There seem to be two schools of thought regarding Scott Pilgrim vs. the World following its E3 showing this year: the game is either a charming pixel-art confection, or a simplistic Double Dragon clone.
There's no good reason why it can't be both: a side-scrolling 8-bit throwback with art by Paul Robertson, it probably makes sense to turn Scott Pilgrim into a retro beat-'em-up. Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic book series is about a videogame fanatic who gets in a lot of fights, after all, and the chunky character art suits his cast of slackers down to the ground. Just say a quiet prayer of thanks that you didn't end up with a kart racer, eh?
Ubisoft's game certainly looks the part, anyway. Covering the entire span of the books, as Scott Pilgrim attempts to win the heart of mysterious Amazon delivery girl Ramona Flowers by taking on her seven evil ex-boyfriends, the demo level drops you into snowy Toronto streets filled with roaming thugs, all of whom bear O'Malley's trademark sheepish grins and devious eyes.
The detailing is excellent, right down to the creaky clapboard houses you walk past and the snow-clipped chain link fencing in the background, Robertson's sprites are large and colourful and bob up and down with anticipation in that classic 2D brawler style, and there are references to classic videogames everywhere, from the Super Mario 2 theatre curtain on the character select screen, to the Earthbound-style pastel checkerboards of the menus. Someone's being paying attention.
It feels pretty good to play, too. With a cast made up of Scott, Ramona, Stephen Stills and Kim Pine to choose from, there are plenty of different fighting styles to sample, and four-player local co-op should bring back all the right memories of hacking away at the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles arcade game.
Taking to the streets with Ramona reveals a pleasantly straightforward brawler, as you tackle one screen of enemies before panning onto the next, and while the mixture of fast or strong attacks, combined with blocks and jumps, aren't going to tax anyone too much, there's also a super meter to stoke, allowing you to pull off a special move - Ramona hula-attacks enemies with her purse.
There's also a Striker you can call in when you really get stuck. In the demo level, that saw Knives Chau (17 years old), dropping out of the sky in a whirl of blades and scarfage and slicing everyone to ribbons before disappearing once more. I guess she's not over Scott yet.
On top of that, there's a levelling system that sees you unlocking new moves and combos, and plenty of weapons lying around to use on your idiotic rivals. Baseball bats and basketballs all feature fairly entertainingly, and Ramona can occasionally produce the concrete hammer that came in so handily against Envy Adams in the books. Elsewhere, you can vector in occasional trips into sub-space to take on waves of flying pigs in a mini-game, and buy upgrades and health or experience boosts in various themed stores, such as Sushi bars.
Enemies range from street punks to clusters of paparazzi with camera flash stun attacks, and the demo level ends, fittingly, with a fight against Matthew Patel, Ramona's first evil ex, who can summon a disco spotlight of invincibility and attack with winged vampire ladies.
It must be handy creating a videogame of a book that was, itself, partly inspired by videogames in the first place: Ubisoft won't have had to ponder over the structure for very long.
It's simple stuff, then, but it's riddled with charm, and not just the books' - from the sprite distortion that kicks off whenever you take a sub-space shortcut, to the RPG in-jokes you find in the in-game shops.
You could complain about the lack of online play, but if there was ever a game for four friends to play together on the couch - preferably over at Wallace Wells' house - then it's probably this one.
What with the movie, this game and, most importantly, the final book in the series all coming out in the next few months, these are good times to be a Sex Bob-Omb groupie, and while Ubisoft's latest may be far less elaborate than the average film tie-in, it's looking a lot more suitable - and a lot more charming - all the same.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is due out for PlayStation Network this August and will appear on Xbox Live Arcade later.
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