absolute pleasure.
It really, really is.
Let's have a few more games where I can, in a gameplay sense, stick people in bins.
Jachap found all the rubber bands.