Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is about a Canadian 23-year-old named Scott Pilgrim who, along with his pals Kim Pine, Stephen Stills, and new girlfriend Ramona Flowers, must defeat Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends before Scott can finally date her. A simple premise explained to us, if not by the absolute media overload of the past few weeks, then by the Marvel vs. Capcom 2-style attract demo that plays when the game boots up. Scott: The Game is a classic-style arcade game, calling back to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, The Simpsons Arcade Game and other classic brawlers, particularly River City Ransom.
Both Scott and River City Ransom have enemies that drop coins when defeated, shops both apparent and hidden where you can buy food and items that increase stats, punching, kicking, and jumping. There’s also an indelible charm you can’t resist — unless you don’t like fun, nostalgia and gorgeous, gorgeous sprite work.
Then you might want to skip looking for all the Easter eggs and references to classic video games and other facets of nerd culture, from the Pac-Man ghosts, to Tetris blocks to the menus from Earthbound, it’s a blast to go through the game discovering new things.
And you may have to go through the game’s earlier stages at least more than once since Scott is far from a cakewalk. Like the 8-bit NES games it draws inspiration from, the difficulty gets intense in the later levels, requiring players to pedal back to farm money and buy helpful stuff. If this sounds aggravating to you, don’t worry; by that time you’ll have amassed a healthy set of moves to take down enemies faster.
Ideally you’ll have three other bros (or gals!) together – in the same room –to help beat up Toronto’s weirdest inhabitants. Although it’s perfectly reasonable to expect online co-op in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game does not offer that to you; it’s designed to recreate the arcade experience in your living room. Gamers without the luxury of friends or four controllers in the same space may want to reconsider this game, as I don’t think going solo would be recommended.
There are no drop-ins either, which is even more confounding. That is, you can’t join mid-game. If this really was a real arcade cabinet that wouldn’t fly at all. The solution is to have everyone committed to playing from the start, which happens pretty often when it comes to gaming gatherings anyway.
I’ve noticed a few glitches as well, noticeably on the train level, where me and my band of brawlers couldn’t progress because a baddie wouldn’t die or he was off screen or unreachable so the game wouldn’t transition to the next screen. We had to back out back to the Super Mario Bros. 3-style world map and go back into the level from the beginning. That’s not a deal breaker by any means, but still annoying and hopefully something that can be fixed. There’s a weird sliding glitch, too, but it’s kind of awesome as it makes Scott and his friends move like they’re covered in Canola oil.
The soundtrack by chiptune band Anamanaguchi is fantastic. It’d be worth the price of admission alone, and it changes as the levels go on, adding different layers and other nifty tricks. It’s the memorable, looping, classic style of video game music that’s been missing from video game music, and it got it stuck in my head while shaving — always a fine sign.
The game’s whole presentation is infectious. I can see the gorgeous 2D spritework by Paul Robertson imprinted on the backs of my eyelids it is so GOOD. Each and every character and object is bouncy, crisp and delicious. Each vegetable with a face on it, or flying piggy bank looks like I can reach into the screen and eat them. It’s all so cute, but never so much so that it becomes annoying. The stages are nice and long, with plenty of variety in the backgrounds and lots of interactive objects like fire hydrants, phone booths and bus stops to play with.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game has a lot of passion and heart, backed up by impeccable art design, rousing music and simple and fun arcade brawling that should have you beating up bad guys long into the wee small hours. If you can get by the dopey glitches and friend-having requirements, by all means, take a Warp Pipe, dive into Scott’s wacky world and show those evil exes who’s boss.