Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition (Switch) Review
Back in 2010, one of my favourite films ever came out. It’s not necessarily because it dangled video game iconography in front of our faces as a means to bait us with nostalgia (I’m looking at you, Ready Player One), but more because it oozed about as much style as Edgar Wright could have possibly squeezed out of a comic-book adaptation. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World really spoke to me as a directionless, twenty-something musician who thought he had everything figured out until he realised there’s so much more he still needs to discover about himself. Around the time the movie came out, the graphic novel series was just wrapping up, and Ubisoft added yet another companion piece to the saga in the form of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (hereon referred to as just Scott Pilgrim, for brevity).
Scott Pilgrim is a 16-bit styled, side-scrolling beat ‘em up, with art directly inspired by Bryan Lee O’Malley’s books (with artistic liberties delivered in the form of over-animated bouncing boobs and Ramona sans pants for some reason), featuring an original soundtrack by the iconic chiptune band Anamanaguchi. Everything about the visual and audio aesthetic blends together into a perfect presentation of what a Scott Pilgrim game should feel like, preserving the whimsical and action-packed tone of the books and film.
Gameplay is reminiscent of classic side-scrolling beat ‘em ups from the arcade and early Sega/Nintendo eras, like River City Ransom, Renegade, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. All the classic tropes are here: punches, kicks, combos, weapons to swing and throw. But it also borrows an overworld stage selection a la Super Mario Bros. 3. For replayability, there’s an additional boss rush mode to storm through all of Ramona’s 7 evil exes, and the option to play through the adventure in online and couch co-op.
All of this would sound great for anyone keen for a beat ‘em up but never gave this one a shot 11 years ago, but unfortunately there are some hurdles that really hold the experience back from being especially enjoyable–at least, at first.
Like many retro games, Scott Pilgrim is a tough game. At the beginning, stages seem like they go on forever because skirmishes with multiple enemies at a time feel overwhelming due to your characters’ (Scott, Stephen, Kim, Ramona, Knives, or Wallace) low stats. The game never really explains how to increase your character stats either: there is a level up system from collecting XP, but each level only unlocks a new move. What isn’t made clear is that in order to increase HP, defense, and other traits, you need to buy certain items from stores accessible in various stages. Even worse is that the item descriptions in those stores don’t tell you what they do until you purchase them–and even then, the descriptor goes back to being useless until the next time you buy it. You’re better off keeping a walkthrough or wiki page handy when trying to increase stats so that you know where to go, what to buy, and how much money you need.
But on the other side of that, early in the game is the opportunity to visit No Account Video and pay off Scott’s late fees for $504.25, which is pretty hefty unless you’re happy to grind coins for a couple of hours (which I did). Doing this grants the option of buying up all the stat upgrades for $4.95 each, which only runs you about an extra $100 to max Scott out. This method bends the difficulty significantly in your favour, so that’s something to be aware of if you’d rather deal with the level of challenge that game starts you off with. For me, I had more fun getting through stages in 10 minutes at a time instead of 30.
I also had a rough time with Scott’s maneuverability in the game. Most games in the genre need the player double-tap left or right to run in that direction, and with the Switch’s directional buttons that’s definitely the case. But using the stick to move around was way less consistent, as often I would have to forcefully tap a direction multiple times to finally get some speed. And other times, if I wanted finer movements to pick up a weapon, I’d tap gently and end up sprinting past it and straight in the fist of an enemy. It didn’t matter whether I was playing handheld or in docked mode with a Pro controller.
Despite these two major grievances, I still had a blast. Back when I first bought the game in 2010 for PS3, I only got up to the second boss and got too frustrated with the game and didn’t go back until now. This time, though, after taking the time to figure out the stats system, I beat the game in 5 hours over one evening.
For those who are likely to only play through the game once or twice, be aware that each character has their own ending. Without spoiling them, I will say Ramona’s is the most satisfying and Scott’s was probably the creepiest, considering the entire point of his story throughout the books and movie.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game holds up today really well in some aspects (visual design and music), but is still held back by its shortcomings over a decade ago (difficult in the beginning, even on the easiest mode; level up system is still too vague). But when you can look past the setbacks, it’s still a solid action game that’s made even more fun if you can get some friends on the couch to play with you. Let’s hope the game doesn’t get obliterated from every digital store in a few years like it did last time…
+ A solid beat ‘em up that plays mostly the way you’d expect.
+ Art style is beautiful.
+ And so is the music.
- Very tedious start until you can increase those stats.
- Movement speed is inconsistent.