Welcome back, indie fans! After a month's hiatus Browser Rousers has returned, bringing with it a review of bullyrific proportions. Straight Bullyism has earned its title.
Take a wild stab at what you do in Straight Bullyism. Chances are damn good you'll be right on the first try: you bully people. Yep, you play as one of the school bullies, a hard-driven, career oriented fifteen-year-old who's wiser than he looks... but still a big jerk. It's your sacred mission to uphold the standards of bullies everywhere through fighting, extortion, theft, vandalism, and other such noble pursuits.
Straight Bullyism is an RPG, but the story is pretty much as labelled. You complete missions, gather homework and beat the snot outta the less fortunate. The bully is not quite so stereotypical as he looks, but the end result is probably not the best role model in the world. Still, it's nice to see a depiction of a bully that isn't one hundred percent brainless lout.
Straight Bullyism is clear-cut from the beginning. The arrow keys and space bar are your primary friends, allowing you to steer through hallways and menus and interact with objects. The I and P keys have small roles, but nothing substantial. Clean and functional, this one.
Designed by Flash animator Snubby, Straight Bullyism bears his trademark style. From far away, the characters are stunted blobs. Close up, they turn into semi-ugly caricatures. I quite like the close-up graphics, as they suit the game's sense of humour and overall goofy tone. The 'world map' miniatures are meh, and the backgrounds and exploratory environments are kinda repetitive.
One thing I CAN appreciate is the amount of effort put into cut scenes. Every time you cut between levels or enter a mission, the bully has a conversation with his employer. Given the number of missions, that must have taken quite a while - especially since the conversations are littered with jokes.
Straight Bullyism has a lot of voice work. Granted, a lot of the characters (male and female) sound like the same person, but that much attention to vocalization in a Flash game is admirable. Even the enemies in the midst of battle have things to say... though after a while some of the 'funny' lines get stale.
I was not quite so impressed by the soundtrack. Straight Bullyism features a handful of acoustic guitar tracks for background tunes, none of which are impressive. Adding in just one more instrument would spice up these tracks immeasurably. As they are now? Meeeeeh.
Straight Bullyism is not that difficult a game. It plays similarly to an old Final Fantasy game: battles use an Active Time Battle (ATB) system to regulate turn order, allowing the player plenty of time to make combat decisions. So long as you choose your stats somewhat wisely at the beginning, most fights will be a piece of cake. Even the addition of the Self-Esteem bar, which can depress the bully into Game Over, isn't enough to make Straight Bullyism terribly difficult.
More trying to circumvent is the game's propensity for repetition. Yes, it's funny, yes, it's interesting, but the battles get very boring, very quickly. Special moves attempt to spice up battle options, but they're seldom necessary to beat most enemies. The majority of the time it's a simple matter of getting into a battle, setting the game to fight automatically, going to another screen to look at something else, then coming back when the enemy gurgles and collapses. Shrug.
Also: no experience. Which means no leveling until you complete a level. I'm not sure if I liked this or not, though it did drag out the game play. Longer than it had to be.
Straight Bullyism ain't bad. The premise is fun, the jokes worth the effort and the game system manageable. It's a fairly plodding game, however, and the laudable points may not be enough to hold everyone's attention. Fun to play, could be better.
I should also point out that Straight Bullyism is a very LARGE game. Consequently, at least right now, you can't play it in a single window. After completing the first level you'll be shunted to the official website for the rest of the game. This could be an advertising ploy or it could be a legitimate technical concern. I tend towards the latter, as it IS rather a huge game, but who knows.
PLAY STRAIGHT BULLYISM