HomeReviews2/5 ReviewEbenezer and The Invisible World Review

Ebenezer and The Invisible World Review

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A Christmas Carol is a story which holds significant meaning to myself and my family. A staple of Christmas-time reading and watching, I know the story like the back of my hand. I can recite lines and phrases verbatim. With such a level of familiarity comes a concept ripe for experimentation, and experiment artists have. From comedic modern retellings to Broadway musicals to gritty miniseries, the work has been distorted, satirized, amended and continued in a multitude of different ways. However, video games are one medium the story has not quite made a mark in to its full potential. Ebenezer and the Invisible World aim to fix that.

Co-developed by Orbit Studio and Play On Worlds, Ebenezer and The Invisible World is a Metroidvania with 2D hand-drawn graphics and a story that picks up a year after where Dickens left off. The Industrial Revolution is making sweeping changes through London, and it’s up to Scrooge, now bestowed with the power to see spirits, to try and redeem the wicked industrialist Caspar Malthus, before it’s too late.

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A new take on A Christmas Carol?

With the Christmas season upon us, it feels right to start with the positives. The hand-drawn artwork is gorgeous. The environments are dripping in colour and nail the tone of Dickens’ work. The characters are vibrant, expressive and incredibly well-designed. No matter how you slice it, the game looks great with some truly stunning 2D animation work.

The story also shines an importance when positioning yourself as a follow-up to one of history’s most iconic tales. The themes of the narrative are consistent with the Novella, and the plot has a genuine degree of intrigue. Scrooge got the way he did because of a misguided sense of greed and self-worth. Malthus, the aptly named villain of this game, went down the same path for uniquely different reasons.

Finally, Ebenezer and the Invisible World is dripping with reverence for the source material. From subtler details like quotes lifted directly from the book to more obvious examples like Marley serving as the save door, the love for A Christmas Carol shines through in every pixel of this game.

However, these elements, while great in their own right, are only bedcurtains concealing the meat and potatoes of this game. And while you may be hoping for the prized turkey in the butcher shop window, unfortunately, what’s on offer here is closer to a bit of beef and a fragment of a underdone potato.

Unfortunately, I can’t beat around the holly bush any further – the gameplay of Ebenezer and the Invisible World leaves a lot to be desired. Beginning with the combat, collision detection is way off. To start, Scrooge has a cane which struggles to make an impact. This means you have to get up close and personal with your foes, which often means collision damage, even when you’re standing many pixels away. Both Scrooge and the enemies in Ebenezer and the Invisible World have incredibly inconsistent hitboxes which makes navigating a level a bit of a nightmare.

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The artwork is gorgeous

Difficulty balance is way off as well. Some small enemies can deal up to a half bar of health’s damage by merely being touched, while other burly foes can seemingly beat old Ebenezer to a pulp, but cause limited harm. Checkpoints and fast travel stations are sparse in some areas of the map, but abundant in others. The same goes for enemy density. Some screens are barren and dead, whereas others waver on abrupt chaos. There’s little flow or consistency, and it makes Ebenezer and the Invisible World a bit of a slog at points. A weapon known as the Lion’s Head cane helps alleviate some of these issues by allowing Scrooge to shoot projectiles, but it arguably comes too late in the game to make a difference.

Ghosts can be summoned as well, but their impacts aren’t always the clearest. To find out, you have to scroll deep into the menus, where you’ll be treated with other info like… the fact spirits can level up! Something that is not communicated at all outside of the menus! In general, this game struggles with communicating info in a manner that is fair but coy. Too often, it either leaves you running around the map like a chicken with its head cut off, or explains the simplest things in explicit telegraphed detail. No in-between here.

Worst of all, however, Ebenezer and the Invisible World is outright Humbuggy. Crashes and freezes leaving certain levels, progress stopping bugs, spirits not being selected properly, currency randomly draining, input lag, inputs outright not working, the list, unfortunately, goes on. A patch has helped resolve some of these bugs (most notably the freezes), but there is a distinct lack of polish overall.

Finally, to touch upon value, Ebenezer and the Invisible World is currently retailing for $20 USD / £16.74 GBP. I had around twelve hours of playtime, but a not-insignificant amount came from backtracking and getting lost, so your mileage may vary. I think the price itself is relatively fair, but I’m not sure if the quality of the experience quite justifies it. If you’re playing on PC, I believe a demo exists, so that may be worth looking at before purchasing.

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But Ebenezer is extremely unbalanced

If I was to sum up Ebenezer and the Invisible World in one word, it’d be unbalanced. The difficulty is all over the place, the game is stuffed to the brim with bugs, the combat leaves a lot to be desired and the levels themselves are often either barren or stuffed. However, with these negatives comes one heck of a positive in the form of some truly tremendous art direction and thoughtful storytelling.

There is a lot of potential in a game adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and Ebenezer and the Invisible World makes a valiant effort. But this pudding needed to sing in the copper a little longer.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Delightful art direction
  • Splendid story
Cons:
  • A large amount of (hum)bugs
  • Unbalanced difficulty
  • The combat is lacking
  • Inconsistent checkpoints
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Play On Worlds
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS5, PS4, Switch
  • Release date and price - 3 November 2023 | £16.74
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Delightful art direction</li> <li>Splendid story</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>A large amount of (hum)bugs</li> <li>Unbalanced difficulty</li> <li>The combat is lacking</li> <li>Inconsistent checkpoints</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Play On Worlds</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS5, PS4, Switch <li>Release date and price - 3 November 2023 | £16.74</li> </ul>Ebenezer and The Invisible World Review
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