Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a game for a very specific audience. If you fall outside of its demographic, it isn’t very appealing.
Of course, its demographic is people who like games. So you’ll like it quite a lot.
Scott Pilgrim is a side-scrolling brawler that borrows heavily from 8-bit classic River City Ransom. You play as the main characters in the graphic novel series: protagonist Scott Pilgrim, love interest Ramona Flowers, band frontman Stephen Stills and drummer Kim Pine. Each character has a variation on the same moves, so while it provides a bit of variety, all of them are similar enough that there won’t be arguments about who is who. You beat up a bunch of enemies inexplicably violent towards you on the way to a boss, who is also inexplicably violent towards you. But this is Scott Pilgrim, where it’s accepted as normal that someone would have to kill a girl’s exes to date her (and no one bats an eye when they’re all extremely talented fighters with special abilities). Of course, it’s all based on video game logic, so even those who haven’t read the books would get the humor.
Not that you shouldn’t read them before playing. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is stuffed full of references only fans would get, from amusing scenes animated in the background to weaknesses of bosses to…well, everything really.
The game tries to push the right buttons for its audience, and with the fervor of a new Tekken player. The love letter to early-1990s games includes a world map reminiscent of Super Mario World, secret codes pulled directly from Street Fighter and Sonic 3, a menu aesthetic that evokes EarthBound and chiptunes from Anamanaguchi. There are ninjas, zombies, robots and clones. Ubisoft may have tried a little too hard here, but that’s amusing in its own right.
Since the game stays true to the graphic novels and only has seven bosses, it’s not very long. Some attempts were made to add replay value. Each character has its own ending, and reaching certain milestones unlocks a few more playable heroes. The game’s RPG system means you can play again and shape a character’s stats differently. There are three difficulty levels that range from reasonable to ridiculous, and even with a powered-up character the higher levels are a challenge. Online multiplayer is not supported (though four can play locally), but leaderboards are there to stimulate the competitive among us.
Ultimately, though it’s tied to the movie release, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World isn’t really a movie game. It stays closer to the books’ plot and doesn’t include any likenesses or voices from the film. Yes, it’s more enjoyable if you’ve read the series. But that doesn’t mean I won’t recommend that you buy it. That just means I recommend that you read the books and then buy it.