Reviews// Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Posted 12 Aug 2010 18:41 by
If you have opened your eyes or listened to a single person say a single word anywhere in the world over the last few months, you know what Scott Pilgrim is.

On the off-chance you've been living a quiet life of solitary reflection in a sensory deprivation tank under the oceans of one of Jupiter's moons ? Scott Pilgrim is Bryan Lee O'Malley's rom-com beat-'em-up graphic novel series about the title character's quest to defeat Ramona Flowers' seven evil ex-boyfriends. So that he can date her. The comics begat a film, the fact that there's a film begat a game. And here we are.

Having grabbed the game license, Ubisoft sagely opted to develop a downloadable brawler rather than a pricey retail game. This is appropriate because huge chunks of the comics owe their style to 8bit games. Scott dreams of Zelda, collects coins when he defeats foes and happily levels up when he does natty things like earn the Power of Love. The game that's been spawned by all of this is a love letter to side-scrolling brawlers like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, with a hint of Super Mario Bros. thrown in for good measure.

Having picked a character (Scott, Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine or Stephen Stills) you're chucked straight into a heavily-pixelated world in which multitudes of cloned enemies throw themselves at you and if you want to survive you'd better start smashing away at them. Happily, the developers haven't conceded to modern conventions like tutorials or training levels. If you want to know how it works, you'd better just read the instructions buried in the pause menu.

Your choice of character has little impact on how the game plays beyond aesthetics. Your character's look and moves might appear different, but basically you're performing the same actions. Fast attacks, heavy attacks, airborne attacks, sliding attacks, attacks where you throw objects littered around the environment and attacks where you throw the enemies themselves. On top of that are a couple of specials ? you can call in Knives Chau (17) for a spot of momentary support or you can do a spin attack to clear the immediate area around you. These last two, however, eat into your 'guts' points, which can alternatively be used to bolster your health when you're flagging.

The controls do, it must be said, feel a bit slow at first. This is helped firstly by getting the knack of running (double-tap in the direction you want to go) and secondly by building up your speed points as you progress. If you're feeling generous you could blame the early slowness on Ubi's punt for a retro feel. But that's if you're feeling generous...

Guts aside, health is otherwise boosted by visiting shops to buy food and drink, spending coins that spill forth from every baddie you take down. The other bits and bobs you might want to spend your cash on are items that boost your stats such as speed, strength and damage resistance. Shopping is where things get uneven, though. About halfway through the first level there's a glut of stores where you can buy stuff, but after that they become a lot more sporadic.

What's more (MILD SPOILER ALERT), Scott's gay roommate Wallace Wells has a little boutique hidden away (I'm not saying where) which hosts an assortment of more expensive items that are real game changers. On the very first level I was struggling against the first boss, Matthew Patel (he beat me twice, I hated it) until I went and bought myself a bionic arm. This upped my strength massively and he was dispatched shortly and easily. Similarly, later purchases massively helped my progress. (END OF MILD SPOILER.)
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