Scott Pilgrim vs The World Review

By on August 16, 2010

KO the world in this retro-stylish beat’em up.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

While Scott Pilgrim vs The World is not the type of movie you’d expect to get a game, the game itself is not the your average movie-video game tie-in. Don’t expect to see polygon character models likened to Michael Cera and co, as the game is based on the graphic novel and is perhaps one part movie marketing tool and two parts homage to old school gaming. With its retro pixel-based visual design, its punchy chiptunes and its ‘golden age’ side-scrolling beat’em-up format, there is no question that SP vs TW is both charming and stylish. This I could tell before I even began playing but my worry was that it would turn out to be a game that was all style and no substance. Thankfully that wasn’t the case.

The game’s plot does not really go beyond the premise that Scott loves Ramona but he must defeat her 7 evil ex-boyfriends. 7 areas, 7 ex-boyfriends, it is as simple as that. The areas (and their checkpoints) can be accessed from a Super Mario 3 inspired world map portraying Toronto like you’ve never seen it before. In fact the game is riddled with similar classic video game references but I’ll delve into that a little later.

SP vs TW plays alot like the standard brawlers of the 16bit era such as Streets of Rage, Final Fight, TMNT: Turtles in Time and so on. The controls are of the basic variety, limited to attack, heavy attack, jump, block and two special attacks unique to each character. There are 4 characters in total which is fitting since the game supports up to 4 players. This is one of those rare games where co-op is not just accommodating but encouraged. Even on its “Average Joe” difficulty level, the game is quite challenging if you are not appropriately leveled-up. Sometimes going at it alone is suicide. That’s when you call over a friend or two and engage in a little digital ass-kicking.

Arguably the best thing about the game (besides the visuals), and the factor that will keep you replying areas over and over again is its leveling-up system. Defeating enemies earns you experience points that allow you to level-up. With each level-up, your character learns a new skill move. Most of these moves are pretty basic but effective nonetheless. You can also buy equipment and consumables from in-game shops that can raise certain stats permanently or restore your health and gut points (which are needed to execute special moves and can be partially substituted for health points when your character dies). Your character’s progress is saved whether you go at levels alone or play with buddies so its never a waste of time replaying levels. What is unfortunate however is that players cannot join in and/or drop out from within an area and so any alterations to your party size must be done from the main menu. This is unfortunate but not catastrophic because, as I said, your character’s progress is always saved even if you ‘return to world map’ abruptly.

As I’ve already mentioned the game is gorgeous – pixel-art at its finest. It’s a challenge to look retro and feel fresh but Scott Pilgrim pulls it off remarkably well. In addition to its geek-chic visual style, the game features a great soundtrack that really brings the game’s 8-bit culture to life. Speaking of 8-bit culture, SP vs TW features a plethora of classic game references that range from the subtle to the not so subtle. These references include but are not limited to the Super Mario series, Golden Axe, Shinobi, Mega man, Street Fighter 2 and much more. I won’t spoil any, as noticing them is a real treat for the video game enthusiast (as is the game in general).

Perhaps the most notable omission is online co-op but given the game’s old school nature I wasn’t too bothered by its absence. Especially since there are dozens of current-gen games that support online co-op and very few that celebrate good old fashioned brawler co-op as was popular in the 8 and 16 bit eras. If you truly love console gaming, then Scott Pilgrim is a nostalgic treat that is pure condensed fun.

The Scorecard
Simple old school gameplay that doesn’t feel dated. A difficult feat to pull off.
Super stylish pixel art that just oozes charm.
An awesome classic game soundtrack from start to finish.
Leveling up your character will keep you replaying but the game ends all too soon.
Great fun alone, perhaps even more fun with friends. A worthy tribute to classic gaming.
It may be short but this geek-chic brawler’s fine blend of style and substance makes it worthy of praise.


As an opinionated young gamer many years ago, I made three predictions: 1- Sega would dominate the console wars for 50 years. 2- Simon's Quest would be remembered as the definitive NES game. 3- I would be gaming even more as an adult. I suppose one out of three isn't bad.

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