First Look Steam Review: Can Scrooge redeem himself and save London before Christmas, in this 2D Victorian Metroidvania
It all began with Jacob Marley. We all remember that Jacob Marley was put in chains for being materialistic and greedy. Well, what if other ghosts existed that were also punished in the same way? What if there were many ghosts in London and all had their own punishments? Well, Orbit Studio used this idea and created something extraordinary.
I am sure we all heard that atoning for our sins gives us a path towards righteousness. Well, what if I told you that after being the grouch of Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge, decided to redeem himself by saving London and giving back to the people? Ebenezer and The Invisible World takes us on a journey with the ghosts of past, present, and future a second time around in this gorgeous 2D Victorian style Metroidvania developed by Orbit Studio and published by Play on Worlds.
The story begins in Victorian-era London, at the manor of the Malthus family. We learn that the current successor of the Malthus is Caspar Malthus, a big industrialist, who detests the poor and working class of London and hopes to advance technology, without worrying that it may take over their jobs. He shows no empathy regarding what would happen to these families after they would be taken over by technological progression.
Most of the video games lore was taken directly from “A Christmas Carol”. When asking the developer directly how the world of Ebenezer and The Invisible World was created, the developer’s response was, “Dickens writes a section where Scrooge sees ghosts trying to help a woman but their curse in the afterlife is that they cannot. What if those ghosts could talk to a human, like Jacob Marley is talking to Scrooge, and asked the human to do good deeds on their behalf” and so the story unfolds with Caspar Malthus.
On Christmas Eve, Caspar is visited by the past, present, and Yet to Come, showing the many scenes of his life, including his childhood, the plight of his workers and the night of eve of his death. There he saw all his plans and designs of his creations, including putting the finishing touches of his project that would disregard the poor and working class and only make the Malthus family’s industry even richer. However, as he finally reaches his goals, Caspar then falls to the floor, finally reaching the end of his life, without a soul to love or care for him. Instead of taking the messages of the ghosts as a warning to the life Caspar will lead if he continues down the path he is going, Caspar was visited by a more sinister ghost, in chains like Jacob Marley was. He told Caspar how foolish he was, if he would let the warnings of these ghosts stop Caspar from becoming the most powerful man to industrialize London, making the rich progress, and ending the working class for good. Caspar did remember the blueprints and designs of the machine he created the night of his death, and so, this is where the journey begins.
On the one-year anniversary of Caspar’s encounter with the spirits of Christmas, we begin playing the game as Ebenezer Scrooge, who, because of his encounter with Jacob Marley, can see spirits haunting the streets of London in need of help and going through difficult situations. Wanting to repent, Ebenezer goes on a journey to save the ghosts from the past, hoping to restore order in London, stopping Caspar from harming the working class, and bringing order to the people before Christmas.
The Gameplay and Abilities:
This game drew inspiration from games like “Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Aladdin (SNES), Hollow Knight, Blasphemous, Aeterna Noctis and Ori”. You begin by taking the role of Ebenezer, you walk around the streets of London carrying a cane, which is Ebenezer’s main attack weapon. As you progress in the game, the ghosts, after fulfilling their quests, give you unique abilities that help you ease your journey into unlocking new paths, puzzles, and secrets that will eventually get you to the end of the game. There are main ghost quests that you are forced to fulfill to progress the main storyline, however, all the other side quest ghosts are optional. They do all have unique powers, as well as heart wrenching stories, that you’ll feel you’ve already invested your time to find out what happens to each unique individual spirits’ life. Therefore, wanting you to finish each side quest and collecting their abilities. Some of the abilities you will find along the way are double jump, dash through “ghost” doors, break through walls and jump on balloons to get to higher ground, this is among many awesome abilities you will find as you progress through the main story of the game.
The ghosts can be improved over time by doing some small tasks, which you can find on their corresponding character’s lore page. You will also find small child spirits who will act as buffs, like shooting arrows or acting as a shield to parry enemies attacks. Finally, you will find food and upgrading material, either on the map, in treasure chests or rare drops from enemies. The food can be eaten as a form of healing, however, it is hard to find the food throughout the map, and there’s only one vendor, so make sure you always visit and stock up. Finally, you will also find items along the way that are like charms that give further advancements to Ebenezer’s abilities.
Save points are a bit scarce throughout the map, kind of taking me back to the Castlevania games and Bloodstained Ritual of the Night. Don’t get discouraged, since platforming can be a bit challenging and once you die, you will have to reopen map progress again, as well as lose any used food item. They will not regenerate with a death. Also, keep in mind, that if you die after a boss fight without saving your progress first, you will have to fight the boss again. This happened with my gameplay, I am not sure if it’s a bug, but let’s see if the developer’s will change that route in future patches or it’s meant to be this challenging.
Overall, I see long hours of gameplay, whether exploring the map of the game, solving the puzzles, the labyrinth of mirrors, or discovering the secrets this game has to offer.
I have so much praise to give to the graphics of this game. You are looking at this beautiful, magical Christmas story, but then as you progress throughout the game you find these sinister, horrific elements that give a balance of both Halloween and Christmas, kind of meeting midway. Could it be the reason why this game was set to release on November 3? Not too far from Halloween but bringing us closer to the spirit of the Christmas cheer? It definitely allowed me to feel Christmas was coming, all while still overcoming the exhaustion of trick or treating just a few days ago.
I have the Steam version of this game, so I unfortunately, cannot speak for the graphics on any of the major consoles, but I can say that the game plays flawlessly on the PC, with a 60 FPS framerate, no lagging and just a smooth experience throughout. The beautiful backgrounds of each level also were created in depth, from London city streets to sunken ships, pay attention to each location, you will love how much detail was put into each scenario.
The music was lovely too. You know how once November hits, you begin to hear Christmas music on the radio, well, this game had every intention to make you feel Christmasy but also incorporate eerie dark. Music was composed by the very talented, Clóvis Vilela and while there is no free OST available to the public, it will be available with the Digital Deluxe Edition of the game.
Performance on the Steam Deck:
There is no confirmation from Orbit Studio or Play on Worlds if Ebenezer and the Invisible World is Steam Deck verified. Maybe we will see its maximum capacity on a future date, however, I still tried playing the game on my steam deck and I can confidently say that the game works flawlessly at 60 FPS, the load time between areas was great, there were no issues and during combat there were no delays or glitches. From what I experiences thus far, I definitely enjoyed playing this game both on my PC and handheld while relaxing on my couch. Making this the perfect chill versatile experience for the all console gamer.
This game provides a good amount of gameplay, with beautiful scenery, cheerful festive music, and intricate story lines that will make you want to delve into each side quest, giving you a load of extra content.
This game was created with lots of love and care, and you can see that by how beautiful each location was created. Lovers of fairy tales and fantasy stories will unite for this game since it makes you feel like you’re also reading a story book as opposed to just playing the game. My favorite part was how the dialogue sound effects was written out in pencil and how progressing in dialogue sounded like you were turning pages of a book. It is usually the small details about the game that really makes it feel wholesome and this game really delivered.
You definitely have to pick up this game on November 3, coming to Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One and Steam. According to the developer there are no plans for a physical game just yet but definitely check out their Deluxe Edition, which will include a new Ebenezer Skin, Official Artbook, Official Strategy Guide, Official Soundtrack, 2x Posters, and the original book written by Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” with all new illustrations by Play on Worlds based on the developer’s version of the characters you see in the game. And who doesn’t want to reread “A Christmas Carol” for the billionth time?
Q&A with Luka Perič, from Play on Worlds
Q. How was Ebenezer and the Invisible World created? Did you just sit down one day and go, “hey, we need a continuation of ‘A Christmas Carol’”.
A. It started with thinking about Jacob Marley. Jacob Marley is chained to the mortal world for his actions in life. We asked ourselves, wouldn’t there be more ghosts like Jacob Marley in London who are also tethered to the mortal world. Wouldn’t London be filled with these ghosts. In the book, Dickens writes a section where Scrooge sees ghosts trying to help a woman but their curse in the afterlife is that they cannot. What if those ghosts could talk to a human, like Jacob Marley is talking to Scrooge, and asked the human to do good deeds on their behalf.
Q. Did you grow up with children’s stories being a part of your everyday life?
A. Definitely, a large part of the team grew up before everything got digitalized so books were often the go-to entertainment for a lot of us.
Q. What games and genres did you draw inspiration from?
A. I would say that we drew a lot of inspiration from games like Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Aladdin (SNES), Hollow Knight, Blasphemous, Aeterna Noctis and Ori. We always wanted to make a metroidvania game, it was just a matter of finding the perfect universe to build it in.
Q. Is the OST available somewhere to the public? Who was the composer for the music of the game?
A. The OST will be available as part of the Digital Deluxe Upgrade. The composer is the very talented Clóvis Vilela
Q. Any plans for a physical release in the future with some awesome limited goodies?
A. No plans for a physical release at this time, but we are offering a Digital Deluxe Upgrade which includes a new Ebenezer Skin, Official Artbook, Official Strategy Guide, Official Soundtrack, 2x Posters, and the original book written by Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” with all new illustrations by Play on Worlds based on our versions of the characters you see in the game.
Q. Was the story written before creating the game like a novel format, or was it written as it was being developed?
A. We had a general story written out in advance – meaning the main story arc. The side quest stories, as well as the enemy and heirloom backstories were written during development.
“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Thank you to Orbit Studios and Play on Worlds for the review code and thank you to Play on Worlds for taking the time to answer my questions for this review.