‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game’ Review: Old-School, Still Rules
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Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft
You will start Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game, have your entire denim-clad arse handed to you by a boss or, worse, just some copy-and-paste grunts prowling the streets and landmarks of its pixelated Toronto, and you will go again. And then: you will start, have your arse handed to you, and start again, again. Repeat a few times, and that's an average, early-doors play session with this revived Ubisoft title, back in stores after its digital delisting in December 2014. Streets of Rage, this side-scroller really ain't.
And it's important you know that, going into Scott Pilgrim - it might look like an elemental arcade-style beat 'em up in the vein of SEGA's immortal series, Capcom's Final Fight and Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But play past the first impressions and quickly a deeper, more detailed - and decidedly tougher - challenge emerges. To play Scott Pilgrim and win takes strategy, the spending of copious dollars, and ideally some co-op companions.
Akin to Technōs Japan's 1989 NES hit River City Ransom, players can duck into shops to buy health-replenishing food and power-ups, as they proceed through stages - a feature present, too, in Ransom-series (Kunio-kun) spin-off River City Girls, one of this guy's very favourite games of 2019. A Mario-style overworld map with mid-level checkpoints is available between stages, enabling backtracking to spend your earnings - enemies bust apart into coins, just like they do in the Scott Pilgrim Vs The World movie of 2010. And you'll need to do this, to take advantage of cheap extra lives (pay off the late fees!), stock up on KO-reversing snacks, and more.
At least, you'll need to play that way if you're playing Scott Pilgrim solo: with smart management of lives and items, balancing the steady levelling up of your character and improving their strength and defence, alongside the acquisition of new offensive and (crucially) defensive moves. Solo, Scott Pilgrim is a lot of fun once you're locked into its rhythms - but it's also quite intimidating, too, when the very first wave of enemies in a level is perfectly capable of halving your HP, if you put a few fists wide of the mark. Shout out, there, to what feel like some inconsistent hit boxes - or, maybe, I'm just a bit rubbish. Probably both.
But this game is a lot more manageable in up-to-four-player co-op, with pals able to pick from Scott, the girl of his dreams Ramona, Sex Bob-omb bandmates Stills and Kim, or Scott's roommate Wallace as their evil exes-battering avatar. When a friendly fighter is downed, players still in the game can revive them with some rapid button-mashing; enemies do scale up in numbers but it's infinitely easier to clear them; and money can be shared when in shops (and there's even a sneaky exploit for basically getting infinite cash, in co-op, but I didn't tell you about it, okay?). Ear-splitting, instruments-out super attacks are also possible when more than one character is in play, and any stage can be taken on when in co-op, regardless of whether the host player's reached that point on their own.
Co-op is available both locally and online, but all players will need both a Ubisoft Connect account and access to whatever online service their platform of choice operates. I tested the game's online co-op with a colleague on Switch, and it ran silky smooth.
As each character levels up, they become stronger and better equipped to fight through to the climax of the game's seven stages - a showdown with Ramona's final evil ex, the blade-wielding Gideon. Naturally, if you know the Bryan Lee O'Malley comics, or have seen the film adaptation, you already know the story of this game. But being aware of what - or rather, who - awaits you at the end of each level doesn't detract from the enjoyment of rampaging through frozen streets, a fiery film set, and an after-dark park. Plenty of in-franchise jokes and knowing nods to video games history keep the tone lively, and the Anamanaguchi OST contains chiptune bangers that you'll soon be humming a few in the shower.
As the 'Complete Edition' of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game, this rerelease includes, unlocked from the start, a host of extras. Being able to play as Wallace, for one thing, used to be locked behind a particular combination of button presses, when this was on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A sixth character, Knives, remains locked in this edition at the start, but she's playable in any mode once you've gone online.
Additional modes that, again, used to be locked behind 'cheat' codes are now right there on the menu, but none of them are likely to hold your attention for too long. And all four - Boss Rush, Battle Royale (not in a large-scale Fortnite style - it's simply a last-player-standing match), Survival Horror (zombies mode, basically) and Dodgeball (dodgeball) - are only multiplayer-compatible locally. Nevertheless, it's nice that they're included.
As a 2010-released title, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game could be expected to be showing its age somewhat. But, as it was more of a love letter to old-school beat 'em ups in the first place, and was a damn good example of the genre in and of itself too, it's not really dulled at all. Its visuals are fantastic, its music propulsive, and the action testing but ultimately fair. It offers combat variety enough after a few level unlocks to become much more than a blunt-force experience, and seeing the combos stack up can be thrilling. It really is the complete package.
If you, like me, loved River City Girls in 2019 and Streets of Rage 4 in 2020, and have maybe enjoyed the modern side-scrolling likes of 99 Vidas and Fight'N Rage, too, then even if you never played this one a decade ago, you need to be playing it now. And if you did play it back then, you already know whether or not you're grabbing this in
2020 2021 (haha), and all of these words haven't made a damn bit of difference.
Pros: exceptionally fun in multiplayer, challenging as a solo beat 'em up, bonus extra modes unlocked from the start, budget priced
Cons: can feel almost unfairly tough in places when played solo, doesn't explain itself too well without the player dipping into its menus
For fans of: River City Girls, Streets of Rage 1-4, Castle Crashers
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game - Complete Edition is released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, Luna, Ubisoft+ and PC on January 14th. Review code for Nintendo Switch was provided by Ubisoft. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.