Does Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Deserve To Be Brought Back From The Dead?

VOICE OVER: Ty Richardson WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
2010's Scott Pilgram vs. The World: The Game had become a poster child for delisted games and the subject of game preservation. However, not all that glitters is gold. So, after all the outcry and demand, was it right to bring the “Scott Pilgrim” game back from the dead? Or is it undeserving of an extra life? We'll cover everything you need to know about the game, from the game mechanics to the RPG elements in this Retro Review!
Script written by Ty Richardson

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Review

Just when I thought it’d be a while before we revisit another licensed game, Ubisoft has gone and brought back the “Scott Pilgrim” video game from 2010. Once upon a time, a younger, more angsty me was enthralled with the “Scott Pilgrim” franchise. After seeing the movie directed by Edgar Wright, I began my search for the books. No, I was not able to complete the collection as I did not have the money at the time, and by the time I even got my first job, my search had long been abandoned. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that there was a video game released during this time and it had already been delisted. The game had become a poster child for delisted games and the subject of game preservation. However, not all that glitters is gold. So, after all the outcry and demand, was it right to bring the “Scott Pilgrim” game back from the dead? Or is it undeserving of an extra life?

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet! My name is Ty with MojoPlays, and this is a Retro Review of “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game” on PlayStation 4.

The game follows a plot similar to the books and movie, having up to four players take the role of one of six characters - Scott, Ramona, Stephen Stills, Kim, Knives Chau, and the best character in the entire franchise, Wallace Wells. If you are to help Scott continue seeing Ramona, you’ll have to fight the League of Evil Exes.

Right out of the gate, “Scott Pilgrim” starts throwing in some unique concepts to distinguish itself from other retro-style beat ‘em ups. As you fight through thugs, ninjas, and mocap performers, you’ll earn XP to increase your Health, Strength, Defense, and more with each level up. Along the way you’ll come across shops that’ll offer items to further increase your stats, grant temporary power-ups, or straight up give you additional XP. Most are pretty easy to spot, but some of the better items are hidden away in shops located behind secret entrances.

So far, this is sounding like a pretty cool game, right? Well, the fatigue set in for me quickly as I found more and more problems with the game’s loop. It quickly gets repetitive in more ways than one, and it’s primarily because of its restrictive and basic combat. Each character starts out with a short string of basic attacks and two heavy attacks. The game doesn’t really do anything to mix the two buttons together. If you’re to do any kind of combo, your only real option is to keep using your basic attacks and maybe throw in a heavy if your opponent is stunned. And that’s really as deep as it gets! Basic, basic, basic, basic, heavy to launch. You also have a block and an attack that uses Guts Points, but those prove useless as I’ll explain later on. You can jump into a combo with a jump attack, too. It’s not going to make things more interesting, though.

For those of you who did play the original game and are thinking, “No, there’s more to the combat”, don’t worry - I’m getting to that problem now. If you’re wanting more moves, you’ll have to level up your character. It’s a progression system that makes sense at first until you start seeing what moves are locked behind it. There are plenty of games that’ll give you access to dodging, double-jumping, grabbing enemies, and sliding at the start of the game. Even without my previous experience with beat ‘em ups, this system is problematic because of how many of these mechanics are necessary to make it out of brawls in a decent state. Just for reference, I have Scott at Level 15 and only recently unlocked dodging. I’m on Level 5...out of 7. So, this is pretty late in the game! You’ll unlock parrying sometime either before or in the middle of Level 3. Why this game enforces a “walk before you run” philosophy is beyond me. With the combat being so barebones during the first couple of hours, I wouldn’t be surprised if people get turned off. The most enjoyment I got out of it was when I found a way to cheese a boss, and even then, I couldn’t be satisfied. Needless to say, boss fights ended in disappointed bewilderment.

What also killed the combat for me was just how unnecessarily aggressive the game is. Several times did I die to an enemy bolting from offscreen and driving a good punch into Scott’s face. No warnings were given unless an environmental hazard was about to begin. There were also a handful of moments where enemies managed to lock me into a combo and take away a massive chunk of my the EASIEST difficulty! Worst part about this is how there’s absolutely no telegraphing in most of the enemies. Basic grunts will attack without any way to read their pattern. Before you know it, you’ll have received your first “game over”, and it’ll be one of many. You don’t even get opportunities to escape these unpredictable combos! There’s no way to break out of it unless you have somehow foreseen the future and blocked it at the right time to parry. However, that window to parry is incredibly small. The most you’ll probably get to use it is parrying the shit out of Lucas Lee in the second level.

Before someone starts clacking away with “git gud” in the comments, I have another aspect of this problem to present - the shops themselves. You will never know the effects of items until AFTER you’ve bought them. This denies the player of any chance at improving their character without having to reference outside help. So, if you’re a newcomer like myself, you’re going to want a wiki open or something so you can spend your hard-earned money wisely. I had to learn the hard way and ended up wasting money on items I thought would raise my Strength, but did other things instead. Now, I’m left to grind for an item I’ve finally found out (THROUGH A FORUM) will greatly increase it. And few of these items actually make a difference in your playthrough. Most simply replenish a small portion of your HP and Gut Points.

With all of those things in mind, “Scott Pilgrim” has an abysmally grindy gameplay loop. Fight to get money so you can buy the items to try to stay alive, only to die unceremoniously because you didn’t have basic mechanics available. It's a vicious cycle that a looter shooter would employ, and with combat already being slow, this just makes the game even more of a painful slog. I like the idea of a beat ‘em up RPG, but this is simply an awful way of going about it.

And as if things couldn’t get more grindy, each character functions as their own save slot. It was a cool idea until I realized how I’ll have to do the exact same grindy playthrough just to get them at the appropriate levels. To make things even more monotonous, every character shares almost the same mechanics, adding no real flavor to the combat outside of animations. Everyone starts at stat values of 0, has the same basic attack string, the same number of heavy attacks, and the same Guts ability that clears crowds. It is tedium to the MAX!

Now, if you’re watching you’ve probably realized a glaring issue in my footage - I’ve been playing the entire game solo. Yes, I do realize games like this are best played with friends, but you can make almost any game fun with friends. “Overwatch” is fun with friends. “Fallout 76” is fun with friends. “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” is fun with friends. “Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing” is fun with friends. “Mario Party” is fun with friends (at least if you’re a sadist like me who almost killed a house party after annihilating everyone in a single game while also being the most drunk #humblebrag). You can pretty much say any game is fun with friends. A game is exposed when it’s just you and the screen, and if the loop is this monotonous, it won’t matter how many friends you grab - it’ll still be a bad time for everyone.

It’s a real shame that the first game I was truly ecstatic for became a tiresome start to the new year. A foreshadow to 2021, perhaps? It’s really hard for me to give this game my recommendation when there’s so much BS and grind being forced upon the player. Even with a $15 price tag, there are other beat ‘em ups I’d put above this. “River City Girls”, “Fight N’Rage”, “Streets of Rage 4”, “Dragon’s Crown”, and even the “Golden Axe” games would satisfy you the same way “Scott Pilgrim” aims to. I’ll admit it isn’t as awful as “Battletoads” was, but there were a couple of times where I almost quit just to go play that. As far as “Scott Pilgrim” being one of the best licensed games goes, I fail to believe that notion anymore, not when I’ve played other licensed titles that were more focused and well-executed. Really, I didn’t think I’d ever find the “Cat in the Hat” game more appealing until now.