For weeks now Playstation 3 owners have known what it is like to be Scott Pilgrim while the rest of us (I am including me because of my achievement whore status) have had to sit and live vicariously through the film and books. Now with the recent release on the Xbox 360 Arcade everyone can feel just how epic it is to live as Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
This game is no different from any incarnation of this story in that the player will work through seven levels with one of Ramona’s evil exes acting as a boss to defeat before moving on to the next. However, this time around instead of just fighting as the title character, now Ramona, Kim, and Stephen are playable as well. All four stay true to the spirit of their respective characters with hints at personality traits and signature moves to lash out at the throngs of thugs with, evolving more as they level up throughout the progression of the game.
Though the vibrant color palette of the game departs from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s black and white drawings it still sticks to the spirit of the books in more than just the representation of the characters. Each level is built with the basis of the locations of the source material, yet still manage to build themselves into something completely new as a representation of the ex waiting at the end. One of the best examples is mega-actor Lucas Lee’s level 2, which is brimming with little cinematic allusions, from paparazzi shooting the player back through the air with their blinding camera flashes to the film’s director, Edgar Wright, making a cameo to the backdrop of the level revealing itself to be a green screen (little green suited men included). Minor characters from the books can also be seen lining the walls of the levels as bystanders to the mayhem, as well as little nods to events in the books are thrown in for additional entertainment. Just look up in the balcony after the first boss battle and you will see Scott’s roommate Wallace stealing yet another one of Stacy Pilgrim’s boyfriends, or on the grander scale you might spot Knives’ overprotective father skulking on the world map.
All of these little nods to the comics will go unnoticed to those unfamiliar with the books and film, but those who have never ventured into Scott Pilgrim’s world will still find plenty here to enjoy. Just as the books draw inspiration from gaming culture, so too does this game by paying tribute to the old school gaming, bringing childhood memories flooding back to the player. There is a little Mario in the map layout, a little Sonic spin in Scott’s double jump, a little NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the side scrolling beat-’em-up action, a little The Simpson’s arcade game from the local Pizza Hut frequented in childhoods past with the item combat, etc. All players will be reminded of different things as they play through the game, but each will be thrilled to be reminded of the simple games of the past that raised them.
Sounds simple enough, but Scott Pilgrim does have a downside in how quickly it becomes overly challenging, forcing the player to constantly retrace their steps through the levels in order to bulk up their character’s stats enough so that they do not get bludgeoned to a pulp by the sometimes overwhelming amounts of enemies in the next level. Not only does this break the feel of the story of having Scott move from one evil ex to the next, but it unfortunately becomes rather frustrating as well.
One solution to this is to play co-op with a friend or three (though another minus is that there is no online co-op). Not only does it help to split the waves of enemies between the group, but instead of simply losing a life when your HP reaches 0, now you have a friend who can revive you before your time runs out. But if single player is the only availability then just prepare to spend major amounts of time building skills and amassing money to buy upgrades by your lonesome.
Even with all the frustration it will be hard not to beam with pride and sink back into a chair with a satisfied sigh when the final ex falls to his knees, the memory of all the fun had when fighting through level after colorful level with an upbeat soundtrack and (if you’re lucky) friends at your side replaying in your head.
Final Grade: 8/10