Just over a decade ago, we were blessed with a movie based on the excellent graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. This was followed by an equally great (if not greater) video game. Then, due to licensing issues the game disappeared from all storefronts… until now. That’s right folks, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is back on consoles and PC!
The game follows the titular character and terrible person Scott Pilgrim and/or some of his friends as they fight their way through Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes so that Scott can continue dating her. Whether or not Scott actually deserves Ramona (because she is too cool for him anyway and he’s as much of a manipulative abuser as an ousted Ubisoft executive) is up to you.
It should be pointed out that there is the choice to not play as him at all, should you choose, and I would recommend Kim for this as she is awesome, or Wallace because he kisses enemies to death. But I digress.
You brawl your way across Toronto, Canada in a 2D beat ‘em up reminiscent of classics like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, pummelling wave after wave of enemies across the spectrum of hipsters to emo kids before facing off against a stage boss. These are more intense encounters, containing unique mechanics that are related to the Exes’ powers or backstory.
As well as your basic attacks, every character has a special move that can only be executed when they have enough Gut Points, which can be used to clear away a group if you’re surrounded. These Gut Points are also used to save you from death if you have enough when you’re KO’d, so they’re a resource you really want to keep topped up as you fight through the levels.
Your chosen character will level up as you dispatch enemies, gaining new attack abilities along the way, but that isn’t the main way to progress. The mechanic for character’s growth is tied to food, which is used not only to regain health and Gut Points, but will also give you permanent boosts to your Strength, Defence, and other stats. If you have the money, you should always grab those quesadillas.
You can occasionally find takeaway places like coffee shops and those really rough looking (and questionable) burger and hot dog vans you find at festivals, where the food you purchase can be taken away as a snack. These are consumed at the point your character is KO’d for that last second boost of emergency health, so again, you will want to be picking these up whenever you can.
But that isn’t all. Hidden within the levels are entrances to the Subspace Highway, a glitched out world between worlds. Here you can get more of those all-important Canadian dollars by destroying flying piggy banks, as well as hitting the $ Blocks and other blocks made of bricks that both look a little familiar. These can often act as shortcuts through levels too, for an added bonus.
The only real problem with the game, aside from Scott being an awful person (and obligatory cracks at Ubisoft’s own problems), is that the difficulty can be a bit cruel, even at lower levels, and will suddenly spike. This often requires farming previous levels to upgrade your characters which, although enjoyable, is still more of a grind than should be necessary.
There are a couple of unique gameplay quirks that only exist in multiplayer, like the ability to revive allies and steal lives if you have run out. By far the best are the screen-filling super attacks where you perform with your allies, and the fantastic ability to lend money to get food in shops. That last one is such a subtle thing, but it plays so well into the spirit of the franchise.
Speaking of which, the multiplayer works a little differently depending on how you play. Couch co-op works fantastically, and you can jump in straight through the Story Mode. Online, however, requires you to have an account with Ubisoft, which really shouldn’t be necessary for a game like Scott Pilgrim.
Finally, there’s the Extra-Game Modes, giving not only competitive offline four-player modes, such as a Battle Royal, but a Boss Rush should you wish to take on the Evil Ex fights one after another. It isn’t a particularly big addition, especially given that you can’t jump online with these modes, but more content is more content and these are fun for quick bursts of play.
Visually, this game does so much and does it so well. Taking a retro art style perfectly matches the genre and the source material. Everything is bold and bright, and the sheer number of references to geek and gaming culture that are packed in is staggering.
Then there’s the soundtrack and, oh boy is this something else. Written by American chip tune pop and rock band Anamanaguchi, every single track of this game is a delight for the earholes. No music from the movie is retained here, instead replaced by a glorious retro noise that not only perfectly matches the action at any given time, but genuinely feels like the music is in universe for the game.
This is still an excellent game and a triumphant return for a modern classic. Rather than treading the tired video game of a movie trope, Scott Pilgrim does something fresh and exciting with the formula by simply not following the plot of the movie as rigidly and having the experience be an actual game and not just a cheap tie in.