Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game review: Love at second sight

Ubisoft /

Title: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Developer: Engine Software, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Chengdu, Ubisoft Pune Production
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed on), Xbox One, Stadia, PC
Release Date: January 14, 2021

If you’re one of those unlucky congregants of film Twitter, you might be tired — better yet, EXHAUSTED — from hearing about Scott Pilgrim vs the World so much. It’s obnoxious, really, how much this film gets brought up, even though I admittedly enjoy the movie and also acknowledge this is an extremely trivial and niche complaint. Thankfully, the video game adaptation is anything but obnoxious, as the dutifully titled Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game is the much-needed nostalgia fuel to get you through these trying times.

The game is a beat em’ up based on the popular comic series created by Bryan Lee O’Malley, letting you play as Scott and his friends as they attempt to defeat Romona’s 7 evil exes. It’s a love story, and a gamer story, in more ways than one, which is really what sets it apart. Because while the beat em’ up gameplay is as present here as in any other of the genre — strengths and flaws and all — it’s the 16-bit aesthetic and personality of the Scott Pilgrim franchise that will keep you coming back.

It’s hard to stress exactly how rad the presentation and little polishes in Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game exactly are. It’s got everything in terms of hilarious enemy designs, ranging from fire-breathing dragons (that look suspiciously like the Bubble Bobble fellows), to the actual evil exes, which are easily the highlight of the game. Then, perhaps even more importantly, the music absolutely bangs. I’ll admit I’m not exactly a musical connoisseur with exquisite taste (most of the time I’m just listening to random lo-fi playlists on Youtube based entirely on whether or not I think the picture is cool), but the soundtrack composed here by Anamanaguchi might be the best I’ve ever heard; It’s the perfect type of soundtrack that feels both nostalgic and modernized, which is quite difficult to pull off. Hyperbole? Absolutely, but that’s probably befitting of the Scott Pilgrim discourse after all.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game
Ubisoft /

As gamers, we’re used to seeing other mediums fail in capturing what makes gaming feel so special. The Scott Pilgrim franchise isn’t principally about gaming — but it does eschew a certain amount of gamer humor and tributes that is endearing, even if it sounds trite to suggest so. Everything from coins dropping out of enemies you defeat, a parody moment of Guitar Hero, and a nod to the question mark blocks from Super Mario Bros. shows just how zany and clever its 16-bit self can be. There are no limits to the imagination here, and it’s a befitting tribute to not just the aforementioned film, but also the aforementioned comic book series.

This adulation and respect for gaming culture translate into the gameplay, too, which I’ve been delaying diving into simply because it might be the least interesting aspect of Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game. It’s also because I’m an insufferable hoodlum that doesn’t know how to write, but let’s ignore that part. The game plays just as you’d expect, with your basic light attacks, heavy attacks, and ability to grab objects, among other things. You’ve also got the ability to jump-attack, which I only point out since I swear it’s the best course of action in every beat em’ up I’ve ever played. While the game doesn’t feel particularly revolutionary in its gameplay features, everything works well enough to feel consistently engaging; if it ain’t completely broke, don’t fix it. That is, indeed, the saying.

Emphasis needs to be placed there on the word “completely”, though, since the game still has some of the elements of the beat em’ up genre that can be quite irksome. There will be those moments when enemies charge you — unexpectedly and borderline unfairly — knocking you down with the force of the Juggernaut, and keep pounding your body into the ground like you’re Jared Leto in Fight Club. It’s frustrating, and especially if you go at it alone. You’ll feel like the odds are completely stacked against you and only luck — or cheaply spamming that trusty jump-attack — will determine whether you make it out alive.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game
Ubisoft /

Thankfully, those brief moments of frustration can be lightened a bit thanks to the game’s progression system. You’ll level up from defeating enemies regularly but can also use the currency you collect from them to boost your character’s stats, with convenience stores being placed across each of the levels for you to take advantage of. It does require some amount of grinding in replaying the levels in order to be able to save up for the beefiest of upgrades, including different special attacks and abilities like the — and I can’t stress this enough — crucial skill of the double jump.

The best part: I never seemed to mind. If it made my life easier and prevented me from exhibiting rage towards a game that’s truly pleasant and wholesome to look at, then that’s alright with me. Plus, the unique personality of the game and its soundtrack (replaying the first level with this banger? I could think of way worse a fate) makes this all the more easier. If going about it alone isn’t your type of thing then no worries, because Ubisoft thankfully included the ability to play online co-op with your friends in this version — a feature that was curiously left off of the original release back in 2010. Seriously, what the heck was that, Ubisoft?

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game is amongst the best that the beat em’ up genre has to offer. The game feels like one of the few purely-good entertainment that this volcanic eruption of a planet we reside on has to offer. Saving the world with a bunch of regular-joe types of characters — not large, hulking commandos — and potentially teaming up with your pals seems near-therapeutic during these trying times. Its 16-bit heart and personality help ameliorate any of the frustrating moments that the gameplay elicits, and the inclusion of the online co-op option make it an experience that any gamer should give a try this year.

Ubisoft. . Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. 9.5. <em>Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game </em>is amongst the best that the beat em’ up genre has to offer. The game feels like one of the few purely-good entertainment that this volcanic eruption of a planet we reside on has to offer.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.