By the time this review is published, it will be November, and we’ll all have an eye on the upcoming festivities of Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Therefore, it feels fitting that a Christmas-themed game hits our virtual shelves around about now; Ebenezer and the Invisible World!
We all know the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. I have to say that in my 30 years of gaming, I can’t recall many (if any) gaming adaptations of Dickens’ works, so I’m going to approach Ebenezer and the Invisible World with open eyes and see if the 180 year-old story stands up in the modern gaming world.
As the title suggests, you play as Ebenezer Scrooge himself as he travels through Victorian London, chasing the mysterious Caspar Malthus. Malthus has littered London with a number of ghosts known as the Unrepentant, all of whom wreak havoc on London’s residents. As you meander your way through various locations on the main quest, you will also come across a number of NPCs who need your assistance in side quests. Ebenezer and the Invisible World, straight off the bat, looks great. The backgrounds, while a little repetitive, are beautiful and detailed. Each vista is dripping in that Christmas charm, so if, like me, you’re a huge fan of the festivities this time of year, then this will certainly get you into the spirit!
With recent metroidvanias I’ve played, I find that Souls mechanics are often shoehorned in for reasons I don’t quite understand. You know where you have to return to the spot where you died to regain some kind of in-game currency? Fortunately, Ebenezer and the Invisible World don’t get drawn into this frankly unnecessary feature. I’m not saying this mechanic shouldn’t be used at all, but too often it feels like an arbitrary attempt to provide extra challenge. Not here though; Ebenezer and the Invisible World in general feels low-fuss and unpretentious, which is very welcome!
The developers of Ebenezer and the Invisible World (a seemingly joint effort between Play On Worlds and Orbit Studio) have gone to great lengths to provide additional gameplay depth, which again is a welcome departure from many other games in the genre. We have a bestiary, a serviceable in-game map and a simple-to-use quest tracker. These all sound quite basic but in the metroidvania genre, they tend to only occur in the larger-budget titles. Their presence in Ebenezer and the Invisible World adds huge depth to the gameplay experience.
- Beautiful hand-drawn Christmasy environments
- Low-fuss unpretentious gameplay
- Care and time taken with in-game menu features
Generally speaking, when we do reviews, the developers will send us a list of patch notes, which is basically a list of bugs/issues that they’re aware of. If, as a reviewer while playing the game, you come across something on that list, you’re kind of meant to gloss over it. It’s the developer's way of saying, ‘Hey, go easy on us; we know there are some things to fix’. And that’s absolutely fine and is an industry-wide practise. Therefore, on Ebenezer and the Invisible World, I’ve been mindful to avoid things that are on their patch notes, but there are still some fairly fundamental things I came across that weren’t.
For example, all of the in-game text is incredibly small. And I mean tiny. Even when playing with my Nintendo Switch docked, I had to walk right up to the TV screen to see what it was saying. Sure, it’s an easy enough fix, but it's a strange thing to be in the build this late in the day, and of course it affects accessibility more than anything else. Also, in some cases, I came across NPCs or interactable items that were just a black box, i.e., something clearly placeholder. It just all led to a slightly unfinished feel to Ebenezer and the Invisible World.
To summarise, I don’t want to be too harsh on the developers of Ebenezer and the Invisible World because I've reviewed games that are way less finished than this. But I really hope that some of these things get resolved in the day one patch; otherwise, those who decide to pick it up will feel a little hard done by.
- Some accessibility issues with the text
- Parts of the game are clearly placeholders
Final Score: 7/10
Ebenezer and the Invisible World looks great and has a difficulty level that has been perfectly balanced to stand up to some of the best metroidvanias out there without going down the overly trodden route of making it Souls-like. Sure, there’s not a whole lot original on offer here, but that feels like a harsh stick to beat the developers with in a very crowded genre.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World won’t be for metroidvania purists, but if you're a fan of Christmas and anything Dickensian, you will not be disappointed!
Thank you for checking out our Ebenezer and the Invisible World Switch review, thank you to Play On Worlds (via Stride PR) for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: