Scott Pilgrim is in love with Ramona Flowers. As I play Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, I find that I too am in love with Ramona Flowers... and Scott Pilgrim, and everything else about this game.
Ubisoft's Scott Pilgrim vs The World may not be even a week old at the time of writing, but it wears it's retro on it's sleeve. Everything about this game is a love letter to those of us who grew up blowing in cartridges, but will it still be fun for those who grew up worrying about scratched discs instead?
To preface, I knew next to nothing about Scott Pilgrim before playing this game. As such, I can't comment on how well it meshes with its source material - although the reaction from fans that I've talked to has been almost universally favorable.
The general gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a Beat 'Em Up before, except that it's much deeper than any other Beat 'Em Up I've played. There's a quick attack, a strong attack, a special, striker, jump and block button (that's about 2-3 times more buttons than most), plus you have the ability to run and strafe up or down, providing plenty of evasive or pursuit options... and this is just what you begin with. Tons of weapons and objects litter the levels that you can smash or throw at your enemies. Also, as you level up, you unlock new moves that really expand your tool-set, allowing you to pull off some truly amazing feats in battle.
Adding a leveling mechanic to a Beat 'Em Up is a good idea (games like River City Ransom and Guardian Heroes taught us that RPG elements mix well with brawlers... but you kids wouldn't know anything about that...), but I felt like it could have been handled a lot better. For instance, some moves that can only be obtained through leveling are more like essentials - such as the grab attack, which allows you to deliver the smack down to blocking opponents. As far as I understand, these attacks are the ONLY reliable way to deal damage to most enemies that are blocking, and oh man - do the enemies love to block. A lot. Early on, when you are lacking moves like these, it can be a hassle.
The playable characters manage to feel diverse without actually being all too different from one another. For instance, while you'll definitely notice a different going from Ramona to Stills, the difference is nowhere near that of Guy and Haggar. This is kinda a good thing, though, considering in a four-player environment, you might have a group that prefers agile characters but someone is going to get stuck with the slow guy - with this game, every character is basically the same, but you can build up their stats using items from the game's many shops.
The enemies that you fight are surprisingly diverse. In just the first level alone, you'll be fighting many enemies who use very different tactics in battle - there's the brown-jacketed guys who tend to sit back and wait for an opening then rush you with a combo, the blue-jacketed guys who run after any weapon or object and then throw it at you, the taller snappy-dressed guys that hit hard and kick or push anyone who tries to grapple them, and many more - then the next level comes, and introduces you to more! Soon enough you'll be fighting laser-blasting aliens, fire-breathing 'zillas and camera-blinding paparazzi in the movie-set stage, various weapon and magic-wielding ninjas in the Japanese gardens, costumed freaks at a Halloween party, and more. Crazy stuff, and it always keeps the game interesting.
The presentation of this game is top-notch. The graphics are all supplied by Paul Robertson, creator of many fantastic pixel-based animations (look him up! ... Just not around others.). Even without knowing anything about the comics, I can feel a great deal of personality oozing from the characters thanks to the animation alone. Scott certainly fit the bill of the hot-blooded protagonist, Kim came off as badass in an aloof sort of way, Stills seemed like "Mr.Serious", and Ramona definitely pulled off cute very well. This goes for every character, with even minor NPCs managing to exude character.
Music is also a highlight of this game, being supplied by chiptune band Anamanaguchi. Never heard their stuff before this game, but they've definitely made a fan out of me. The soundtrack is very diverse - the Title Theme seems to have a melancholy sound to it, while The Clash At Demonhead is a track that pumps you up like an old school Mega Man track. There's nary a miss, with just about every track having the potential to get stuck in your head for days.
Really, about the only change I really wish they would make for this game is fixing the glitches. The glitches that are there aren't deal breakers by any means, but it can get a little annoying. There was one point where the game locked up on me while accessing stage 4, I've had a few graphical glitches where enemies would look like they were still alive, even though they were dead (luckily, the game at least recognized they had died and allowed me to progress), and then I encountered a strange glitch where after exiting Leo's Secret Shop in stage 3, I was unable to hurt anyone or be hurt myself. Most of these glitches are easily fixed by exiting the stage, however, and they rarely resurfaced.
I've noticed many have been criticizing the game for not having online multiplayer - even docking final scores for that alone. While online multiplayer would be nice, it is hardly necessary for this game. I've played through this game, beginning to end, multiple times with every character and never once did I feel it was less fun or did I feel ill-equipped because I didn't have a friend next to me. I feel it would be bad form to dock the score for this game just because it lacks a bonus feature when the game is a load of fun regardless.
RetroGrade: A. I'd rate it higher if I could. While the game is not without fault and a lot could be fixed, this does not change the fact that this is the most fun I've had with a game in YEARS. I've loved playing many games, but I haven't been this in love with a game, it's characters and it's universe since perhaps Psychonauts. This game is proof that gaming isn't all about tech-specs, graphical horsepower or even just gameplay - it's about having a soul to give it life. Unless you flat-out despise pixel-graphics, beat 'em ups or Scott Pilgrim, you owe it to yourself to spend $10 on something that should have been a full priced retail game.
I think now I should finally check these comics out...
Full disclosure: I played this game to completion 5 times with all playable characters alone, and once with friend.