Also available on: Xbox Live Arcade (August 25)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft, Universal Studios
Genre: Beat 'Em Up
Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series has been crying out for a video game tie-in since the first volume arrived in 2004. Released via digital storefronts to coincide with the movie adaptation of the same name, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World has clearly been developed with its target audience in mind. Geared towards those with a penchant for comic books and all things retro, this is a faithful use of an established license that successfully captures the essence of old school beat 'em ups.
For anyone unfamiliar with the phenomenally popular comic series, Scott Pilgrim is a surreal affair that focuses on a 20-something slacker from Toronto, who must defeat his love interest's seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to win her heart. The game builds on this concept by having Scott, his two bandmates and would-be-girlfriend Ramona Flowers pummel their way through the whole of Canada.
The first thing that stands out about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is that it has been designed to resemble a mid-'90s arcade beat 'em up. The art style looks like an amalgamation of the original comics and a Japanese RPG, while the music and sound effects perfectly mimic the 16-bit era. It's a novel approach, and given the popularity of the source material and retro gaming on the whole, a game that's certain to find a sizable fanbase. However, it will take more than quaint presentation to win over the hardcore demographic.
From a gameplay perspective, this is a good old-fashioned brawler that bears more than a passing resemblance to the age-old NES offering River City Ransom. You'll spend each stage beating your way through hordes of foes before being confronted by one of Ramona's evil exes - but there's more to this one than button bashing. Like its Nintendo predecessor, the game includes some light RPG elements. As you beat down bad guys, you'll find yourself levelling up and accumulating money. Racking up experience points unlocks new attacks and cash can be spent on power-ups in the various stores you encounter throughout the game. While these features add some much needed depth, it still feels like little more than a bog standard licensed beat 'em up in single player mode.
Multiplayer is considerably more fulfilling. Running the gauntlet with friends requires a great deal more strategy than flying solo. Not only will you find yourself reviving downed comrades, you can also perform joint taunts to distract enemies, loan each other money and even poach life from other party members if teamwork isn't your thing. Scott Pilgrim certainly has the feel of a game that was developed with multiplayer in mind. Four friends can take on the world simultaneously, but online support is nowhere to be found. This is perhaps its most disappointing aspect as the option to jump into networked games would really have given it some longevity.
Other drawbacks are not limited to multiplayer alone. For instance, the game can be extremely frustrating due to its overly-long stages and unforgiving nature. Many of the levels simply cannot be beaten first time and require you to use a continue or two just to level-up appropriately. Furthermore, you'll lose that final life during the dying stages of a boss encounter far too often. It's infuriating to find yourself with one foot in the next level only to be sent back to the beginning of the previous one. Even on the lowest difficultly setting this is still an issue, and the most challenging mode is near impossible to complete solo.
Bugbears aside, if you're a Scott Pilgrim fanatic with a love of retro beat 'em ups then this is the game for you. It succeeds in capturing the spirit of old school brawlers and the comic's artistic style effortlessly, though it doesn't deliver much beyond this. Perhaps it's unfair to expect anything more from an offering of this nature, and given the volume of half-baked licensed titles out there, fans should be thankful that the development team has strived to craft something faithful to the source material. The lack of online multiplayer is lamentable, but if you're lucky enough to have four friends willing to join you on your quest to beat the living hell out of the population of Canada, you're sure to have an epic time.
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