Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World hit cinemas in August 2010 to general acclaim, but fairly middling box office performance. It was widely praised for its editing and adaptation of the comics by Canadian comic artist Bryan Lee O’Malley, who originally wrote the series between 2004 and 2010. Naturally, a video game tie-in was in order, seeing as games already influenced the series, and Ubisoft was tasked with its creation. Normally, movie licensed games have a reputation for being cheaply made, quick and dirty cash grabs to capitalise on a movie’s launch period, but Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game (what a mouthful) instead gained a cult following for being the exact opposite. It ended up being a love letter to the comics as well as to games in general, bearing little in common with the movie other than the source material. Unfortunately it got delisted from Playstation Network and Xbox Live digital storefronts in 2014, due to presumed license expiry from Universal Studios, but it has now been given a second chance in 2021.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition
Developed by Ubisoft/Engine Software
Published by Ubisoft
Released: 14th January 2021
Digital copy provided by Ubisoft
Scott Pilgrim, aged 24, is in love with Ramona Flowers and has to defeat her Seven Evil Exes to properly date her. Join him and his friends Steven, Kim and Wallace in the all-out brawl against Toronto’s streets. While a basic, and very silly, premise, the comics and movie actually tell a larger story about the growth of Scott as a person, the game chooses not to focus on that particularly much, instead taking full advantage of the colourful cast of characters to push a multitude of unique designs out the door. Most beat ’em ups take a very gritty, urban aesthetic, but this game has very colourful locales and sometimes recogniseable spots from Toronto itself, as well as a wide array of enemies ranging from guys hitting the town to dressed up party-goers instead of criminals and thugs.
Gameplay is to be expected from a beat ‘em up. It has a side scrolling screen-by-screen progression with free movement up and down, side to side. You have your basic and strong attacks as well as a special move that uses up a meter. Taking inspiration from River City Ransom brings light RPG elements too. You gain up to sixteen levels as you earn experience from beating up enemies, with each level granting you a new ability. Money picked up from foes can be spent in various shops for healing and stat boosts, which really do go a long way towards making any meaningful progression. While every character has the exact same move functionality, they each have their own animations and personality to distinguish them apart. Nobody will have any particular advantage for picking one character over another.
Being a light-RPG brings along a fair bit of grind, as you start off exceptionally weak, making a lot of the difficulty very up-front. Until you power yourself up with stat boosts, the game is quite the slog with low damage output but also high damage taken. Thankfully, it doesn’t take very long for shops to open up to you, but there will still be a lot of money grinding to fully power up even one character. Enemies are also exceptionally aggressive, you really can’t leave your guard down for even a second as they have a nasty habit of blindsighting you with frame-perfect attacks and guarding at a moment’s notice. While this prevents them from being boring and predictable, spicing up your combat approach, they’re relentless even from the beginning, so that early grind to get stronger might take inexperienced players a while.
The game is an absolute blast in multiplayer, with up to four players duking it out on screen all at once. That being said, it’s a tough game to play solo, as the game’s challenges don’t change no matter how many players are available. If you can’t gather up a group of friends to play it, you’re in for a rougher ride than usual, though the presence of online play does alleviate this. It is a bit of a shame that not enough was done to aid the single player experience though, as the aggression of your foes means you have to be even more on your toes than in multiplayer. There are often moments where you can, and will, be interrupted from behind when trying to take on other foes.
As previously stated earlier in the review, it really doesn’t bear much resemblance to the movie, so no Michael Cera look alikes to be found. The art style is practically ripped straight from the comics, though with a more chibi approach to better fit the hand drawn, retro sprite aesthetic. Not only that, but it covers aspects of the comics that the movie was unable to, as the final volume was still being written whilst the movie was in production. It still isn’t a 1:1 recreation though, with its hands-off storytelling. Many of those involved in its creation are well known faces in the art and games world, with names like Paul Robertson, popular sprite animator, and Mariel Cartwright, who would later direct the game Indivisible. As such, it is an exceptionally passion filled project, stuffed to the brim with tightly knit animations with plenty of small touches that make a big impact in the long run.
Another recognisable face in the credits casting would be the music group, Anamanaguchi, chiptune legends who’ve produced the entire soundtrack for the game, almost completely written especially for the title. They’re well known for using actual NES systems to produce their music, alongside traditional instruments. The music works exceptionally well with both the retro visuals and the source theming, with a wide array of energetic tunes to jam to whilst beating up anyone unfortunate to get in the way of Scott and his crusade for love. Not only is the soundtrack excellent to listen to while playing, but it works as a standalone experience. It’s so in-line with Anamanaguchi’s usual styles that it effectively acts as one more album from the group.
Not much has really changed from the original release, if anything even worth noting. The resolution has been boosted from the original 720p to 1080p and that’s pretty much it. All the DLC from the original is featured, of which the previously mentioned online play is an absolute must in this day and age. The game also always auto-saves no matter what when exiting a stage to the map screen, which doesn’t sound like much but has, in turn, fixed an exploit from the original game to gain infinite money by passing on cash from another player and then leaving, as it will now save the money being transferred.
So far so good, right? Well, not entirely. There are some quirks from the porting process, like some occasional visual “seams” to the background layer where it seems to have difficulty with the edge of some tile sets in the boosted resolution from the original releases. The sound mixing front also seems to be lacking, as the volume levels don’t line up, with sound effects being very muted compared to the music. The most baffling “addition”, if you wish to call it that, is the optional Ubisoft Connect functionality, which at first seems optional yet is actually mandatory if you want the full experience as they locked away one character, Knives Chau, behind signing up to the service. This somewhat flies in the face of the preservation of the game that many fans wished for after the original delisting. It’s a minor complaint, but wholly unnecessary.
It’s certainly exciting to see this game return to us after all these years, and surprising given there’s no movie tie-in to go with it anymore, though it was the tenth anniversary of both the game and movie in 2020. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game stands as a cult classic from both fans of the comics and beat ‘em ups alike. Losing the original release to license expiration was certainly not unexpected, given it has licensing from Universal Studios as well as Oni Press, but very much disappointing. Now we have another chance to experience the game ten years later, with a new audience having the opportunity to play it for the first time. It’s wholly recommended to grab it while you can, as who knows how long Ubisoft will be able to keep the license active.
Final rating – 4 out of 5
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition is available now for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Long time fan of Nintendo and games in general, I always lean on the quirkier and unique sides of things in particular. It all started when I was lucky enough to get a Gameboy Color and Pokemon Yellow for my tenth birthday and it’s been going strong ever since. I’ve always had a need to get my voice heard and share anything I find interesting with the world.