The Capacity to Geek | Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game - Complete Edition Review
Updated: Feb 26
I would like to preface by stating that I am a HUGE Scott Pilgrim fan. Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is my favorite movie of all time, and I've read the graphic novels a number of times. Growing up without an Xbox, I, like many others, was unable to play the video game adaptation of the IP before it was infamously removed from digital stores forever in 2014. No physical version of the game had been released, so if you hadn't already purchased the game (like myself), it was as if it no longer existed. Before this year it was easily the least accessible game ever developed. This game has been one of the black sheep of my backlog, both as a gamer and as a Scott Pilgrim fan, since I learned of its existence. Needless to say, I was beyond ecstatic when Ubisoft announced they would be returning the game to stores, including creating a physical version of the game, finally making this gaming relic accessible once again.
We Are Here to Make Money and Sell Out and Stuff
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is an arcade-style 2D side-scrolling beat 'em up that copies and pastes the story of the novels and movie. Defeat Ramona's seven evil exes. As such, there are seven levels for you to play through (big surprise). This game nails its classic arcade aesthetic, stylizing its graphics to resemble 16-bit era games, and featuring a phenomenal chiptune soundtrack by renowned band Anamanaguchi, whom I adore. It's evident that it was designed with arcade games in mind as well, giving the player(s) 3 lives and having a relatively short completion time for one run of the game's campaign. Difficulty is also inflated compared to modern standards to reflect the challenging nature of classic games. With the COVID-19 global pandemic still in full-effect, now was the perfect time to put this game back in the wild.
Celebrating this game's ten year anniversary through a re-release is certainly a wonderful gesture, but that's about as far as it goes. Perhaps the only other thing this game does consistently well is its implementation of the source material. As one would expect, the game is brimming with nods and references, and it absolutely succeeds as a love letter to the novels. However, as a video game, it is severely unpolished and rife with odd design choices that sour the experience. Even worse, as a "Complete Edition" as the title proclaims, there aren't even any remotely meaningful changes from the original game. While as a fan of the IP I am grateful for this release, I find it difficult to view this event as anything more than a cash-grab.
I Am So Sad, So Very Very Sad
It truly pains me to say how little fun I actually had playing this game. Innumerous elements of this game exist only for the novelty of being a Scott Pilgrim game. Otherwise the game is a poorly designed beat 'em up filled with cumbersome mechanics, systems, and animations, and a lack of attention to detail in its gameplay that is quite baffling at times. On the surface, the game makes a fairly cool and unique decision for its genre, having players level up their characters by defeating enemies, and with each level, a new move is unlocked for that character. It's exciting for the first few levels every time you gain an ability, but the order in which you acquire them is incredibly odd. Many abilities that are quite fundamental to this style of game aren't earned until you reach levels 8-10 (approximately). I'm referring to moves like the double jump, the dodge roll, the counter, etc. You likely won't reach these levels until the third or fourth stage of a singular run, and as a result the early hours of the game become a chore. It is infuriating to interact with the game mechanics until you get a particular character to level 15 or so, which is far too long for an arcade game.
The moves you gain in the starting levels are seemingly random and unimpactful, like a punch that attacks behind where you're facing. This only works when you're already basically on top of an enemy anyway, so it's really not that different from a normal punch. Each character levels up individually as well, meaning of the six or so playable characters you'd have to repeat the same process for each of them. A more effective tactic most of the time is using various objects as weapons, which often have longer reach and do more damage than your fists. However, while holding a weapon you are unable to use almost your entire moveset. You can't even block!
The playable characters themselves are again, simply a novelty. They are almost entirely indistinguishable from one another aside from animation and the effect of their summon ability. Particularly, Stephen Stills and Wallace Wells are literally identical. Every single one of their animations and moves are completely the same, which in a game otherwise full of realizing the personality of its characters and world, is extremely disappointing. This is indicative of the effort that was actually put into making this a fun and functional video game, which was not enough, as it seems.
Many of the other systems and game mechanics are overly obtuse and inconsistent, creating unnecessary frustration while you are attempting to learn the game, and figuring them out feels more bittersweet than purely satisfactory. Shops, for example, aside from having the best shop theme in any game ever (that's right), are part of the background of levels. There is little to no indication that you can go inside them other than the fact that you collect money from defeating enemies, so it must be used for something. Once you get inside the shops, the game doesn't even actually tell you what the purchasable items do until after you've spent money on them! Insane doesn't even begin to describe the lack of clarity this game exhibits.
Enemy artificial intelligence is also wildly inconsistent and unreadable. Often times, they'll just block for eternity, and other times, they'll conveniently perfectly outrun you, or fly at you with active hitboxes from offscreen. Much of the combat encounters in this game are filled with un-reactable moments that will cause you to get chained by moves until you've taken 75% of your health. This wouldn't be so bad if the get-up animation didn't take two full seconds to start! It is telling just how much this game was intended to be played cooperatively.
Yep, We Totally Bailed
Playing cooperatively is without a doubt the best way to experience this game. It is very clearly designed this way as the game does not scale down well for singleplayer. However, this comes with the caveat that I would not recommend the online multiplayer whatsoever. Us GameSharks attempted to play a round together recently, and an attempt is all it was. The game functions through your Ubisoft account, which is justified and makes sense, but none of us have used or will use it for anything else. The entire process of playing online was so encumbering that all of us who possibly could have refunded the game did just that. Once we actually managed to get a game running, we encountered a number of different game-breaking glitches. Glitches like being physically unable to control our characters, enemies that were invisible and un-interactable for some but not for others, and the game just not allowing us to advance when we cleared a screen of enemies. We were unable to get to halfway through the first stage. So couch co-op is really the only way I would recommend playing this game, and that will be a pretty difficult thing to accomplish until the pandemic is over. Or if you don't have friends.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game - Complete Edition (mouthful of a title btw) is beautiful in the sense that it is a piece of Scott Pilgrim media, and that's about the extent of it. It is serviceable as a co-op brawler but I would not recommend playing the game singleplayer, and good luck trying to play with your friends online. There are better beat 'em ups out there (Castle Crashers exists) and if I want to revisit the Scott Pilgrim IP I would simply watch the film or read the novels. But if you're an even bigger fan of Scott and the gang and must experience it, then by all means give it a go. Otherwise it's just not worth your time. At the very least, it'll only run you $15 so it's not like you'd be breaking the bank for it. I wonder if I would have remembered it more fondly if I had never played it?