River City Toronto City Ransom.
I'll be honest and just come out and say it: I've never heard of Scott Pilgrim before the marketing behind the movie started bombarding the Internet. I became interested in this game solely due to previews and screenshots depicting it as a homage to some of my favorite games from my childhood, like River City Ransom and Final Fight. And after playing through it multiple times, I can say that it's a huge love letter to all beat 'em up games from the past, for better and worse.
[image1]If you've been living under a rock, like me, in regards to Scott Pilgrim, the skinny is that Scott is a 20-something guy who started dating Ramona, one of the hottest girls in Toronto, his hometown. Unfortunately for him, she has a group of evil exes who aren't at all keen about Scott dating Ramona and want to take him down. The setting isn't too far off for an old-school game, especially when comparing it to Double Dragon's or Final Fight's kidnapping plot; in fact, the story seems more out of place in a movie than in a game.
The level structure of the game follows the plot of the comics and the movie, in seven stages featuring each of the evil ex-boyfriends as a boss. These levels are broken up into a few sections and are presented in a top-down world map, a la Super Mario Bros. 3, letting you freely replay levels as much as needed.
And replay levels you will. A lot. Grinding becomes a necessity thanks to the game's steep difficulty, partially due to the exploitable character leveling system. Similar to River City Ransom, you level up your chosen character by defeating enemies, but here, leveling up only awards new fighting moves. Stats can only be upgraded by buying items, like food, books, or objects, in stores by using money money dropped by enemies and some environmental items.
[image2]Some of the frustration with the game stems from how cheap the levels can be. Like in coin-operated arcade games from the past, you can easily become overwhelmed by enemies from both sides and die without much chance of countering attacks. Worse, the non-existent checkpoint system only saves your progress after clearing a stage. If you happen to lose all of your lives before defeating the area's final boss, you're out of luck and have to replay the entire level again even if you choose to continue in the 'game over' screen. Strangely enough, though, once you finish a stage, you can cut some corners and start playing again from any of the different parts in the level from the world map.
The practically requisite grinding is easily one of the game's weakest aspects, nullifying the difficulty almost completely. Even the hardest difficulty setting becomes trivial once you take a fully leveled character through it. And characters leveled in easy mode and be brought into the hardest mode without any penalty.
It's cool that Scott Pilgrim brings out a nostalgic feeling by calling back to classics, but in this day and age, online support is nigh-essential for a successful title in the beat 'em up genre. Scott Pilgrim's multiplayer mode is limited to local co-op, which just baffles me considering how much of a push it makes for playing through the game with up to three other players.
[image3]But let's not get too critical. Local co-op is a blast, and playing with friends tones down the difficulty to the point that you don't have to grind unless you want to. Where enemies cold gang up on you, you can now give them a dose of their own medicine. And if your friend is being a prick, you can throw things at their character, and it will hurt.
It's a shame that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World suffers from some issues since it's such a neat-looking game. People may call it 8-bit, but it's by far better-looking than any NES game. Animations are charming and cute, which work in tandem with the colorful visuals and the chip-tune soundtrack. The presentation is by far its strongest point, along with a library of references to pop culture and old video games. Too bad you have to slug through its arcane gameplay and cheap challenge, if you're playing solo, in order to see all the charm that there is to be found.
Still, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game makes for one of the better movie-based games out there. It carries its homage to old beat 'em up games a little too far, forgoing online play and a consistent checkpoint system, especially for a game that's not meant to be played by yourself. But if you have some friends to share a couch, it's a fantastic $10 downloadable that will remind you of the good ol' days, for a night or two.