Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” series of graphic novels from Oni Press often gets described with phrases like “video game realism” and “arcade logic.” Beyond the references obvious and obscure to old school games like “Super Mario Bros.” and “River City Ransom,” the Scot vs. Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends premise mirrors the gameplay of classic action games. So it came as little surprise when the artist announced at Comic-Con International at San Diego this weekend that his characters will see a game all their own next year. Designed by Ubisoft Games and coinciding with the Universal film “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe” by director Edgar Wright, the “Scott Pilgrim” game will be a side-scrolling adventure, along the lines of NES and Sega games of the past. To get the early scoop, CBR sat down with O’Malley to talk about his favorite games and how the deal came together.
CBR: The very first time I interviewed you it was around the time “Scott Pilgrim” Vol. 3 came out, and at the time you had said you never played new video games. Everything was still 8 and 16-bit for you. But I get the feeling that over the past couple of years you’ve been slowly starting to play more new stuff. Is that right?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: Yeah. I bought an X-Box 360 last year because I could afford it, basically. [laughs] And I got a new TV and stuff. So I just thought, “What’s going on in video games?” and they’re all mostly shooter and stuff. They’re super fancy. It’s weird, but I’m kind of getting into it a little bit. I’m adapting to enjoying shooters, which is weird. The game that I’ve had the most fun with so far is “Skate 2,” which is a skateboarding game, like a Tony Hawk game. It’s the only game I’ve had that much fun with.
For a while, with the print stuff surrounding Scott Pilgrim you had digital sprites and 8-bit art for promoting the book. Working on all that, had you been thinking of doing a game for a while?
I always liked pixel art. I used to be lurking on these pixel art forums. And my friend Miguel [Sternburg] did the art on the back of Vol. 4. He’s becoming a name in the indie game scene, and I’ve known him for years so I asked, “Hey. You want to do something cool?” But I never really thought about doing a video game or doing any specific game design in my head. I’m just not really that concerned about it.
So did this all come out of the movie stuff with Ubisoft approaching the folks at Universal?
Universal hooked up with a number of different publishers, and we ended up going with Ubisoft. We talked about having an old school video game feeling like the books. That’s something we talked about with Universal, and Ubisoft has more to do with that idea, that aesthetic. We’re happy about it.
It seems like with programming being what it is, there’d be a bigger scene for original games done in an older style. I know there are some ripped games that are slight variations on NES ROMs or whatever, but it doesn’t seem a lot of companies are getting in the same space.
I think so. I think it’s still kind of an underground thing right now. There’s a lot of independent games out there that are really cool and have an old school 8-bit, 16-bit feeling, and I think that stuff’s starting to bubble to the surface a little bit. We’re going to see a lot more of it, especially in the age of downloadable games.
At this point, we know it’s going to be a side-scroller…have they announced what system it’s for?
No. We can’t say just yet. It’s too early for that. Ubisoft has said it’s a side-scrolling brawler, so there’s that. [laughs] I don’t know if some people know this, but there’s this Ninja Turtles game that came out a couple of years ago based on the recent CGI film, and the Gameboy Advance version was really cool. A lot of the same people that worked on that worked on this game, so it should be cool. Hopefully some of that will rub off on this.
In terms of gameplay, I don’t assume you’d just go directly off the book and have six levels with the boyfriends. Are you going to switch up things in terms of who we’ll see and play as?
I would hope so. It’s still in the really early stages, but we’re talking about having lots of characters, lots of Easter Eggs for readers of the books -Â a lot of stuff that couldn’t fit into the movie but is more suited to the game. That’s what I’d like to see and what we’re working on.