I grew up on a decent diet of beat-em-up titles, such as Streets of Rage 3, Double Dragon, and Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. This genre was perfect for me at the time, a boy not very interested in reading or learning about stats, as well as a kid often mooching off friends’ systems on the weekends, and brawlers like such were made for two players. Beat-em-ups are as simple as their namesake, and all I knew was that there were some bad guys that needed beating up and mashing the buttons often worked well. Good enough for me, and–many, many years later–good enough for Scott Pilgrim.
Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game is, besides a mouthful, a downloadable 2D side-scrolling brawler. It’s based way more on the book series that inspired the movie than the movie itself, which is a golden surprise to many, I’m sure. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series is brimming with videogame tropes and nods, even more that Edgar Wright could fit into the theatrical release, and a good number of these references make their way into the game. And what a game it is. First, we have sprites and animations done by the legendary Paul Robertson; second, we have a bouncy, chiptastic soundtrack from Anamanaguchi; and third, we have a strangely fun mix of River City Ransom and The Simpsons Arcade Game.
SPVTWTG is also extremely difficult. I think that should be evident from the fact that I downloaded this around the time the movie dropped (early Fall 2010), and only got around to finishing off Gideon last week…on the EASIEST difficulty. The game starts out really hard, gets easier once you’ve gotten some EXP and food to go, and then gets hard in a cruel way for the final boss battle. Some of the designs in here are pretty retro, like having to start an entire level over again if you lose all your lives. It’s not enjoyable, but it makes sense.
SPVTWTG, like many brawlers, features co-op play. This is good and bad, and I’m speaking from experience here, as playing with a second character does not necessarily make things easier. Why? Well, Scott can punch Kim or accidentally pick her up or have to constantly reanimate her fallen body. It can be a distraction, and yet it can also be a blessing, but the majority of time the two characters end up hurting each other more than helping. We can also blame the lackluster d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller, which doesn’t make manuevering like sailing on butter. Because of this, the final boss level became extra frustrating, and I eventually had to tackle it solo (sorry, Tara!) after I had leveled Scott up as far as he could go and discovered the secret code for the Sword of Love.
I still don’t understand or love the RPG elements here. Gut Points and Heart Points and shopping for EXP instead of getting it from kicking evil henchmen’s asses. It’s a little odd, and sadly encourages grinding for coins. Thankfully, the punching and kicking and throwing and hyper combos are a lot of fun, and the enemy designs extremely varied. I personally loved all the crazy robots in the Techno Base level, even if I was sick of fighting them at that point.
So, I’ve beaten this once, with Scott. Supposedly, if you complete the game with the remaining characters (Kim, Ramona, Steven) you’ll unlock Nega-Scott as a striker. Don’t know if that’s enough incentive for me to try again, especially considering how long it took me to do this one time. We’ll see…