Friday, September 17, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game: The Review

As you can tell, I’ve been in a Scott Pilgrim high these last few months, and thankfully for me, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s character has appeared in several different platforms for me to enjoy. While I’ve been reviewing the books here, I also got the chance to download and play Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game. Hit the jump to read my review of the game.


Developed by Ubisoft
Available on Xbox Marketplace and PlayStation Network

The game follows the basic plot of the series of graphic novels, where Scott must battle seven evil exes in order to win Ramona’s heart. The game has a basic set up of old school side scrollers, where you must battle waves of enemies as you make your way through increasingly difficult levels. The game can be played by up to four players at a time, and they can choose from among Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers, Stephen Stills and Kim Pine as their playable characters. Each character has similar moves, though a some unique ones as well. You have to punch, kick, and battle your way through roughly eight worlds (each one has two stages), and beat boss battles to advance.

Versus The World!

The first thing you will notice about this game is this: it is very hard. If you are used to putting games in the easy or medium difficulty and just cruising through them, then you are for a rude awakening. The game aesthetics are intended to evoke the look and feel of older games, and that includes the challenge older games used to provide. Sometimes enemies will chain huge combos and quickly drain your health meter while you watch helpless (this usually happens after someone knocks you up in the air), or attack you from off-screen where you can’t see them. Boss battles can become long grinds to chip away at the enemy’s energy, and you will more than likely die a few times the first time you go up against a boss. It’s not a fair game, you will get frustrated and angry, and that’s fine, because it’s part of the charm of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. (Just for the record, the game will become much easier if you pay Scott’s late video rental fees)

As much fun as it is playing on single mode, the fun doubles (or triples, or quadruples) if you have someone to play in multiplayer mode. The game’s relatively easy-to-learn, hard-to-master engine will prove to be entertaining to casual fans, and makes Scott Pilgrim vs. The World a great party game that anyone can enjoy. There’s special combos and moves in multiplayer mode, and you can help (or hurt!) each other in different ways, such as healing and lending money. I also wanted to make a quick mention of the music in the game, by Anamanaguchi which is 8-bit tunes that are surprisingly catchy and I found myself humming them when I wasn’t playing the game.

The Best 24-Year Old Ever!

I mentioned above that the plot loosely follows the plot of the comics, but it’s in a very simplified way. Most of the story is conveyed in simple graphics, almost with no text, and short videos after the end of each level. The main point of the game is the punching and kicking, not the intricate story or deep character moments, and I appreciate. Most modern games require a great deal of immersion into the game play, where you need to pay close attention to everything that’s going on in the screen, because if not you might be out of the loop later. Scott Pilgrim is not like that, you can just turn in the game, go to your latest/favorite stage, and just start beating the crap of anything that comes your way. It makes for a great gaming experience if you have limited amount of time, and can just play in short bursts, though some levels do go kind of long. And if you are used to using a save point every five minutes, you might need to readjust your play style, because the only way to save your progress is once you clear a stage.

Thankfully, the developers of the game did add a small RPG-ish element to the gameplay, to help avoid monotony. Each one of your characters has stats that you must build through the consumption of items, which you purchase with the money that your adversaries leave behind (with the exception of robots, because fighting robot sucks). What this means is that if you are having a particularly hard time with one of the levels, you can back to a previous one and “train” your way up. Additionally, as your character gains levels, you learn new moves that will help you deal with the tougher enemies that await you as you make your way through the snowy world of Toronto. Most older games did not have this option, if you were having trouble with a boss or a level, you just had to get better at the game itself. You just started with all of the moves at your disposal, but the enemies just got harder to beat. This is a welcome change that, asides from making the game more interesting, it gives it a higher replayability value. My only complaint on this front is that eventually you reach a point where your stats/level can’t go any higher, usually after one playthrough.

There’s a varied set of enemies, but as you progress through the game, you will notice that most of them are just palette swaps of earlier enemies (again, like older games). I wish they had added more types, just to make the game more challenging, since once you figure out what techniques work better against particular enemies, beating them can become an easier task.

The Infinite Sadness

It’s not all fun and games for Scott Pilgrim, and there’s a negative side to this game (and I’m not talking about NegaScott). On several occasions, the game completely crashed on me, forcing a restart of the console and obviously losing all progress. I’m not sure what the exact cause of this glitch is (some have suggested that it’s related to the music loop), but I hope it’s fixed soon, because it can be incredibly annoying. For example, once I was in the final battle with Gideon, and I was actually doing pretty well with several lives left and him on his last legs, when the screen completely froze up. I almost threw the controller at the screen! I’ve seen people mention that this is intentional, a homage to older games (again) who would often suffer similar game-crippling glitches like this one. Seems like a very stupid idea to me, to be honest.

I think that a neat addition to the game would have been the opportunity to create and customize your own Scott Pilgrim-like character, asides from the four choices you already have (additional characters would be cool too). I guess it might have been a bit of a problem with the animations, especially since I heard that the game’s developers were running a bit late, and tried to coincide the release of the game with the opening of the movie of the same name. Avatar creation is a regular feature in most games though, so I figure it shouldn’t be that big of a problem. Perhaps in an expansion pack in the future?

The game’s most obvious missing element is online multiplayer mode. Like I mentioned above, the gameplay is so easy to jump in and out of, that I could see a sprawling community of multiplayer games. There’s perhaps some changes to be made in order for multiplayer to work: friendly fire needs to be permanently off, or it would mean that there would be assholes who just go around punching other players, and money collection could be an issue, as you can imagine people would try to get greedy and grab it all for themselves. I still think it has lots of potential for the online playing, and I hope we get to see that in the future as well.

Verdict - Must Play. Despite some minor flaws, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game is an interesting and addicting ride into the retro world of gaming, but that adds enough modern sensibilities to work on it’s own as well. In other words, come in for the nostalgia, stay for the entertaining and challenging game.

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Ivan said...

I've played the demo, and I've gotta say, I'm not crazy about the game.

It feels like they just took River City Ransom and threw a Scott Pilgrim "skin" over it, without updating the gameplay. Most of the difficulty of the game, to me, comes from the limited gameplay possibilities that were fine for a game during the 80's but not right now, no matter how "retro" they want the game to feel.

And if indeed the "crashing" aspect of the game is intentional, man, that's a huge facepalm.

I'm passing on this one.

Kirk Warren said...

Ive played it at a friends and can confirm it does crash on occasion. Usually once per extended play session I found (only played a handful of times though).

However, I thought the game was great. I didn't find the gameplay limited by the retro style. Early on you are limited by the move list being incomplete due to the leveling system and lack of money might make it more difficult to progress, but it saves progression and you can keep playing and getting stronger. Once you learn your counter move (lvl 4? 5?), you have a tonne of options for playing. Difficulty levels make a difference too. On easy, its a joke. Enemies dont even attack and it was boring for us.

Overall, I loved teh style, the gameplay and the music/sound effects were fantastic. I grew up on NES/SNES style games like this though, so your mileage may vary.

Matt Duarte said...

Yeah, early levels are really hard/boring because you have a limited move list. As you upgrade, you have a bigger arsenal at your disposal and the game becomes more interesting.

Ivan said...

Ah, ok. That's gotta be it.

But I'm still not too confortable with how they TOTALLY ripped off River City Ransom.

twobitspecialist said...

Some call it a rip-off. Others call it a homage. Same diff. ;)

Ivan said...

I call it "lazy".

blueairplane said...

But it does make sense to homage RCR here. Scott's whole "fight to save Kim" in book 2 (I think it was book 2) was itself an homage to RCR. Though it might've been cooler to have a mixed homage of several older games like the books do. Harder to pull off (and put together) but cooler.

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