Side scrolling brawlers are having somewhat of a resurgence at the moment aren’t they? What with the hyper-violent Shank and the sinister-cute Castle Crashers currently dominating the downloadable space, it seems that gamers are hungry to revisit the world of button mashing, girl saving, left-to-right walking whose architecture was laid down by Double Dragon and Street Gangs.
A format later perfected by Final Fight, Streets Of Rage and of course best video game ever made RollerGames, it’s these later titles that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game draws most heavily on, albeit one with more focus on levelling up in the vein of your typical Dragon Quest.
Influenced by these and countless other titles, Scott Pilgrim is a gamer’s game in every sense of the word. You can’t walk more than ten steps in the game world without seeing some obvious (and not so obvious) references to gaming culture, from the Super Mario Bros. inspired short cuts to the Final Fantasy / Super Mario World map, from the Street Fighter Alpha 3 intro to the Guitar Hero boss battle. Treating these cornerstones with equal levels of reverence and poking humour, you may not ‘get’ every visual nod or sound cue, but the ones you do will bring a wry smile to your face as you do battle with the hundreds upon hundreds of enemies you’ll encounter.
Combat is solid, quick and for the most part responsive, with dozens of moves at your disposal that become unlocked through the gaining of experience. Starting out with simple light and strong attacks, a block, a jump, and frankly useless ‘striker’ and ‘special’ facilities, you’ll initially feel underwhelmed by your options for offing opponents, but with time comes more strategic abilities, enabling you to attack opponents when down or create space to think in a tight situation. You’ll also improve your overall strength, speed and health, again, useful tools in making progression.
You’ll certainly need these new found abilities too, as the game’s difficulty is akin to that of your average Final Fantasy title. Enemies aren’t particularly hard, unless you’re severely outclassed by them, so much in the same way that wandering into the wrong area of ‘The World Of Ruin’ in FF6 will have you facing level 50 enemies while you’re still at level 30 – and therefore hopelessly at a disadvantage – bosses in SPVTWTG can only be vanquished when the player is in a mathematical position to do so. To get to this position takes a lot of old fashioned grind, somewhat nullifying the admittedly varied level designs as, after all, it doesn’t matter how varied something is if you have to do it over and over and over again.
The fact that the game never tells you about this, or indeed many other crucial aspects of its mechanics is to its detriment, Scott Pilgrim really suffers from not imparting such knowledge upon the player. Why should you eat food, why should you replay areas, how do you use the skateboard item found at the end of level 2 and a myriad of other questions big and small are left unanswered, and that’s frustrating. It also never thinks to tell you that teaming up with three other friends for some couch co-op is the way the game should be played and that taking on the title by yourself is an almost insurmountable challenge.
The main issue is that the enemies don’t particularly scale in terms of numbers. Individually, each enemy can be handled efficiently and quickly, so long as you understand their attack patterns, but in numbers, keeping a track of everything on screen is impossible and you’ll often find yourself receive a cheap shot from behind. When you have comrades to aid you, this threat is severely diminished, especially as proportionally there are fewer enemies to cope with, the game becoming a lot more chaotic and enjoyable. One reference Scott Pilgrim handles very precisely then is that of The Legend Of Zelda, because it really is ‘dangerous to go alone’.
The 360 version tested here suffers a little from the terrible D-pad that the Xbox controller is cursed with, it’s not a deal breaker if you only rock with the Microsoft console, but if you’re lucky and have both, this may be a factor worth considering before purchase.
A stylish trip down memory lane featuring some of the very best chip tune music this year, in multiplayer the game is a ton of fun and well worth organising a game night with pals for, but in single player it’s a lengthy challenge that only some will relish. If the idea of Demon’s Souls mixed with Final Fight presented in a highly referential, faux 16 bit style appeals to you, then Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game should be added to your download queue immediately.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 7/10
Platform: Xbox 360 (Playstation 3) Release Date: 25/08/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on an Xbox 360 Pro. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.