Review – Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game – Complete Edition
There’s only one way to properly start this review:
I was in college in 2010 when Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was first released in theaters. At the time, I had a close friend who pushed me to read the original comics and as a result, I was pretty resistant to engaging with anything related to it. Unbeknownst to him, I went on a date to see it in theaters the day after it released and was immediately hooked. To this day, I refuse to give him the satisfaction.
Three days before the movie released in theaters, Ubisoft released Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Between the movie, the comics, and the excellent arcade game, I was hooked. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fun story about coming of age, love, and self-reflection hidden behind an abundance of nerd culture and fan service. The game doesn’t capture the themes as much as the movie or books did, but it never intended to. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World succeeds in doing exactly what it set out to do: being the best arcade side-scroller it could. But at the end of 2014 it was removed from the Xbox and PlayStation stores for reasons that have still not been made clear. The most believable theory is that Ubisoft’s license simply expired, but in the absence of an official statement from the publisher, speculation is all we have.
This week, more than ten years after the game’s original release, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game has been re-released with both the Knives Chau and Wallace Wells playable character DLCs. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game Complete Edition makes its triumphant comeback into our hearts and onto our consoles. It’s a long overdue revival of an excellent game at a time where we could all use a little positive absurdity in our lives.
Scott Pilgrim immediately takes players back to the golden days of NES and SNES 16-bit arcade side-scrollers. MIDI music opens the game menu as a curtain rises and players are given the option to select from six different characters. From there, it’s right onto the streets of Toronto where wave after wave of pixelated enemies charge after Scott and his friends.
In classic arcade fashion, much of the environment can be interacted with. Garbage bins can be picked up and thrown at enemies or used as a melee weapon. It’s a bit dirty, but small characters like Steven Stills, Ramona Flowers, and Scott Pilgrim aren’t as big as all their opponents, so they’ll need to us every tool they have at their disposal.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition sets players on an adventure to defeat each of Ramona Flowers’ evil exes. However, the game is closer to the original comics than it is to the movie. Avatars are pixelated representations of the character’s original comic, which was a nice break from the awkwardness of Michael Cera.
With that comes a lot of nods to character details and sub-plots that were entirely omitted from the film. Todd, the telekinetic vegan is cheating on Envy with the third member of the Clash at Demonhead. Knives’ father is a master ninja who is just as angry with Scott as the exes. The inclusion of these details is an enjoyable nod to fans and a refreshing addition for everyone else so that each new stage isn’t just ex after ex.
At its core, Scott Pilgrim is a return to classic side-scrolling arcade brawlers like Streets of Rage. While it’s not the most original game, it is a welcome and nostalgic return to bygone days of Super Nintendo. Scott Pilgrim‘s local multiplayer, both cooperative and competitive, is a welcome return. Given how many games I played solo in 2020, it was really nice to be able to jump on with another player and enjoy a game that brings back so many memories.
Stage after stage, players will fight their way through crowds of hipsters, mo-cap actors, aliens, and ninjas. Each character is equipped with similar basic attacks divided into light attacks, strong attacks, and combos. But they also each have their own special abilities. For example, Scott has a spinning kick and can briefly summon Knives. Ramona has a similar spin special as Scott, but instead swings her iconic purse around. Far more useful is her ability to summon a barista who supercharges Ramona with a cup of Joe. And of course my personal favorite, Wallace, will summon knives to throw daggers dealing area damage. He can also do a ground smash attack that knocks back nearby baddies.
The more Canadian Curb Stomps players dish out, the more experience they gain. Unlike most games with an experience system, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World doesn’t show players an experience progress bar to show them how close they are to the next level up. As characters go up in level, they unlock new attacks and combos that make it easier to avoid getting kicked in the pixelcles.
Yet some of the “unlocked” moves feel like they should have been part of the starting set. The ability to counter an attack isn’t available to players until the third level. Even when “Level Up: New Move” flashes across the screen, it doesn’t feel very rewarding. It’s not until much later levels that additional abilities feel like they provide anything different or effective enough to justify it as an earned reward. I would have rather seen the leveling system for each character be updated to have a full move set available at the start with the ability to increase passive states like health, power, speed, or strength.
Arguably one of the best parts of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition is the wider variety of stages and enemies. Stage one is the snowy streets of Toronto on the way to the RockIt venue to fight Matthew Patel. In the first stage, most of the enemies are just a bunch of Toronto hipster and emo kids. Following that are a series of sound stages as players chase down Lucas Lee and fight off exploding stuntmen, skateboarders, and fire-breathing actors in knock-off Godzilla costumes.
Each level introduces all manner of new baddies to beat up and obstacles to avoid. Most of the time it’s good fun, but others are just plain infuriating. The movie set level introduces paparazzi that will chase players around and stun them with a camera flash. With one photographer, it’s just annoying. With two or three, it can be damn near impossible to react. Players end up stunned on the floor with no quick way to recover, becoming an easy target for even the weakest of enemies. At worst, stun times could spell game over and force players back to the start of the stage.
As happy as I am to return to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, its age is showing. In the ten years since its original release, games have become faster and more responsive. The slow reaction time of Scott Pilgrim makes it feel as old as it is. There was a real opportunity to improve on the original experience, but it was almost entirely missed in favor of staying true to the original game.
In conclusion, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition was not what I was hoping it would be. It’s still a fun game and a good deal at its $15 price point. The music is fun, the story and animation are quirky, and there’s plenty to reminisce with friends over while you’re playing couch co-op. But its nostalgia has tainted our recollection of what Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game was and it’s not what we need anymore. If I’ve learned anything from this experience it’s that hipsters, nostalgia, and emo kids are the real villains.
Pixel art immediately pulls players into bygone days of the arcades.
The variety of characters, stages, and boss bottles keeps Scott Pilgrim vs. the World from getting repetitive and gives players a great selection of levels and mini-games to revisit when their adventure is done.
A classic MIDI sound sets the tone for this retro arcade adventure exceptionally well, but none of the tracks are distinct enough to get you humming them later on.
This is sadly another case of nostalgia reminding us that our memories of a game are better than the game itself. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is still a fun game, but it has a lot more grind and a lot less fun than the hype for its return demanded.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game – Complete Edition is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, and PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game – Complete Edition was provided by the publisher.