Coming to us from Play on Worlds and Orbit Studio, we have Ebenezer And The Invisible World, a fascinating mash-up of the Dickens classic and the Metroidvania genre!
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. The developers of this game truly did decide to make a Metroidvania set after the events of A Christmas Carol, where Ebenezer Scrooge must venture out into the mean and cold streets of London to fight foul spirits and unchecked capitalism.
Let’s see how that worked out for them.
The plot of Ebenezer And The Invisible World is fairly straightforward. A year after the events of the book, the ghost of a Navy man appears to Ebenezer, and explains to him that his childhood friend Caspar Malthus has gained the means to destroy the poor and destitute of London. That the Ghosts of Christmas attempted to turn the young man away from this path, but a visit from a fourth spirit after turned him towards a more destructive path instead. And so now Ebenezer, as the only member of the living in London capable of interacting with humans and ghosts alike, must venture out into London to find out what made our villain like this, and see if he can turn him on a different path.
The Malthus family owns a great factory in London, and with it a great many goons who’ll seek to impede you on your path. On top of that you’ll also have to deal with the Unrepentant, the ghosts of those who wronged their fellow man but feel no guilt or shame for their actions. But along the way you’ll also befriend lingering ghosts, some who’ll aid you in movement across the map, and others who’ll help you with combat, so long as you can help them aid the living first.
Ebenezer And The Invisible World is advertised as a hand drawn game, and it looks good for it. It’s a very pretty game, perfectly conveying the ‘winter in a big city’ atmosphere, both for winter and for the big city.
Outside of the environments, the character designs of Ebenezer And The Invisible World are distinctive and stand out well. There is a bit of a trouble in distinguishing important, quest giving NPCs from random folks, but on the the other hand the masks of the Malthus goons and the red glow and frequently monstrous look of the Unrepentant means one is never confused about if something is dangerous or not…once you’ve been attacked by the red glowing folks first. (The first time you encounter one of the Unrepentant is rather without ceremony or explanation, compared to the Malthus goons, so it can catch you off guard.)
Okay, so, before we talk about gameplay we should probably talk about a bit of an elephant in the room. The console ports of Ebenezer And The Invisible World…are not finished being patched yet. The structure of the game still exists and is fine, but there are some things still subject to change and still being tweaked. I played the PS4 version so…yeah. I am going to still talk about the gameplay, but I’m going to gloss over some things because what I’ve gotten to play is not the finished product. Still, if you’re going to play this game, and have a good PC at home, get the Steam version.
With that in mind, Ebenezer And The Invisible World is a fairly standard and straightforward Metroidvania. Run around London, jumping and fighting, with areas being opened up as you acquire more abilities. No double jump, but the first movement ghost you acquire allows you access to an environmental one so the lack really only makes itself felt when trying to dodge in combat.
Navigation is…a complicated subject. One the one hand, it’s never hard to figure out where to go on each screen. The actual paths stand out pretty well from background scenery, which can be a problem in this genre, so that’s good. On the other hand though, figuring out where to go can be tricky. Your first mission is to go to the Observatory but you’re never actually told where in London the Observatory actually is, not even in broad terms. Just that you need the environmental double jump ghost to get there. Whether you like this or would like some degree of handholding is up to personal preference of course.
You’ll want to explore every inch of the map of course, because everything in this game is done in rooms. Save? Room. Upgrade your health or your mana pool (the latter being how you utilize the combat ghosts)? Room. Buy things? Room. There are fast travel rooms as well, but because the map fills in as you explore you’re never going to know what’s around you until you actually search. The map you do have does, at least, tell you where all the exits from your current location are though, so that does help somewhat.
In terms of combat, Ebenezer And The Invisible World is fairly straightforward. You have a cane and a back-dash, and you start out with a single combat ghost. And…that’s it. As time goes on you’ll unlock more canes, with different abilities, but this isn’t Hollow Knight. The most complicated thing to the early game combat is knowing when to dodge back to avoid a hit and when to just wail on the enemy. Bosses and later game foes and canes mix things up of course, but the core is sound and simple.
Ebenezer And The Invisible World is a fairly straightforward Metroidvania wrapped in a curious and enjoyable premise. It’s a solid foundation though, so don’t be turned off by it’s straightforward nature. This is definitely a game where the novelty is in the story and not the gameplay, and that’s not a bad thing!
If you’ve been looking for a Metroidvania to play, or are a fan of seeing wacky new ways of touching on old stories, this is definitely worth your time. Just…get the Steam version if you’re going to be playing it in the near future perhaps. Again, the console port functions, but it is unfinished compared to the PC version.
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Images Courtesy of Play on Worlds And Orbit Studio
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