Let me just start right off the bat and say this: I get it. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is a marvelous throwback to 8 and 16-bit beat ’em ups. It’s full of references to the Scott Pilgrim comics and movies as well as to other video games. But as a standalone game, it’s simply too trapped in the past and too multiplayer balanced to stand out as a great single-player experience.
As I already mentioned, SPvTW:TG (ain’t that a mouthful) is done up in the style of old NES-era brawlers. It’s probably closest to River City Ransom but if you played any Ninja Turtles or Double Dragon games (or, hell, even Battletoads), then you know the drill: walk around in 2.5D, beat up wave after wave of enemies and collect the coins they drop to buy upgrades for your characters. Over time your four characters will gain levels, leading to new combos that will allow you to do more damage to foes. Example: early on you can knock enemies down, but you have to wait for them to get back up before hurting them some more. New attacks will allow you to kick a man while he’s down. You’ll also stop into shops and pick up food to upgrade your stats, making the bad guys easier to take down. At the end of each stage you’ll (Spoiler Alert!) tangle with Ramona’s evil exes in spectacular boss fights.
The game has a lot to love. It looks gorgeous: the pixelated sprites were designed for High Definition widescreen, making Scott Pilgrim look significantly better than older games being re-released on XBLA or PSN. Fans of the comic or movie will find more to love, especially with the familiar characters in the background and inside jokes when you summon Knives Chau to aid you in combat. There are also references to everything from Mario and Pac-Man to much more obscure games hidden throughout the levels, so it’s sure to please the kids who grew up on NES and older systems. And the enemies are varied enough to make the combat interesting.
Unfortunately, “full of fun throwbacks” can sometimes mean “stuck in the past.” The difficulty of this game is absurd. It took five tries and plenty of grinding for coins for me to beat the first stage — and that was on the easiest difficulty. That was understandable (if not forgivable) when video games were designed to strip you of your quarters, but isn’t as much fun on your living room couch. The bosses are incredibly cheap and there are no continues.
Okay, now, the next line’s important, so let me put this next sentence in bold and italics so you get my point: Running out of lives in this game sends you back to the beginning of the stage.Yes, you read that correctly. Running out of lives in this game sends you back to the beginning of the stage. I’m sorry, guys, but it’s 2010 and we don’t do that anymore.
Sure, it should be said that playing with up to four players in local co-op can alleviate the difficulty by a wide margin. But without online play, I hope you have a few controllers and a few friends who can come over. I played a bit with a pal and had a pretty good time, but if you’re buying this game to play on your own, get ready for a lot of grinding to boost your stats. Oh, and you don’t know which food boosts which stat until you buy it, so take notes.
If you were excited by the ability to play as four different characters (Scott, Ramona, Kim, and Stephen “The Talent” Stills), don’t get too excited. The four characters play exactly the same except for a microscopic difference in starting HP and GP (the Gut Points that fuel your special moves). The avatars’ combos are identical, even if they look different: one combo may have Scott do a head-butt while Kim does a butt-bump and Ramona swings her signature sledgehammer, but it’s the same button presses and the same effect for all of them. The Knives Chau summons are different for each character (and funny the first time or two you use them) but they’re more or less pointless to gameplay. I’ll also point out that each character has his or her own campaign, so if you get to Stage Four with Stephen and want to switch to Ramona, you’ll be starting back at Stage One, with no combos and no stat boosts. There are also two hidden characters you can unlock, but I couldn’t bring myself to complete the campaign with all four characters to see who they are or how they play.
At the end of the day what you have is a nostalgic romp through the games of yesteryear. If you weren’t a fan of brawlers in the early 90’s, being a fan of Scott Pilgrim won’t make you love this game. But if you like those old games, or if you just want to dick around with a few friends on your couch, fighting a couple of rounds with Sex Bob-omb might be right up your alley.
Things We Liked: Fun brawling. Great video game and Scott Pilgrim references. Nostalgia.
Things We Disliked: Almost criminal difficulty level. Game was designed for multiple players but doesn’t support online co-op. Characters are virtually identical. Did I mention the difficulty?
Target Audience: Kids who grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Brawler fans. Scott Pilgrim fans (or general game fans) who can overlook flaws because they love the series so much. Folks with a few friends on their couch.
(Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Chengdu. Publishers: Ubisoft. Available for PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network and Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade (PS3 version reviewed). Unfamiliar with CFD!’s review system? Read our newly revised explanation here.)