Title: Ebenezer And The Invisible World
Developer: Orbit Studio
Release Date: November 3, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Play on Worlds
Ebenezer: A Festive Metroidvania Adventure
Despite being the purported “most wonderful time of the year,” it’s somewhat surprising that more games don’t revolve around Christmas. This notion alone made Ebenezer and the Invisible World, developed by Orbit Studio and Play on Worlds, inherently compelling, especially for holiday fans. Adding to this title’s standout identity is its setting in the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol. So, with such a captivating premise already established, how does the game itself hold up?
Yule Love It: Exploring the Holiday Magic
Ebenezer and the Invisible World features the titular protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, after his encounters with the ghosts of the past, present, and future. These meetings transform Scrooge from a heartless, financially-driven tycoon into a more down-to-earth, sympathetic, and friendly character. In an ambitious effort to rectify the selfishness of his former self, he embarks on a quest to end the tyranny of the industrialist Caspar Malthus and his dedicated henchmen, amplified by the presence of the Dark Spirit and Unrepentant Ghosts, giving the collective plight a supernatural flair.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World’s captivating premise and holiday-themed setting make it a must-play for Christmas enthusiasts. It’s a metroidvania that stands out for all the right reasons.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World doesn’t shy away from emphasizing its narrative. While gameplay takes center stage in the experience, you’ll quickly notice an abundance of dialogue coupled with a rather unengaging introduction that appears to demand voice acting given the long-lasting images. Nevertheless, the writing partially compensates for this. Flowery language is employed to get to the heart of the matter in eloquent, memorable ways. Throughout the story, Scrooge acknowledges the faults of his past while connecting with the less fortunate and directly aiding them, perhaps as a form of atonement. This endearing characterization propels the otherwise dull plot forward, despite its unsteady pacing.
Leveling Up Scrooge: Gameplay Challenges and Joys
On the gameplay side, the title is a mixed bag, but not due to any outstanding faults or achievements. Ebenezer and the Invisible World plays it safe in most respects. Scrooge controls well with smooth animations that communicate the necessary effective timing for various situations. However, his lackadaisical movement speed, which remains slow even after upgrades, and stiff inactivity following sidesteps make progression somewhat dull. While these factors alone aren’t particularly grating, the sameness of the gameplay amplifies these faults.
While the game’s combat and exploration are serviceable, they fall short of delivering a truly engaging experience. The gameplay feels somewhat bland and repetitive, lacking that ‘wow’ factor.
Ghostly Transformations and Heartfelt Plot Twists
As you progress, Scrooge allies with ghosts, granting him new abilities for enhanced movement, as in a typical metroidvania. However, these acquisitions rarely feel genuinely rewarding, as they are often purely situational, not adding enough variety to the general gameplay loop. The gradual movement speed and overly safe platforming can lead to boredom over time, with the core exploration only getting the job done on a very basic level, despite added features. Although the wordy sidequests and profiles in the main menu provide some depth and weight to select characters, they feel somewhat tacked on, lacking expansion.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World’s stunning hand-drawn artwork and animations elevate the entire experience, making it worth playing for the sheer visual appeal. However, players should be aware of lingering typos and odd spacing in the dialogue.
The combat is similarly unremarkable, consisting of basic attacks and specials with generous enemy telegraphs. It is decent but overly lenient, allowing players to get by with little difficulty. Boss encounters are considerably less tense and challenging than intended. Still, this accessibility makes the game approachable for newcomers to the genre. The gear and pick-ups you can collect rarely require much thought.
On the flip side, while the map illustrates the basics of your location and exits, it doesn’t explicitly inform you of item locations from the beginning. It would have been preferable if the map at least informed you of the number of remaining pickups per screen or locale, saving you unnecessary backtracking and providing transparency.
The game’s writing is a shining star, breathing life into Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation. It’s a true testament to the power of storytelling, even if the pacing occasionally falters.
However, despite its flaws, Ebenezer and the Invisible World excels in presentation. The game boasts gorgeous hand-drawn artwork and frame-by-frame coloring and animation, bringing the adventure to life. This strength alone may motivate some players to keep progressing, even if the standard gameplay loop becomes tiresome. Nevertheless, the dialogue suffers from typos and odd spacing. Playing this game after its launch patch, I didn’t encounter the more egregious text issues that plagued the title pre-release, so make sure the game is updated to its latest iteration.
Unwrapping the Final Gift: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Ebenezer and the Invisible World is a fairly middle-of-the-road metroidvania that, apart from its presentation and premise, doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd. Its passable combat and exploration achieve the bare minimum, making its subtle flaws more noticeable. Players may find themselves invested in the strong writing of the main story, sidequests, and profiles, but these elements only go so far in an action-adventure game. If you’re eager for a new metroidvania experience, Ebenezer and the Invisible World is an option, but with the genre being so densely populated, your time might be better spent elsewhere.
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