The Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels told a wonderful story about learning to accept you as yourself, for all the good and all the bad you’ve done. The Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World film doesn’t really capture that theme, but it at least makes up for it by showing us some action scenes of the likes we’ve never seen before. Both are excellent in their own right.
The Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World game is…just a game. There’s not much to be to excited about; nothing groundbreaking that we haven’t seen before. Perhaps it’s unfair to hold the game to the same standard set forth by the comics and film. Disregarding even that, we’re still left with a game that does little to break the mold of mediocrity.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a beat ‘em up game which takes a lot of cues from old Technos Japan beat em’ ups such as River City Ransom and Double Dragon. The premise of these games is nothing new: you (and possibly your buddies) assume the role of a few dudes (and possibly chicks) and run around the world punching and kicking anything that’s hostile, for some reason. In this case, our reason is that the protagonist, Scott Pilgrim, is in love with a girl named Ramona Flowers.
Unfortunately, seven of her ex-boyfriends aren’t cool with that. Thus begins Scott’s adventure to kick the crap out of them to earn Ramona’s heart. Scott is accompanied in his quest by Ramona and his two good friends, Stephen Stills and Kim Pine. All I can think of, though, is that if the exes care so much, couldn’t Scott and his friends save themselves a lot of heartache by waiting for them to come and do something about it?
Scott and company have to mow down seven levels worth of baddies and boyfriends to finish the game. Along the way they level up, allowing them new abilities to use in combat ranging from dashing attacks to trick shots to grappling maneuvers. The level cap is 16, and they all learn their own unique ability once they hit the max level. Otherwise, the abilities they gain during level-ups are virtually identical.
Therein lies the first problem with the gameplay: all the characters are very similar. Each starts out with the ability to do weak and strong attacks, block, taunt, run, jump, side step, use objects as weapons, and do a cool cyclone attack that knocks enemies back. For the first fifteen levels, all characters learn the exact same maneuvers at the exact same points, with the only differences being in small things such at the ranges of attacks.
This is a bit of a bummer, because it quite clearly defines which characters are better than others extremely quick. The only unique abilities the characters have are the abilities they learn at Level 16 and one they buy at a shop later in the game, as well as their Striker attacks which allows a character to summon their friend Knives to do a unique action. Oh, and Ramona has the ability to conjure up objects to attack with, like bricks and baseball bats. Unvaried combat with distinct disparities in each characters’ utility. Strike one.
As I mentioned, there are shops in the game. They work pretty much exactly like River City Ransom, wherein each character has a few primary stats that are raised by purchasing items in the shops. As these stats don’t increase with Level-Ups, your stats are completely dependent on picking up money from enemies that you beat during the levels. Since stats can be leveled up in any order we choose, this creates a strange phenomenon where the game will suddenly go from challenging to easy after just one or two visits to the shop.
As soon as a player knows which stats are increased by which items, they can easily raise any stats important to their general strategy and instantly break the game. These items also don’t actually tell you what stats they raise until you’ve already purchased them. Pro tip: just because River City Ransom does it a certain way doesn’t mean you have to do it a certain way. Strike two.
Finally, the game mechanics are a bit sticky and poorly thought-out, particularly with regards to the start of the game. At the beginning of the game for example, all the characters are extremely slow – they move like snails and attack with no sense of urgency. Other design choices exacerbate this, such as hit stun leaving a character immobile for hours, or the fact that characters decide to take a nap every time they get knocked down.
The real kicker comes from the blocking mechanic, though. At Level 1, there are absolutely no ways to deal with blocking opponents other than to wait for them to stop blocking. At Level 6, characters finally get the ability to throw, mitigating the problem. Thus, it may not be a big deal to most people. Still, I don’t think it’s wrong to say that if you’re going to have a defensive mechanic implemented from the outset, there better be a way to deal with it from the outset. It doesn’t make the game hard, but all of these things can leave someone with the first impression that the game is extremely boring. In fact, I’d still say that while the game improves later, starting the game over is an absolute chore every time. Strike three.
Also, there’s no online co-op as the game is restricted to local co-op only. I get the idea of trying to encourage people to play it together in the same room, but it’s pretty arrogant to assume that everyone is going to have a set of friends who care enough to come over and play within a reasonable distance of my house. It’s a shame, too, because the game is ten times more fun in co-op. ..Strike four?
Still, it’s not as if Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World gets nothing right. What truly compelled me to keep playing this game was its impeccable sense of style. The game is presented graphically as a sort of Frankenstein combination of old 8-Bit NES games and early 1990′s coin-op games, realized by 2D sprite artist Paul Robertson. The music is composed by a band called Anamanaguchi, a band which combines the chiptune sounds of NES and Game Boy with rock instruments. I have no qualms, faults, or complaints whatsoever with the aesthetic direction of this game, and it’s by far the most enjoyable aspect of the game.
The Scott Pilgrim franchise is full of references to old video games from the late 80′s and early-to-mid 90′s; it’s undoubtedly a large part of its appeal to its target audience. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World tries desperately to remind gamers of a different time in video gaming history, where games were much simpler affairs. As for me, I’m reminded of the fact that video games based on IPs from other mediums, such as comics, movies, and TV, were absolutely terrible; but, we bought them because we didn’t know any better. Actually, I bought this game, so maybe I still haven’t learned my lesson.
The graphics are "top notch" as far as retro games are concerned; there's an awful lot of personality. Lack of online co-op is a pain.
|How does our scoring system work?|
What starts out as a borefest turns into an outrageous easy mode-fest in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, that part is also kind of boring.
Hopefully, the way this soundtrack blends the old synthesized sounds with real instruments sets the bar for retro games to come.
The game doesn't take that long. Upon beating the game with all four characters, another character is unlocked with the same lack of variety, if you're into that sort of thing?
I'm thankful to this game, because it intrigued me enough to check out the excellent movie and the even more excellent graphic novels. It opened my eyes to the works of artist Paul Robertson and the band Anamanaguchi. It's just a damn shame that the game is nothing special.