Friday, August 27, 2010

XBLA look - Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

When Ubi-soft gets their crap together maybe I'll give this game a serious look. As it stands however I just wasted $10. Okay strike that I guess I've gotten enough material to say something, though I wonder why I'm even bothering since my recommendation will be to completely avoid this one.

I guess I should be thankful that I managed to get one playthrough out of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World before the game decided it didn't want to be played anymore. Granted the experience up to then wasn't all daisies and lollipops since there are a wealth of glitches, pauses, and just plain oddities that really have no place in any game. The game itself is...well..let's just move on.

It's a fun game that kept me going for the few hours it takes to complete, it has enough charm to last and punching people around may never cease to be entertaining. Furthermore there's grinding to be done and stats to be raised and you know I'm all about that. It's still lacking however as it's in this sort of middle-ground. On one hand it wants to be River City Ransom, a game which achieved classic status through introducing a sandbox element to the beatemup genre but at the same time it's also patterned after arcade beatemups from the likes of Konami, Technos, and so on. Unfortunately a little of this and a little of that doesn't make for a good game. It just sort of hobbles in-between and lacks the kinds of things that make beatemups such a great genre.

For one while I love that this game adopted the mechanics of River City Ransom(especially in its use of physics of the many objects strewn about) it doesn't capture the spark and imagination that gave RCR its creative edge. Simply put there aren't enough unique moves or specific ways to build your character so that they can specialize in certain things. The end result will be much the same regardless of which character you choose and what stats you decide to build. The move-set also starts off pretty barren and by the end only reaches parity with the kinds of moves we took for granted decades ago. Some more special moves like flying uppercuts, fireballs, or well anything that could be strung together to do some neat combos would have sufficed. Pretty much every neat move that the cast has going for them has its roots in the original RCR, which shows a discouraging lack of imagination.

There's probably some achievement or trophy out there that while it's invisible it'll pop up in the heads of everyone who manages to recognize every reference in this game. This is not something I'm proud of admitting because when I can recognize little things like the lights hanging in one stage that are straight out of Mario 3 I probably need to get out more. For others though it just might be a constant joy to have those nostalgic itches scratched. Unfortunately this aspect buries the game more often than not as sometimes the references are so wrapped into the game that they effect aspects like playability and difficulty. I mean it's cool and all that the third boss is just one huge Akira reference but when he telegraphs his attacks so much that he becomes one of the easiest bosses in the game I gotta wonder what the point of it all was.

Scott Pilgrim's game isn't particularly challenging but it can still be frustrating. The non-bosses lack the most basic structure of the average beatemup enemy. They don't adhere to any rules, they offer nothing in the way of telegraphing or warning when they're about to strike, they simple rush in and look foolish when players get the bright idea to counter everyone that rushes at them. This game must use a very rudimentary AI setup as I've watched enemies wail away at thin air even if I'm well out of the way. Sure I'm still in front of them but I'm also way off to the side. Still if I never moved the enemy would never stop swinging. This is not something that should be happening. Since the AI can't do much of anything the frustration comes from the simple fact that if an enemy makes contact they'll do a combo that in the beginning could do anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of the player's health. This is natural for an arcade beatemup but it doesn't work for this game since nothing else adds up. Every now and again the enemy can also land a critical hit that'll kill the player almost instantly. Sure the player can do the same to the enemy but it's really not a good idea in the slightest.

Thankfully for those who simply don't care most of this frustration can be dialed down to the point of mere annoyance buying goodies from all of the shops scattered throughout the game. Aside from restoring health these items can add to the player's stats and even the occasional new move. This eventually works against the game as once the stats hit a certain point the difficulty becomes absolutely trivial. It might make a difference on the higher settings but uh...I wouldn't know as the game continues to lock up on me.

Honestly I wonder how much play-testing was actually done on this game. Once the player's stats approach the maximum everything from the distance that objects are thrown and the speed at which the player travels start to become uncontrollable. This becomes a real nuisance in one of the later stages as it involves some precarious platforming over spike-pits. But I guess that doesn't really matter since unlike some other beatemups falling into these pits won't kill the player outright. I really couldn't care less what the spike-pits did if the player fell in them but to just hand-wave over something because they couldn't be bothered to test it properly strikes me as pure laziness.

The biggest cardinal sin is that for a beatemup there's just no thrill in...well..beating people up. I'm not the fighting type so I wouldn't know the first thing about what a punch to the face feels like let alone what sensations I get from punching someone else. But when I punch someone in a videogame I've got to feel it somewhere. Final Fight was really good about this as the impact felt really deep and the entire screen shook when some thug got pile-driven into concrete(or on top of other thugs, which is the greatest feeling ever). In this game however I punch people, hit them with bats, hit them with swords(?), and juggle their bodies by kicking garbage cans at them(?!). Yet I just don't feel a thing. There's no satisfaction, no thrill, and certainly no impact. It's like we all went at each other with balled-up tissue paper and playfully slapped each other into oblivion. I guess there's some sort of hidden meaning here and I gotta look at it from the perspective of everyone acting out their little teen drama by hopping in giant robots and shooting each other. But eh I'm just not feeling it. Everything falls flat here and it's the worst feeling in a world when a beatemup can't get the whole beating aspect right.

It's really a shame because in its current state the game is pretty much a mess. You could say that I'm being too hard on it and that I shouldn't be judging it by the standards of other beatemups but give me a break here. Throughout the 90s dozens of developers were able to put out competent games in the genre and make it look easy. They even went so far as to spend so much time working on these games that the most determined and skilled players could beat them without dying or even getting hit. Scott Pilgrim still has a ways to go before his game can even reach basic competency, let alone stand next to games that were made close to twenty years ago.

I'm probably just being overly negative because even if I looked past all of the problems with the actual game I'd still have to sort out the glitches, the freezes, and everything else that prevents me from simply playing the game. I should also have given this game a couple days before I wrote about it, maybe catch my breath at least. Still as far as I'm concerned this game gets a ZERO. If you want to relive your childhood or whatever just watch a playthrough on youtube. Maybe I'll hit the theater this weekend and see the movie, hopefully it doesn't remind me of the game too much.

Game Rating - ZERO
Comments? Psh...I've already said enough.

My Rating - ZERO
Screw this piece of crap.

1 comment:

  1. Well, that's too bad. I thought the game *looked* pretty good, but that's all I could go on until now.