Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game
Since his creation in 2004, Scott Pilgrim has served as a hero of sorts to underemployed, video-game-playing, comic-book-loving 20-something-year-olds. Six years later, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic series has gone from cult status to full-blown phenomenon, with a movie and a video game adaptation out this week. With Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on the PlayStation Network (with an Xbox Live Arcade version coming later this year), Ubisoft has delivered the impossible: A video game adaptation with a great presentation, attention to detail, and respect for the source material. Unfortunately, the challenging and often frustrating nature of the game may leave non-Scott Pilgrim fans out in the cold Canadian winter.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World loosely follows the plots of all six graphic novels, tasking Scott, his true love Ramona Flowers, and his Sex Bob-omb bandmates Kim Pine and Stephen Stills with defeating all seven of Ramona’s evil exes. Up to four people can play together in the side-scrolling beat-em-up that is reminiscent of the arcade classics of the early 1990s and many 8- and 16-bit titles. Scott Pilgrim is a wonderful homage to old school gaming, with a simple two-button combat system and special moves that can be unlocked as characters level up. Various items strewn about each level can also be used as melee weapons or projectiles, though it does become a little too easy to throw them at a teammate during the mayhem onscreen.
The game is split into levels, with one (or two, in the case of the Katayanagi twins) of Ramona’s exes serving as the major boss of each area. The levels are filled with familiar images from the pages of the graphic novels, from the streets of Toronto to Julie’s Day of the Dead party to Ramona’s backyard. Many secondary characters from the series can be seen in the background, and players can enter staples like No-Account Video and The Second Cup to pay off Scott’s late fees or purchase healing items. Most of the shops are in the shopping district in the first level, which can be revisited on the world map after Matthew Patel is beaten. However, for whatever reason, you won’t find out what the item does until after you buy it. This means you may waste a lot of money on something that boosts your speed when you were really looking for experience or an extra life. It’s hard to tell if this was done intentionally or just incomplete, but the fact that players can’t tell what they are buying until the money is spent is one of the game’s major shortcomings.
The other major problem with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is that it can be extremely hard, sometimes crossing that fine line from challenging into frustrating. Playing by yourself is nearly impossible unless you have leveled up and bought a lot of stat-increasing items, and even two players aren’t enough sometimes. The difficulty scales to the number of players, but not very much, so ideally four players are needed to complete the game. Because of this, it’s very strange that Scott Pilgrim doesn’t have online cooperative play, meaning you’ll need to have a few friends around to get through the game. It’s not unusual to start an area being swarmed by ninjas or fire-breathing monsters before you’ve even had a chance to take a step, and boss fights can get ridiculously difficult, especially when there is more than one character on the screen. The challenge isn’t enough to stop hardcore Pilgrim fans from powering through, but it may alienate many.
Scott Pilgrim’s presentation is commendable, and one of the best-presented adaptations ever. Though the game takes inspiration from the games of decades past, everything looks beautiful on the PSN. Additionally, there are so many details that some are easy to miss the first time through, showing that the developers truly understood and cared about the source material. The MIDI-inspired music will get stuck in your head for days afterward, and the sound effects, pixelated menus, and cut-scenes are right on. It’s an extremely impressive package, especially for a downloadable game based on a movie based on a book, which usually makes for a terrible end result.
Overall, Scott Pilgrim’s lovable charm comes through in a big way throughout Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The gameplay is tough and even unfair at times, but if you love Scott Pilgrim as much as Knives Chau loves Sex Bob-omb, you’ll have no problem making your way through, even with the trial-and-error approach of yesteryear. Those who aren’t in the market for a retro-style beat-em-up or a game about an unemployed 23-year-old probably won’t be won over by Scott’s silliness or Ramona’s feminine wiles, but for the Scott Pilgrim in all of us, this is a game worth playing.