Updated Retro Scott Pilgrim style!
Making a retro-inspired game can be a treacherous business. Though people love reveling in the “good ‘ol days,” it is important in games like these to balance the nostalgia factor with an experience that still feels fresh. Few games achieve this balance, and I was surprised that a downloadable movie tie-in game would be the one to create a new experience that absolutely nails what a retro-inspired game should be.
The game wastes no time pulling you into the world of Scott Pilgrim and introduces the game’s simple storyline with a second cutscene. You see Scott fall in love with Ramona and then BAM, seven evil exes enter the picture. The game’s setup is blissfully simple, and you won’t find much here in the way of storyline. In fact, there is no dialogue in the game, and character’s feelings are expressed via emoticons that appear above their heads when something dramatic is going on.
Scott Pilgrim’s format takes the form of a traditional side-scrolling beat ‘em up like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon. You can play as Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers, Stephen Stills, or Kim Pine. Each character has their own attacks and special movies, and while there’s no real tactical difference between the characters, you’ll find your favorite rather quickly.
The combat system begins simply, with each character having four attacks: light, heavy, special, and summon. The light and heavy attacks can be combined to form combos, which deal extra damage to enemies without the cost of energy. The interesting thing about Scott Pilgrim, however, (and one of the things that gives users a “fresh” experience rather than just retro rehash) is the presence of a unique leveling system. Every enemy defeated contributes a certain amount of experience points to your character’s stats, which are only viewable from the Start menu as best as I can tell. After you reach a certain threshold, your character’s attack and defense will increase, and you will also gain access to new combo attacks.
The leveling system is used here to great effect, and when you are playing solo, it is a necessity to do some grinding in early levels to get your character to a point where he or she can take on the hordes of enemies that await in later chapters. However, if you are playing with more than one person, the leveling system becomes less of an issue. The game’s co-op system allows four local players (no online here, sorry) to play together on the same screen. The co-op is not drop-in, but you can add people from the main menu at any time. In addition, if one player has been making some progress, players can join a game already in progress. The only caveat here is that if the new players are starting off at level one, they won’t be able to jump in immediately and play without running into some serious trouble. Of course, you can always start a completely new game and start everyone off at stage and level one, but if you are just looking for some temporary help with one particularly difficult level, you may be disappointed.
Despite these few qualms about the co-op system, the game plays like a retro dream. Each level has its own particular visual scheme, with unique enemies and challenges. Environments range from a crowded concert hall with plenty of bar space to a bustling movie set plagued by camera-wielding paparazzi. The level design includes plenty of secret bonus areas that you can explore as well as destructible items that grant rewards. The game’s design also calls out several retro classics (you’ll see a Mario pipe right on the world map and one of the movie sets in the second level looks just like an old Indiana Jones game), and the game has plenty of secret unlockables that recall older titles as well (including Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy). Although none of these shout-outs are overt, savvy gamers will recognize the references easily, and discovering the game’s “Easter egg”-type references adds a whole new level to the game.
As far as technicalities are concerned, Scott Pilgrim has some extremely high production values despite its retro design. The game’s visuals are pixel-based, but the game uses its high-definition capabilities to make its retro-inspired visuals nicely detailed with smooth animations and plenty of interesting level designs. The retro design feels natural for the game and never hinder’s the game’s ability to present a fantastic world with memorable (if muted) characters.
Scott Pilgrim’s soundtrack also takes the same approach as the visuals and has a “retro-cool” feel to it while maintaining high definition specs. The audio has been custom-scored for the game by chiptunes composer Anamanaguchi, and features plenty of memorable, high-energy tunes and sound effects. The score in the game may not be that complex, but it adds that little bit of extra oomph to an already-strong title, and makes it that much more memorable.
All told, you’ll probably only glean between five and seven hours from Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, depending on how many friends you play with. The game does not adjust difficulty based on the number of characters, and you can blow through the game rather quickly if you have filled up all of your co-op slots. Playing the game solo does require some effort, and you will have to replay some levels to succeed at higher chapters. I actually enjoyed the single-player experience more than the co-op experience, but if you are looking for a fun Super Mario-style co-op game that will keep you and your friends busy for a few hours, Scott Pilgrim will fit the bill nicely.
Playable licensed games seem to be rare these days, and even when you have a good game based on existing material, it usually doesn’t stay relevant for long. What sets Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World apart is that it forgets it is based on a movie/comic and, much like this year’s 3D Dot Game Heroes, plays like a love letter to all your favorite games from the past. At ten dollars, this game is a steal, and is well worth the price of entry. Between the single-player RPG-like experience and the frenzied co-op mode, there is something for everyone in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. Though I can’t vouch for the quality of the upcoming movie, the game is solid and its players can count on having some fun with this one.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
The pixel-based graphics look great in high-definition and sport a great amount of detail. 4.3 Control
The controls are simple, easy to learn, and effective. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
One of the most memorable facets of retro gaming is the chiptune-based soundtrack, and Scott Pilgrim’s audio does not disappoint. 3.9 Play Value
Though a playthrough won’t take you more than five to seven hours (depending on how many people you have on your team), some decent replay value comes from maxing out your favorite characters. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.