Had he lived in 2023, would Charles Dickens be a gamer? Like, would his Tale of Two Cities be an actual visual novel, for example? We don’t know, but we were sure interested when we heard that his classic A Christmas Carol was going to be turned into a Metroidvania starring Ebenezer Scrooge. Unfortunately, the results leave little to be desired, as we find out in our Ebenezer and the Invisible World review. Carry on.
Much like what happened in Scrooged, set many years from the events of the novel, Ebenezer is now a sort of spirit medium. He can commune with all the surrounding spirits, so he can provide help and – of course- solve several side quests for them as well. His main quest is stopping the evil Caspar Malthus, one who got visited by ghosts but instead of turning good, he actually turned evil and wants to destroy the working class. It is an interesting idea that also provides some gameplay value, so that seemed to be a promising start.
The art leaves me a little bit undecided. On one hand, it’s all 2D hand-drawn art so the kind I would like to see more of, but on the other, it looks like a generic mobile game from a couple of years ago. Sure, it is an impressive-looking generic mobile game, but still. While the concept itself is quite absurd, the art never really seems to follow suit and seems to take the overall thing quite seriously. It might be the right ambience if you’re looking for a Christmas-themed Metroidvania – since well, they’re not a thing (yet) – but they did not do much for me. Also, both docked and undocked, the dialogue was often so small that you would need a magnifying glass, with no options to make it bigger.
The gameplay overall seems to work. You have a very weird and hard-to-time backward dash which is your main way of defending Ebenezer from attacks, along with a cane to attack the evil spirits. Along the way, Ebenezer gets to unlock ghost powers, much like you would in a classic Metroidvania, so he can proceed in areas which were locked before. The idea of using ghost powers is quite well done overall, since each also unlocks a story of the ghost, explaining why they possess that particular ability.
Unfortunately, the overall gameplay is hindered by less than precise controls, which would not be a big deal if Ebenezer and the Invisible World wasn’t plagued by lots of bugs and technical issues. On Switch, the performance is constantly stuttering and framerate dropping, which is quite strange for a strict 2D game. Each time Ebenezer approaches the end of a room, the game just pauses for a quick second, I would guess it is loading the next room, but it gets irritating very fast. Save points are also pretty rare, so strangely enough, this is not a Metroidvania for beginners at all.
That’s just the start of it. Options seem to work at random, like disabling the vibration would not do anything and the game kept on vibrating each time Ebenezer performed an attack (which is, well, all the time). More than one quest just broke, because it wouldn’t progress, despite having done what the ghosts requested, or it would just start showing empty dialogue boxes. Another time, the game just froze completely.
While we would have loved to enjoy this absurd concept of a Metroidvania, unfortunately, this needed to spend more time under the Christmas tree. We waited until day one to see if the developers would patch it, but most of the issues still seem to be there. But we now have to wonder: what’s next for the Dickens game world? A Fortnite clone based on Oliver Twist? A FPS in Great Expectations where you have to defend Pip from the ordinary world?
Our Ebenezer and the Invisible World review was made possible with a Nintendo Switch key provided by Stride PR. Ebenezer and the Invisible World is available on PS5, Xbox Series X | S, Switch and Steam.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World: The lovely absurd concept of a metroidvania in the world of Charles Dickens gets hindered by game breaking bugs and dodgy controls. – Damiano Gerli