Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition returns to digital storefronts years after it was pulled due to licensing issues. It features all of the aspects that made it so memorable a decade ago: rock solid co-op gameplay, beautiful art, and a banger of a soundtrack. And fortunately, that is enough to overcome the game’s focus on grinding and rough online multiplayer.
Based on the comic book and movie of the same name, Scott Pilgrim follows the titular young man as he falls in love with Ramona Flowers and subsequently must defeat her evil ex-boyfriends scattered across Toronto. For more detail, consult the source material, as the game merely uses the plot as a set-up for seven levels of side-scrolling beat ‘em up action. There are a handful of characters to play as, several extra modes which are neat but not noteworthy, and co-op multiplayer. It is as straightforward a game as they come.
So much so that you may find yourself wondering why you have to grind as much as you do. Scott Pilgrim’s early levels will beat you down repeatedly. Not because the game is particularly difficult, but because your characters are woefully underpowered to start. Failing and restarting each level is a must in the early hours as you slowly level up. Yet each character levels up separately, which means either sticking with one character for the duration of the game, or spending a lot of time progressing each character independently.
Grinding is a chore, but similarly annoying is how the game handles stat increases. In order to increase a character’s stats, such as strength or speed, you have to purchase specific food from vendors — except you don’t know which items upgrade which stat until after you purchase it. Once you discover what each item does, this issue falls to the wayside. But those stat upgrades cost a lot of money, so brace yourself for more grinding.
Outside of the grind, Scott Pilgrim’s combat grows more and more enjoyable as you progress. This is partly because repeated practice teaches you the nuances of enemies and your abilities, which are fun to experiment with. But it is primarily because each level is bursting with creativity. Nearly every object is a weapon, including your teammate, and messing around with them in conjunction with the environment leads to fun outcomes. Bash a basketball with a baseball bat and watch as it repeatedly hits a goon in the face for a hilarious amount of damage.
If you want to really experience Scott Pilgrim the way it was meant to be played, you should experience it in co-op. It’s a much breezier experience with a buddy at your side even though the number of enemies vastly increases to the point that it’s difficult to tell what is going — which does happen frequently, sadly. The old adage that every multiplayer game is better played with friends holds true here. And given the option between a single-player grindfest or a challenging yet considerably less repetitive co-op experience, the latter wins out every time.
However, that holds true only of local co-op. In trying to play online multiplayer, I experienced difficulty connecting with other players. But once I did, I then had to struggle with a noticeable amount of lag. There is a lot of input lag, making connecting your punches and kicks with enemies, who already have small hitboxes to begin with, difficult. Trying to purchase something in shops is also a struggle due to the lag as well, and patience is mandatory at all times if you want to make the most of online.
It’s arguable that the graphics and soundtrack are the real stars of the show. The art isn’t innovative or particularly fresh, but it is refined to a high degree. Colours pop, animations are smooth, and the level of detail in the environment ensures that despite the repetition, you’ll never be bored looking at it. And the music, done by chiptune band Anamanaguchi, hits all the right notes by burrowing its way into your head with consistently great tracks that do much to alleviate the grind.
At its heart, Scott Pilgrim is a simple beat ‘em up that struggles with pacing. But once it gets going, it reveals itself to be a colourful and engaging throwback to an era of video games long gone. And while it is better played alongside some friends, Scott Pilgrim’s got enough personality to make it worth experiencing retro Toronto even by yourself.