Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game has always been notable for two tings: being one of the best beat-em-up games ever made and being the go-to argument for why a digital-only future for games is a scary prospect.
Ubisoft delisted the game from digital storefronts six years ago, allegedly due to licensing issues. But now to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the film the game is based on, the game is now available again on modern platforms (though we’ll see how long that lasts) with all of the DLC included. But for those of you clamoring for the return of the game, especially those that didn’t get a chance to play the original game like I did, this might be a case of being careful what you’ve wished for.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.
Before we begin, you should know that last year Ubisoft has been accused of widespread sexual misconduct at the company at all levels, with more than a dozen people making public claims according to Bloomberg. Complaints were mishandled or ignored by human resources, and abusers were promoted instead of punished. Many of those accused of misconduct have left the company or were placed on administrative leave according to The Verge, and Ubisoft has promised to launch an internal investigation, but they also used their Ubisoft Forward presentation to bury the news of their misconduct (they chose not to address the misconduct in the presentation itself). You’re welcome to still buy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but you should still be aware of the actions of the publisher, especially since those abusers who left the company likely still make money from their shares with the company.
Scott Pilgrim definitely replicates the feel of an old-school arcade game – you start story mode in very little time and have to figure everything out for yourself just by pushing buttons and experimenting with combos. But pretty soon you get the hang of things. I love the little combos you can pull off like sliding objects into enemies over and over or juggling opponents in the air. I also like that you unlock new skills as you earn XP from defeating enemies; it really fits in with the “learn as you play” vibe of the game. Each character isn’t all that different from each other, but their personalities definitely shine through with the excellent animations and sprite work.
The game definitely celebrates gaming far better than its source material. The movie seemed to appreciate gaming, but it only really embraced the surface level aesthetics of gaming. Not only does the video game adaptation have way more cute references than the movie, but it captures the feel of an old-school game far better than the movie did. It definitely helps that it’s a video game rather than a movie, but it embraces the feel of putting a quarter into an arcade cabinet and seeing how far you can get. And you get better every time you play, step back, and play again.
That being said, it’s a bit too old-school for its own good. There are lots of small annoyances that undermine the difficult but fair gameplay: people sniping you offscreen with snowballs, bosses that do tons of damage with attacks that have little telegraphing, and attacks that can’t be blocked or countered with no indication that that’s the case. Having to start a level all over again shouldn’t be a problem, but all the levels are just a little too long, especially for the challenge and often exhausting enemies. I often refuse to use up Gut Points for the special moves because the more Gut Points you have left over after you lose all HP, the more HP you get when you revive. These quirks feel like holdovers from the era where cheap deaths were a good way of keeping people putting quarters into cabinets, and it can make the gameplay too frustrating to see to the end.
If you were looking forward to playing games with friends online, especially with the pandemic still in full swing, you’re going to be disappointed. Ubisoft-published games have a 50/50 chance of having terrible online gameplay in terms of technical performance. Sometimes it’s awesome like with Watch Dogs 2, and other times like with Ghost Recon Breakpoint it’s unforgivable. Unfortunately, as many on social media have pointed out, it’s the latter for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I couldn’t even get into a match online after trying several times.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is the game to play if you love old-school 2D beat-em-ups. However, you really need to love the genre to love this game. If you thought that Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy was old-school to a fault, I’d be cautious about picking up this game. Also, the online is just as antiquated as the game genre.
Verdict: Recommended with caveats
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