Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game disappeared from sale 10-years ago following licensing issues, and in the process it became the post-child for the potential pitfalls of games only being available digitally. Unless you already owned the game, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game was simply gone. The side-scrolling brawler based in the hit books and the awesome movie vanished, and yet there were a die-hard few fans who kept hoping, kept wishing that somehow Scott Pilgrim would return. And then somehow it did. Ubisoft announced that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game would be coming back after 10 long years, this time billed as the Complete Edition, containing all the previously released DLC. 10-years is a long time, though, and things have changed. Can Scott still hold his own in the 2021, beat up his girlfriend’s seven evil exes and win the day?
The first thing that becomes apparent is that 10-years haven’t taken the shine off the graphics. Emulating the classic pixelated style of old isn’t exactly new anymore, but Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game does it with such style and zazz. There’s loads of fine detail in the environments, plenty of variety in location that you fight through a beautiful use of colour. It’s all backed up by a kickin’ soundtrack that, like the visuals, is a blend of classic retro sounds and more modern rock and pop. Anamanaguchi did an amazing job on the soundtrack, and if you never play the game then you should at least check out the soundtrack and let yourself enjoy 40-minutes of excellence for your ears.
So no, 10-years away has not tarnished the game’s outstanding presentation, nor how faithful it is to its book origins when it comes to emulating Bryan Lee O’Malley’s style. Sadly, I don’t think the gameplay has aged as well, and Streets of Rage 4 has done it absolutely no favours by coming out a few months beforehand and reminding us all how awesome the side-scrolling brawler genre can be.
You’ve got six characters from pick from, including Scott’s girlfriend Ramona Flowers, and two characters that were originally released as DLC: Knives Chau and Wallace. At your command you have the mighty powers of fists and feet, able to smack and kick with two different buttons, defend with a third and jump with the fourth. As you level up you’ll unlock a couple of extra moves to add to your arsenal, but overall this is a straightforward brawler where you march through the streets and beat up the many, many bad guys who wish to high five your face repeatedly. There’s weapons to be found everywhere as well, and they are vital to success since they boost your damage by a huge amount. Unfortunately, the bad guys have learned the incredibly complicated skill of picking up objects, too, but you can catch anything that gets thrown at you if you’re fast enough.
And now I’m going to piss off fans of the game by saying that it doesn’t feel very good to play. Both movement and combat feel slow and cumbersome, like you’re lumbering around. It makes dodging attacks painful, and blocking is hit and miss because there’s no warning when a foe is about to attack, and the attack comes so fast that successfully blocking comes down to luck. Then there’s the frustating habit of getting stun-locked by foes who unleash long attack chains that let other enemies wander in and start smacking you around as well. If you get knocked down the ground you simply lay there for an obnoxiously long amount of time, again letting you get hit over and over. The sheer amount of weapons even proves stupid because they can ricochet around the environment, so you can get slammed in the face purely by accident.
It’s a surprisingly grindy experience, too. Just like in real life pummelling enemies will yield coins that you can them spend in shops to buy stuff like tacos, iced lattes and sushi, all of which provide permanent stat boosts. Without them you’ll find the game brutally difficult, but not in a good way. At first enemies can soak up so many punches and kicks that it’s frankly not fun to play. And just playing through the levels and using whatever coins you collect doesn’t really cut it. Sure, you can force your way through the later levels through skill, but you also have to be willing to spend a lot of extra time just hammering the same bad guy into the floor, then waiting for him to get back up and repeating the process over and over until you finally deal enough damage. To keep up with the seemingly infinite supply of goons you not only need to collect all the coins you find, but also need to replay levels a number of times to amp up your stats.
The good news is that the game does get better as you go. New moves essentially combat a lot of the design choices that annoyed me so often earlier in the game. For example, you unlock a handy move that lets you whale on enemies who have fallen, whereas before unlocking this move you had to wait for an eternity while they lay there before very slowly climbing to their feet.
The other thing that makes combat better is having some friends helping out. It’s quite apparent that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game was intended first and foremost to be played in co-op, with up to three other players joining in the action. You can play locally or online, and once you’ve got even one other player in on the action the crowds of enemies become much easier to handle and you won’t get stun-locked quite as often. However, the multiplayer has some serious issues, including loads of de-syncing that made it unplayable, soft-locks occurring when entering shops or getting piled on by enemies and in a few cases there were even enemies appearing on one person’s screen but not on everyone else’s screen. This needs fixing and fast.
Oh, and you have to sign into a Ubisoft account to access the online play. Seriously, Ubisoft? Why?
Going up against the seven evil exes themselves presents some of the games best moments, both visually and in terms of gameplay. Learning their attacks and how best to smash them in the face was the most fun I had throughout the entirety of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game.
For fans of the movie there’s loads to love here, but fans of the original books will get a lot more out of the experience as loads of characters make appearances in the background. However, if you aren’t familiar with the Scott Pilgrim universe the video game really isn’t the best starting point as it has pretty much zero story. You get told the basic premise, which is Scott having to battle his girlfriend’s (Ramona Flowers) seven evil exes, and that’s it. There’s no dialogue, only a static image at the end of a level which show Scott and Ramona sharing a kiss while their friends gaze on. At no point are you introduced to characters, told who they are, given an idea of what their personality is like or why you have to fight seven evil exes. Considering how beautiful Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game looks and how awesome it sounds, it’s a shame that anyone stumbling upon the game will leave it without knowing anything about the Scott Pilgrim books or the movie, and may not feel at all compelled to check them out. They’ll just know they punched a lot of people.
Unfortunately, it seems a few problems have survived the game’s lengthy absence from our hearts and minds. Some of them are simply mildly inconveniencing, like how after finishing a level you end up standing around for a while, or how an event that is supposed to trigger takes 10 or 20 seconds to do so, so you kind of scuff your feet and maybe glance at your phone. Even solo, I encountered a few examples of being unable to enter shops or events never triggering, forcing a restart. There were even a few crashes.
Putting aside my love of Scott Pilgrim in general, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is an okay brawler that is elevated by it’s excellent graphics and stunning soundtrack. I enjoyed blasting through the levels and the boss fights are solid, but after completing the game in a few hours with one character I felt absolutely no desire to go back with Ramona or Kim or Knives or Wallace or Stills and do it all again, whereas in the case of Streets of Rage 4 I’ve completed it numerous times now. With that said, at just £12, this isn’t a game that breaks the bank, making it much more appealing. If you’re a huge fan of side-scrolling brawlers then you might want to consider this, and if you’re Scott Pilgrim fan then there’s plenty to love.