Ebenezer and the Invisible World PAX West Impression
Experiencing all of the ways that A Christmas Carol is being adapted within a deep and story-driven Metroidvania should be fascinating.
Oftentimes there are gaming combinations that seem like perfect fits from the outset. Other times there are combinations that just sound so odd they merit a second glance on that alone. Based on A Christmas Carol, Orbit Studio and Play on Worlds’ Metroidvania Ebenezer and the Invisible World falls firmly in that second camp. I got a chance to check out this inspired title at PAX West and found much more polish and depth than originally expected.
What if Ebenezer had only met Jacob Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past? This question is at the heart of the story for Ebenezer and the Invisible World, and leads to Ebenezer wanting to atone for his miserly ways by saving ghosts from their pasts. Ebenezer is becomes able to see ghosts, which happen to be numerous, haunting Victorian London. Meanwhile, Casper Malthus saw the ghost of his future and does not want to repent his ways, instead using the knowledge of the future to change things to better himself. Casper brings knowledge of future technology to the present, which causes riots in the unprepared populace. This leaves Ebenezer to try and right these wrongs, while also picking up help from other ghosts that he helps along the way.
Ghosts, when their quests are completed, are what gives Ebenezer his powers. Finding many of these ghosts is optional, with only a few needed to progress through the story. However, with each one having a deep backstory, they are worth diving into, even if just to see their misdeeds and what can be done to help them. Everything that Ebenezer interacts with contributes to the world and its backstory in some way. Healing items, enemies, weapons, and heirlooms, they all are inspired by A Christmas Carol in some way. Heirlooms are artifacts that players can collect that customize Ebenezer’s skillset and picking and choosing which combination to use can make one version of the character very different to another.
Each of the ghost abilities that Ebenezer learns has an upgraded form. These upgraded versions are unlocked by doing tasks with each power, such as defeating forty enemies. How drastically the upgrades change each ability though is uncertain, but could make it worthwhile experimenting. As well as these abilities, spirit weapons are obtained along the way; each of these ghostly canes alters how Ebenezer’s regular attack functions giving another layer to build customisation. Some ghosts that are helped will turn into spirit kids, which act as buffs for Ebenezer. Little bits of treasure can be collected from enemies and around as Ebenezer explores, and these materials can be used to craft upgrades for ghosts as well as Ebenezer’s stats.
Every room is crafted with a purpose in Ebenezer and the Invisible World. Whether the room has more treasure, equipment, enemies, or secrets, there is something to find everywhere. From the brief experience so far, everything feels connected in a meticulous and intertwined manner. The connections are not only between the rooms themselves, but the visuals of the backgrounds and the hand-drawn unrepentant ghosts that Ebenezer fights. These malicious fiends all have a purplish tinge to them to signify their decision to not try and better their afterlife. This makes all of them warp and deform slightly based on their misdeeds and makes each of the enemies have a unique flair to them.
Moving from room to room won’t always be simple as new skills and puzzles will be needed to gain progress. By nature of having such an interconnected world, Ebenezer and the Invisible World is looking to be a brisk but memorable adventure at around ten hours in length. Experiencing all of the ways that A Christmas Carol is being adapted within a deep and story-driven Metroidvania should be fascinating. One run might not be enough with all the secrets, heirloom combinations, and ghosts that can be collected. This delightful title is looking at a November 3, 2023, release on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.