Top Ten of 2010 - Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

To tie in with one of the best films of the year (shame on you for not seeing it), rather than take the obvious lazy route of 3rd-person action adventure/collect 'em up, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World - The Video Game takes the form of an old-school scrolling brawler. Entirely appropriate considering the film and the comic it's based on chart the adventures of a loser-ish videogame obsessed slacker who just happens to be the best fighter in his province. In order to win the right to date his new flame, Scott has to defeat her seven evil exes in battle. Cue several levels of scrolling mayhem capped with boss fights.

What makes this more interesting than countless Final Fight wannabes is the progression system of the characters. From an initial selection of four, your choice starts the game slow, weak and lacking in moves. Here's the point at which casual attention turns elsewhere, because expectation says that the game should be played through, Double Dragon style in one sitting. That's not the way this works. SPvtW:tV also mixes in RPG elements that are crucial to successfully completing the game. As you make your way through the stages you acquire money and experience. Money is used to increase your stats such as strength, speed and HP, and experience levels you up to unlock a variety of moves. The idea is to play over and over, pushing forwards a little more each time as you're able to. It is simply impossible to take a starting character and beat the game from the off.

Happily, what this means is that you will finish the game despite its first appearance as soul-crushingly difficult. Yes, you may have to level up until you're so ridiculously overpowered you can't lose, but you still have to put in the effort to get there. Mostly it's very fun to do so. There are some niggles, largely due to the sometimes slapdash feel it has. It's unfair in all the ways brawlers are (getting stuck in a loop of knock down / recover in time to be knocked down again is always fun), it's rough around the edges in terms of the interface, and it can be dangerously buggy if you're unlucky.

Everything else shines though. The visuals (directed by pixel art maestro Paul Robertson) are beautiful evocations of 16-bit glories, and chiptune legends Anamanaguchi provide one of the videogame soundtracks of the year. Considering its nature it's ironically a really good game to relax to as well. I often fire it up just to 'grind' through the lower levels and accumulate some cash (at this point the enemies are no kind of threat).

Despite its flaws, technical shortcomings and initially offputting difficulty, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World proved to be a bit of a gem for those of us prone to misty-eyed reminiscences of pixels and chiptunes gone by.

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