Lost in Translation? – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game



Welcome to Lost in Translation? – the Ready Up series where we look at the rocky two-way road of media adapted from videogames and games based on films and TV shows, in a bid to decide whether the juice was worth the squeeze, or if what made the source material great in the first place got lost in translation.

Well would you look at this. Writing the LIT? series is typically a somewhat trying exercise, given how the majority of game-to-films and film-to-games are a bit duff (as with the last game adaptation I looked at), but here we get to spend some quality time with a really good game released as a tie-in to one of my favourite films. Good times. Ladies and gents, may I present Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game.

If you’ve been a follower of Ready Up for some time, then this game needs no introduction. Duncan thoroughly loved it, awarding the game 9/10 in his review. Ryan once used it as a gateway drug to entice his girlfriend into gaming. Ready Up’s Editor-in-Chief Dan even found time to be optimistic about the game’s outcome, given its strong heritage.

But if you’re new to Ready Up (Hi! How are ya?), here’s the skinny. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game is a side-scrolling beat ’em up that in gameplay and aesthetic terms harkens back to old school genre classics Final Fight, Streets of Rage and River City Ransom – games of a vintage meaning they might just predate some members of the Ready Up team. Based upon the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series written and drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the game was released in 2010 to coincide with the launch of the similarly awesome film adaptation of the property, which looked somewhat like this:


Telling the story of slacker Scott Pilgrim, his quest to date Ramona Flowers and his need to defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes to make this happen, the film was a delightful romp full of the intertextual references to films, games, manga and anime that punctuated both the source material and the developed-at-the-same-time-as-the-film game. With its narrative structure seemingly tailored for a game adaptation, here’s a taster of how that went down:


Largely eschewing the finer details of the comic series’ plot in favour of its action, this downloadable game was developed and published by Ubisoft, released on PSN and XBLA and actually fared marginally better than its film counterpart as far as Metacritic is concerned. But was it any good as an adaptation? Let’s take a look.

Scott and Ramona, just chillin'
Scott and Ramona, just chillin’

What it got right

Before we proceed any further – the game’s soundtrack, Anamanaguchi’s gorgeous mix of live band and chiptunes, is an utter joy. Here’s the music from the game’s first stage: I’d suggest clicking ‘play’ while you read on.


Sticking with the game’s aesthetics, as you can see from the screenshots adorning this blog, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game is a stunner, a sublime blend of 16-bit style pixel art with modern levels of detail, spectacle and polish. Designed by pixel-art legend Paul Robertson in close collaboration with Bryan Lee O’Malley, the game’s visuals perfectly evoke the comics they draw from, all the while standing up strongly in their own right.

Story-wise, the game conveys just enough context to set up the action, effectively urging players to explore the film and comics if they want to know more, but never relying on a deep knowledge of either in order to enjoy the game itself.

Four players bringing the pain
Four players bringing the pain

In terms of gameplay, here we’re offered four playable characters (with a fifth unlockable, and a sixth and seventh that are paid DLC) all of which have a unique set of attacks based on the same easy-to-grasp controls. Playable with one to four players, the game takes in numerous stages within seven ‘worlds’, each culminating in an epic boss battle against one of Ramona’s seven evil exes.

NES classic Super Mario Bros. 2 gets a sly nod in the character select screen
NES classic Super Mario Bros. 2 gets a sly nod in the character select screen

Littered with nods and winks to other games that came before it, the game is easy to pick up but has some depth for those seeking it, offering the opportunity to level up your chosen character and their abilities. In another fitting tip of the hat to its influences, the game even has cheat codes.

Here’s another slice of that fried gold soundtrack to get you to the end of this blog:


What it got wrong

Honestly, it’s tricky to find fault with the game from my point of view. My only real gripes are that the game can be a little unforgiving in its adherence to old-school difficulty, requiring a fair amount of learning the ropes and the levelling-up system before you’re on an even footing with some foes. Also, the game doesn’t do a great job with explaining some of its intricacies, such as how the items in the in-game shop specifically influence gameplay, forcing the player to read-up online to get the most out of their experience.

Beware the seven evil exes!
Beware the seven evil exes!

The Verdict

Gorgeous to look at and listen to, genuinely fun and even better shared with friends, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game is a joy from start to finish. Built to appeal to gamers of all ages but without being obtuse to those who don’t get every reference, this is how to do a game adaptation of a property right. A highly recommended, superb translation.


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