It’s hard to imagine that an action game could be crafted within the world of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It was a story about introspection, the nature of greed, and redemption leading to finding fellowship among community and neighbors. How does one turn that into a Metroidvania? Orbit Studio has that answer and it’s by expanding the scope of the original story. Shacknews recently had a chance to try out Ebenezer and the Invisible World at PAX West and found that this oddball premise works surprisingly well.
First revealed during this year’s PC Gaming Show, Ebenezer and the Invisible World follows Dickensian lead Scrooge after the events of the original novel. It turns out that Ebenezer wasn’t the only wayward soul in Victorian-era London. A wicked industrialist named Caspar Malthus must also learn the same lessons that Scrooge did, but he’s noticeably surrounded by lost souls undergoing different forms of eternal torment. Behind everything is a malevolent force called the Dark Spirit who has deployed a legion of Unrepentent Spirits across London.
While the Metroidvania format may be nothing to necessarily write home about, it’s the imaginative designs of Victorian London and these lost spirits that make Ebenezer and the Invisible World feel captivating. The backgrounds are beautifully hand-drawn to resemble the time period and also include vibrant NPCs. The various enemy and ally spirits all have distinct functions and rich backstories that tie into them. Some examples of the evil Unrepentent Ghosts include an overly critical theatergoer who uses tomatoes as projectiles, a tightrope walker who died sabotaging her friends’ performances, a floating head that bounces around unable to ever achieve the singing perfection that he sought out in life, and a trap-making engineer who perished while playing cruel pranks on innocents. Allied spirits are ones who are trying to cross over to the next stage of the afterlife and include a lost maiden who can help Ebenezer dash through walls and a circus performer who can hold Scrooge in mid-air and allow him to glide across large gaps.
While our time with Ebenezer and the Invisible World was limited at both PAX West and The MIX, there looks to be a deep combat system in place. On top of Scrooge’s ghost allies, he can also craft different weapons and unlock different abilities to help him across his journey and also help him discover hidden areas.
The idea that Scrooge finding redemption makes him an exception and not a rule is fascinating, so if nothing else, the lore to this game sounds interesting. If Orbit Studio can make the most out of the Metroidvania formula, this is a game that could sneak up on people and be one of the best indie titles of the year. We’ll be sure to watch for Ebenezer and the Invisible World when it releases on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch on Friday, November 3.
These impressions are based on an on-site demo from PAX West 2023. It may not be representative of the final product.