Scott Pilgrim has numerous little twists to the gameplay that make things a lot more fun than a simple side-scrolling brawler.
- Retro-tastic 8-bit style
- Simple, robust controls
- Awesome soundtrack
- Harder than you would expect, even on the "Average Joe"setting
- Final boss will make you tear your hair out
Recently, I discovered that despite my love for this series, Scott Pilgrim is not for everyone. With most gamers sharing a common love for comic books, rock and roll, and of course video games, I thought this would have mass appeal. But our own Stephen Johnson, who decided to sample Scott Pilgrim on our trip back from Comic-Con, was not a fan. “You know what?” he said in a deadpan tone, “This series is for girls.” Well, then I guess I'm a girl, because these books and the subsequent movie are carved out of the very substance that makes up my geek heart.
But, having said that, if you're not already a fan of the world of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim, then you’re probably not going to have as much fun with this game as I did. Sure, it's an 8-bitty throwback retro title, with a fantastic chiptunes soundtrack and is filled with button-mashing glee, but non-fans will miss the references peppered throughout the game, and probably ultimately won't care why Scott is doing battle with what feels like every single citizen in Toronto.
7 Isn't Always A Lucky Number, But 8(bit) Always Is
In case you aren't familiar with the premise of Scott Pilgrim, it's easily summed up: a boy falls in love with a girl, and then must do battle with her seven evil exes. There's a bit of a plot that ties that all together, but not much. Where Scott Pilgrim succeeds isn't in pitting foe against foe, but in scooping up a helping of pop culture and layering it on thick.
The books themselves are filled with more obscure video game references than an episode of Feedback (one of the bands in book is called The Clash at Demonhead, in reference to a Nintendo platformer from 1990), and so it only makes that they would put this game out in conjunction with the movie as an 8-bit punch and kicker. It's perfectly suited for this property, and even though it's 8-bit, all of the characters look fairly identical to their graphic novel counterparts.
What goes above and beyond the graphic style of the game is the soundtrack. Chiptunes artists megaextraordinaire Anamanaguchi has recorded completely new set of tunes just for this game, and they are pitch-perfect. As a testament to how good the music is, I wish you could leave the main menu on and have it cycle through the entire soundtrack, but right now it just plays a looping selection.
Button, Button, Button, Button, Button, Repeat
Scott Pilgrim is a beat-'em-up, plain and simple. The controls are very basic, and thankfully free of impossible to memorize combos for every character like most fighting games out there. Sure, there are combos, but they are short and sweet. There's a button to punch, a button to kick, a button to block, and a button to jump. To be sure, you'll be relying heavily on kicking and punching.
You'll need the kicking and punching because in this game, you're doing battle with a lot more than seven evil exes. In fact, you have to do battle with everyone who comes your way. This includes regular folk, maxi-sized regular folk, costumed wackjobs who can breathe fire, and a lot more. Only once you pummel your way through those do you get to battle an evil ex and those evil exes can be plenty hard to beat. Especially the final boss, who made me want to drive to Montreal and find the designer, just so I could ask for an hour of my life back.
Thankfully, the game has four-player co-op in it, although beware that it isn't online, and has no drop-in, drop-out function. The latter really handicaps the game, because it's the sort of title someone will see you playing, and will want to jump in with you. But, you'd have to stop, go back to the main menu, select your characters, and restart that entire level to bring them in. Come on, Ubisoft.
Twist It Up, Baby
Scott Pilgrim has numerous little twists to the gameplay that make things a lot more fun than a simple side-scrolling brawler. There are many objects strewn about Scott's world, ranging from snowballs to briefcases full of cash, and you can pick up all of them and use them to bludgeon your foes.
Or, if you get bored of that, you can just hurl them towards them, dealing damage. In fact, you can pick up fallen baddies and use them to beat up other baddies. Also, if a bad guy gets cheeky enough to throw something at you, time things right and you can just pluck the item out of the air.
Each character in the game, Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers, Stephen Stills, and Kim Pine, can summon Knives Chau as a striker by hitting L1, and she does different things depending on who summons her. For instance, when Scott does it, she shows up and blows the word “LOVE” in an enormous cloud onscreen. Everyone also has a special spin move, which is activated with R1 and is best used for clearing out foes when they've surrounded you.
When an enemy has been defeated, they turn into coins, just like in the books. Scott and his fellow characters collect these throughout the game, and they can be used to purchase powerups from little shops scattered throughout Toronto. In fact, you are going to have to buy these, or you'll quickly find out that the game difficulty will ramp up too far for your base character.
Luckily, co-op characters can share money with each other if anyone wants to buy a special, high-ticket item. There are subspace doorways hidden throughout the game, and some of the items for sale inside, like the bionic arm, are very pricy. So, it pays to have friends. Likewise, if you run out of all of your lives in co-op, you'll turn into a ghost, and you can actually steal life from your friends, bringing you back into the game. Not bad if you're looking for an easy return, but a real d-bag move if your friends are deep in the thick of battle.
A Ten Spot For This Much Joy? Yes, Please
Despite my two cons listed above, you can't argue with the fact that this game is extremely fun to play. That goes double (or … four-ble?) with a room full of friends. It's not a title that you'll beat in an hour, and there's a lot of depth with the super mini-RPG elements involved in leveling up and figuring out which items to buy from the shops.
Couple all of that with the amazing soundtrack and the art style, and you've found a very good way to spend ten dollars. In fact, I've paid more for titles that I haven't nearly enjoyed as much, and this goes to show that small games can be just as much fun as larger titles if they are given equal love and care with a big dose of fun. In fact, if you catch the movie opening weekend, stay past the credits and you'll get a little easter egg straight from the game.
If Scott Pilgrim isn't your thing, I would normally say don't bother picking up a game based on a comic book series that you aren't into, but there's enough here to entice fans of retro-gaming and people who love button-mashers. At ten bones, it's easily the best gaming value I've picked up this year.