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Video game review: Rereleased ‘Scott Pilgrim’ game struggles to combine nostalgia and originality

(Courtesy of Ubisoft)

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition"

Ubisoft

By Mark McGreal

Jan. 20, 2021 6:31 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 24 at 8:45 p.m.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game” was originally released in 2010 – and the game’s creators should have left it in the past.

Ubisoft rereleased the game under the expanded title “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition” on Jan. 14 with the complete cast of characters from the original graphic novel and 2010 feature film of the same name. While the game premiered over a decade ago, it was later removed from PlayStation and Xbox stores most likely because the license expired. The updated version features a fresh co-op mode in which players fight their way through generic enemies to fight boss battles against playable-character Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends.

The 2021 game embodies everything that made the movie and graphic novel so successful. It features fan-favorite characters, familiar foes and – perhaps most importantly – the game’s action perfectly reflects the cartoonish fighting in the source material. Using martial arts techniques, players earn rewards that allow them to buy items to use throughout the game like a bionic arm or healing ambrosia.

In preparation for the rerelease, the game’s designers made updates to its arcade nature. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition” uses graphics normally associated with games like “Dig Dug” or “Duck Hunt,” which adds an extra stylistic element to the game’s appearance rarely seen in today’s landscape. Players can also use fighting moves reminiscent of old “Mortal Kombat” games. There are even several embedded cheat codes within the game – a feature that isn’t as common in modern releases.

(Courtesy of Ubisoft)
(Courtesy of Ubisoft)

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However, not every old school aspect of the game translates in the rerelease. The game’s premise of fighting off several enemies at once in order to move on to the next area of the map quickly becomes repetitive and boring. Although it livens up a bit more when playing the new co-op mode, trying to play solo is more of an exercise in futility than a truly enjoyable experience.

And while the throwback graphics are charming at times, it is not an incentive to keep playing. Modern motion capture technology and computer-generated imaging have led to far glossier and more engaging visuals in other releases like “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” or “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.” In “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition,” the vintage graphics work stylistically, but there’s no definition to the character’s facial features – one of several constant reminders of the game’s age.

The character’s limited range of motion gives the game an archaic feel as well. Players can only move in a boxy formation, so there’s less nuance to moving the character around while brawling. Since every brawl leaves the player’s character facing enemies head-on, the result is a furious button-mashing rather than a calm and measured approach to fighting.

Outside of the story mode, the game boasts four, unoriginal bonus games. Survival, in particular – a game mode where the player fights off zombies for as long as they possibly can – is not very groundbreaking. It’s essentially the same premise as Zombies mode from any number of “Call of Duty” games, which isn’t bad, just unextraordinary because other games give players a similar objective with far better execution.

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Worst of all, the game feels as though designers combined aspects from other, more successful games and then slapped Scott Pilgrim’s name on it to sell more copies. The campaign map looks like a knock-off “Super Mario” map, and the premise is similar as well – fight a number of smaller enemies and eventually reach a harder-to-defeat boss, rinse and repeat. In essence, the game relies heavily on licensing and tried methods in order to make up for pretty obvious problems in its overall execution.

Even the story isn’t original – it simply follows along the same narrative displayed in the brand’s graphic novel and film. It’s a story many fans already know, and it doesn’t provide anything new other than the chance to play as the beloved characters.

Fans of the original “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game” might love an old classic coming back after so many years, but nostalgia doesn’t make a game good, and it certainly couldn’t save this one.

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Mark McGreal
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