via Play on Worlds
An Xbox Series X code was provided to GamingPizza for this review. Ebenezer and the Invisible World will be available on November 3, 2023 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World drops us into the well-worn shoes of a curmudgeonly old Ebenezer Scrooge, but not as we know him. Gone are the chains and haunts of Christmas past, replaced by a peculiar journey through the Victorian streets and an oddly fantastical quest to uncover the secrets of miser Caspar Malthus. Developer Orbit Studio takes a bold leap, mashing up Dickensian lore with a Metroidvania-style platformer. The outcome? A festive, if slightly flawed, romp through a holiday-themed world that’s both familiar and fresh.
Right off the bat, Ebenezer and the Invisible World makes it clear that you’re in for a lot of reading. Narratives in games aren’t a drawback, but here, the sheer volume can feel like slogging through the worst of London’s historic fogs. Yes, the story is compelling – an interesting twist on a timeless tale – but the weighty text might have you reaching for a cup of tea more often than your controller.
When art meets anime in Dickens’ London
via Play on Worlds
Visuals are one realm where Ebenezer doesn’t just skate by on thin ice; it soars. The hand-drawn, anime-inspired cutscenes are a visual treat, blending a classical Victorian setting with a modern artistic twist. The character animations are fluid, and the attention to period-specific details is commendable. However, it’s not all chestnuts and open fires; the game’s soundtrack, while initially charming with its holiday themes, quickly becomes as repetitive as Scrooge’s “Bah, Humbug!” With tracks that loop endlessly (especially during cutscenes), the music might have you echoing Ebenezer’s famous dismissal.
The same can’t be said of the rest of the game’s soundscape and settings, though. The layered backgrounds in the bustling city areas are intricately designed, evoking a sense of nostalgia and holiday excitement. It’s like stepping into a Dickens novel – if Dickens had been a game developer instead of an author. The holiday style of the music, despite its repetitiveness, does contribute to this vibrant atmosphere, crafting a world where every alleyway and rooftop feels part of a larger Christmas narrative. The bustling city areas are a personal favorite.
Ebenezer’s got hops!
via Play on Worlds
Ebenezer’s arsenal of moves is surprisingly … athletic for a man of his years. Picture him having the ability to slam-dunk over 7′ 4″ basketball prodigy Victor Wembanyama, and you have a good idea of his capabilities in this game. It’s absurd, sure, but part of the charm. The developers have injected a sense of humor into Scrooge’s character – a necessary addition when your protagonist is formally more used to counting coins than leaping over rooftops. He also gets plenty of assistance from helpful spirits who lend a hand when it comes to combat or accessing harder to reach areas. To get the most from Ebenezer, a healthy suspension of disbelief is required as he jumps from platform to platform and takes on ghostly spirits with ninja-like athleticism, but it’s well worth it for the light-hearted nature and overall flow of the game.
For all its narrative heaviness and musical missteps, the game truly shines in its movement and combat mechanics. Controls are tight and responsive, making navigating through the Victorian-era landscapes an enjoyable task. Platforming sections are well-designed, offering a challenge without being unfairly punishing. Combat is straightforward yet satisfying, capturing the essence of the genre without overcomplicating things. This aspect of the game shows where the developers’ priorities lay, emphasizing playability and fun over story depth.
Making do on a Cratchit budget
It’s clear that Ebenezer and the Invisible World was developed with more passion than pounds. The budgetary constraints peek through in places – some environmental textures lack polish, and the limited selection of character models outside of cutscenes could use more detail. But these shortcomings are akin to the slightly burnt edges on an otherwise delicious Christmas dessert. They don’t detract significantly from the overall experience, which remains a fun, if not exactly groundbreaking, adventure.
Scoring Ebenezer and the Invisible World feels a bit like judging a fruitcake competition – there’s a lot to love, but not everything works for everyone. For fans of Dickens or holiday-themed games, this title offers a nostalgic twist on familiar themes, wrapped in a quirky platformer package. It’s a game of contrasts: heavy reading against light-hearted gameplay, wonderful visuals against repetitive music, tight controls against budget constraints.
In the end, Ebenezer earns a solid 6 out of 10. It’s not the Christmas miracle of gaming, but more like that dependable pair of woolen socks from Auntie – not what you dreamed of, but something ymetroou find warmth and a little joy in nonetheless. For a seasonal foray into a beloved story with a gaming twist, Ebenezer and the Invisible World might just be worth adding to your wish list this holiday season.
GamingPizza Rating: 6 out of 10