It’s hard to believe that it has been an entire decade since the Edgar Wright-directed Scott Pilgrim vs. The World hit theatres. While it may have initially been a box-office disappointment, thanks to a passionate fan-base, the film went on to become a cult classic, along with the series of graphic novels that the film was adapted from. While Scott Pilgrim vs. The World remains an all-time favourite film of mine, it was often forgotten over the years that there was also a movie tie-in game that released within a few days of the film, aptly titled Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game.
Much like the film and the novels, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game also became a cult classic, most likely due to the fact that the beat-em-up title was tragically taken off the respective digital stores due to a licensing issue from publisher Ubisoft after just four years of being available, vanishing and being practically unplayable for those who hadn’t had the chance. Yet after celebrations began to ensue for the ten-year anniversary of the film, director Edgar Wright, as well as Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, began a Twitter storm to bring the game back. Thankfully, here we are; Ubisoft has brought back the lost title in the form of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition, working as the definitive version of the title releasing on the latest gaming platforms.
So, how does a ten-year-old title hold up? Thankfully, pretty well.
As a side-scrolling beat-em-up, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is what you would expect of a title based upon the given source material, which thankfully was already begging for a game to begin with given the premise. Thanks to an immediately eye-catching opening animation, the events are laid in motion as Scott Pilgrim must defeat the seven evil exes of his new lover, Ramona Flowers, in a bid to save the day and get the girl of his dreams. What ensues is a short journey through various locales in Toronto, Canada, as each stage works as a side-scrolling rush of enemies before reaching the boss of the given level. Again, this is a simple concept in the world of beat-em-ups, but since the core premise of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is already wrapped in a love for classic games, it makes a perfect connection, and that love is even clearer upon the game immediately booting up.
Like the source material, the game is a clear pastiche of classic arcade titles; even the initial splash screens of the title play into the classic arcade feel, with the publisher cards being presented in a retro graphical style. Down to the finest detail, every aspect of the game is always playing into this deep element of pastiche, with character selections, level navigation, and the over-world all bringing back some iconic gaming memories for those who may have grown up with titles in the classic era. There are plenty of little nods and winks throughout each of the levels that many may not pick up upon on an initial playthrough, which in itself is likely to encourage repeated playthroughs. This pastiche also bleeds through into the music from composer Anamanaguchi, which perfectly re-creates those wonderful sounds of the 16-bit era while never feeling out-dated in any of the wide array of tracks, always seeming to fit the situation that your chosen character finds themselves in at any given moment. All of this is glorious to look upon and listen to on the latest consoles, with the graphics popping clearer and brighter than ever in the re-release played on the PS5 via backwards compatibility—this game was already good-looking, but now it looks even better.
In many other titles, this excessive reliant on pastiche would be quite off-putting for some, suggesting that the game may not have any of its own personality to display. Yet, as is par for the course with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, whether it be in film or book format, the aesthetic elements only aid an already fantastic piece of entertainment, with the game equivalent being no different.
Walking through the stages with your choice of six playable characters—from Scott Pilgrim himself all the way to his roommate Wallace—the core gameplay hook is immediately gratifying. Fighting the various types of enemies feels great, with every kick, punch, and headbutt having a great deal of weight to them. Different enemies require a different approach in how best to tackle their weaknesses, so experimenting is encouraged. Each character also has a differing move-set to some extent, with the animation style of each of them offering a slight enough change to make the differing personalities and fighting styles noticeable. The differing moves are nothing drastic by any means, but each of them has a different set of special moves that makes replaying the game an enticing opportunity to check them out (rather than opting to play as Scott all the time, like me).
Those special moves are acquired via leveling up your chosen fighter, with each enemy defeated offering a slight amount of XP to contribute towards your level count, and each level gained boosting your stats and rewarding you with a new move. However, these elements are far and beyond the most inconsistent part of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition, as you may find yourself struggling to get past encounters very early on due to feeling underpowered in comparison to the increasing number of enemies as levels continue. The game is still certainly possible to get through if you can overcome the challenge, yet the steep difficulty curve here is almost immediate unless you are willing to go back and grind as if you were playing the late stages of a JRPG. Grinding can be done either by repeating stages and punching your way through to the end again, or special power-ups can be acquired at the shopping district found in the first level.
Along with XP, enemies also drop several coins when defeated, which work as your in-game currency to be spent at the number of shops found in levels. These shops offer small bonuses, such as an extra life or a small boost in HP, all the way up to incredibly over-powered stat boosters that can help you reach max rank in next to no time at all. The whole system has always felt out of place within the game, and ten years on it doesn’t fare much better, often feeling like a way to extend the short game length another hour or so. Yet, given the games more than reasonable price, there was never any need to artificially extend the game length, as blasting through the several stages makes for a great piece of fast-paced action—if you aren’t halted by the difficulty curve. Thankfully, there are three difficulty options to choose from, catering to those hardcore beat-em-up fans who may find the lower difficulties a walk in the snow-covered park.
With Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition, you are getting exactly what it says on the tin; this is the complete edition, with no real added bells or whistles. The original DLC is included, which adds Knives and Wallace as playable characters, along with a few bonus modes that offer some decent distractions from the main story, yet there is a real lack of legacy content here to make the title feel like a true celebration. Regardless, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition remains the same blast of a game that it was over a decade ago, whether you are playing alone, locally via co-op, or even through online co-op, it is a game that will appeal to most, and is a must-have for those who are fans of the source material. Now, let us just pray that Ubisoft doesn’t have to take this version off the store in the future too!
[A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes]