The Quarter Bin

Videos, Reviews, and Previews For Comic Fans

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – PlayStation 3

Posted by Luke Brown On August - 13 - 2010

It should come as no surprise that a video game was created based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series. The Oni Press comic is steeped in references to classic games like River City Ransom, Double Dragon, and Sonic the Hedgehog, and Scott’s life itself plays out very much like a video game. In fact, the entire plot of the series revolves around Scott having to defeat seven evil exes (read: bosses) in order to win (read: save) Ramona Flowers’ heart. Set as a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, the translation of the action in the comics to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World makes perfect sense. Though it can be a bit frustrating at times, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is probably the best video game based on a comic that’s based on video games ever.

Based on the events of the graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World pits you as either Scott, Ramona, or Scott’s bandmates Stephen Stills and Kim Pine, against all seven of Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends. Up to four people can play together on one console (there is no online co-op), and as you try to take down the exes, you’ll come across a ton of memorable locations from the comics. Whether you’re battling Matthew Patel at the Rockit Club, taking on Lucas Lee on his latest movie set, or encountering the Katayanagi twins at a Halloween party, the game’s levels will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s read the books. There’s still plenty to enjoy for those who didn’t read the comics as few of the levels are entirely new creations, but the nods to O’Malley’s work are much appreciated.

Since the plot of the game is basically “go here, punch that, repeat,” having a solid combat system is important. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the definition of a throwback title, relying mostly on just two attack buttons for most of the time. Every character starts with both strong and quick attacks, and can level up to learn even more moves. All four characters also have a unique special attack and a different special assist from Knives Chau. The game doles out experience based on your performance, and every character learns a new move when they level up. Early on, you’re really limited in how much damage you can do to an enemy, but once you start adding new attacks to your repertoire, taking on hordes of enemies becomes much easier. Despite being rather simple to learn and fun to play, the game is almost impossible to play on your own. Without at least one other player, you’ll find it rather difficult to get very far beyond the first level. Though a small portion of that challenge lies in the difficulty of the enemies, a large portion of why it’s important to play with a friend is resuscitation. Resuscitation is incredibly important in this game as you’ll be getting knocked out quite a bit, and if you’re playing with someone else, they’ll have ten seconds to try and bring you back to life by pounding circle. Should you run out, you can also “borrow” lives from another player in the hopes of completing a level together. That said, it also took every bit of all three lives for all four characters to even reach the third boss battle, let alone defeat him.

The difficulty curve is incredibly steep, partially because the game is actually challenging, and partially because the game is kind of cheap. A lot of enemies have unblockable attacks, and when there are dozens of them on screen at once, you can easily be overwhelmed. The game verges on frustrating instead of difficult on more than once occasion, and may turn off more casual fans. In addition to the leveling system, there are items you can purchase with money defeated enemies drop that will upgrade your stats. Unfortunately, the stores are more confusing than they are helpful. You don’t see the stats of the items you’re purchasing until after you buy them, so you have absolutely no idea what the item you’re spending money on will do for you. Sure, once you buy something you know what it does for the next time, but you would never know that Tlaloc’s Feast was an extra life until you gambled on spending your hard-earned money on it. Once you get adjusted to the challenge, and figure out your shopping strategy, you’ll be on your way. It just takes a little time getting there.

The developers at Ubisoft have really outdone themselves with Scott Pilgrim‘s presentation. Recreating the manga-influenced art of O’Malley in gorgeous, high-definition 16-bit styled graphics works wonderfully, and watching the game is almost as fun as actually playing it. Colors don’t just pop off the screen, they blast you in the face with their vibrancy, and the pixelated animations put many of the game’s downloadable contemporaries to shame. Even though the game is an absolute visual treat, the game’s score only adds to how delightful the experience is. If there was ever a game that had the power to make me fall in love with modern chip tune music, it’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Seriously, is there a better indicator that music is good other than humming the tune well after you’re done playing the game?

Though I really enjoy this game, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is almost too retro for its own good. Even on the lowest difficulty setting, playing the game is at times a chore. If you happen to have a few friends over, the burden lessens, but only marginally. Devout fans of the character will find a lot to like, as will die-hard side-scroller enthusiasts, but newcomers turned onto everything Pilgrim thanks to the movie may find themselves overwhelmed. It’s a good game, but it’s core audience is a niche within a niche, and I think that by making the game an homage to the games of yesterday, they missed the mark ever so slightly.

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