Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game [Review]

Can a game based on a graphic novel really be a good game?

(Note: Image has the European release date)

Who would have thought that Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novel series would be immortalized into a movie and now a video game.  For me, I love the graphic novel dearly.  Yet there is one thing that always concerns me.  Typically when you take a franchise/series from its original medium and transplant it to a foreign medium, terrible things happen to them.  For books and novels, a transition to film can either be great or crap.  The same case can be made for video games when they are turned into movies.  I will take this time to say that the game has many references to the graphic novel and those charms will be very much lost if you have not read them.

There used to be an embeded media player here, but it doesn't work anymore. We blame the Tumbeasts.

When the trailer from Comic-Con was shown, I was intrigued.  A game that was completely retro in style, but with fresh concepts from modern day games.  Seeing some of the scenes that had been referenced in the novel being depicted in a video game was truly amazing.  I am almost confident in saying that it quelled any fears of the game being a hack-job for a money grab. It seemed like Castle Crashers but with heavy undertones of the Scott Pilgrim franchise.

For technical details, the game is on the PlayStation Network Store for $9.99 and there is a demo available.  The game supports 4 total players and multiplayer is a local system affair.  No idea if there will be a latter addendum for multiplayer via PSN.  This is disappointing as it would work rather well as an online title with friends.  The options for friendly hits can be toggled and by default it is marked off.  Players are able to choose from Scott Pilgrim, Kim Pine, Stephen Stiles, or Ramona Flowers as their hero of choice.  There are 2 secret characters to unlock as well, but I won’t spoil the surprise for those who intend to read the novels.  Each character levels up individually like in Castle Crashers and you can change their color palette as well.  Each character has a “assist” summon as well as a taunt of their own.  Scott’s assist summons up his fan-girl/ex-girlfriend Knives Chau that stuns enemies.  The taunt is important as when all players have their taunts active, your team gets to do a killer band attack doing massive damage.

The graphic style is a remix on 8-bit retro.  The soundtrack is done by Anamanaguchi and completes the 8-bit retro feel.  The Help section detail game mechanics and controls in a brief way.  The controls are sadly not customizable which is a bit of a harping point because I own an arcade stick (Hori Fighting Stick 3) and the default button configuration isn’t comfortable to that stick.  From looking at the configurations of other arcade sticks like the Mad Catz line and the new Hori Vewlix product lines as they have the face buttons on the left, unlike how mine are between the shoulder buttons and right in the middle.  So players with those sticks will definitely have a much easier time than I will.  The game’s start-up has a few nice “cues” of old arcade games.  From the 8-bit version of the Ubisoft logo animation and Universal logo to the “Vegan Police” emblem with a slogan of “Winners don’t eat meat!” playing off the FBI “Winners don’t do drugs!” emblem message.  It sets the mood of the game just right!

As far as game play modes go you have your basic story mode, Boss Attack (unlocked somehow) and a “hidden” Survival Horror mode that is accessed by the code mentioned in the trailer above.  Now, for those of you too lazy to sit through this brilliant trailer from Edgar Wright (who is also directing the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movie), I have taken the liberty of transposing the code here:

On the title screen (with the graphic, not the mode select screen), enter the following code:
Down, Up, Right, Down, Up, Right, Down, Up, Right, Right, Right

This “cheat code” is a nice homage to the days when video games had cheat codes, unlike how we no longer have them in a majority of our games.  The controls are simple: analog stick/d-pad to move, Square for a light attack/grab objects, hold square for 2 seconds to taunt, Triangle for strong attacks/throw grasped objects, X to jump, Circle to block/catch thrown objects, L1 to summon your assist (which consumes guts points), and R1 to do your full range super move (ex: Scott has a hurricane kick).  The dash is configurable to a double tap left/right to perform it or to do a quick tap.  This is a nice option for arcade stick users as a double tap can be a bit clumsy for some and a quick tap may work better.  As far as multiplayer-only features, these take their roots from the beat-em-up genre. You can share HP with friends, help revive your downed friends, you can steal lives from them when you lose yours, and lastly you can share your money with your friends at shops and restaurants.

Much like Castle Crashers, you have to develop each character with experience points (XP) to unlock certain skills and attacks.  Gaining XP however is a unique thing as you can get experience from beating up enemies, eating certain foods or buying certain items (CD’s, books, etc).  Also purchasing food and items can boot certain stats, however, the bonuses are not known until you buy them and they are permanent.  Choose wisely before you spend heedlessly.  With food, certain items can be bound in your snack slot and they are used on your last life before you die as a last hurrah.  The stores and restaurants are a nice touch as most of them are references to the graphic novel with supporting characters from the novel either hanging out close to them or working inside.

The game is paced out in a Super Mario World like map with “points” that are flagged when you pass through them.  Every player is also given 3 lives on starting the game.  Once all 3 lives are lost, you can continue and you start at the last point you flagged on the map.  Oddly, the Survival Horror mode also allows you to team up with 3 friends to take down as many zombies as you can.  That’s a rather welcome feature in my opinion and makes for a potentially fun party experience.  For those in the competitive spirit, there are leader boards for both story and Survival Horror modes for you to try conquering them.  The trophies are pretty hard to earn and some are far from a joke to nab (ex: Twin Dragons, beat The Twins simultaneously).  The game loosely follows the novel but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  If you like the Scott Pilgrim series and you love retro gaming, this is a must-have for sure.

[Image credit to Ubisoft, release trailer from Ubisoft from IGN’s YouTube channel, and Survival Horror trailer from Edgar Wright]

Long Diep
Long Diep
Long Diep

MASH Veteran

Long is an classic game fanatic who has a fond love of arcade games. He is a fan of fighting games and racing simulations and loves playing them with good friends. His true love is with Japanese curtain fire, "bullet hell" shooters. He is a gamer who believes that sometimes the best gaming gear can make the difference between a better experience in a game to increased game play skills. Even though he likes his unique games, he does enjoy FPS games, RPG's, and various other games. Long has a so

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