The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC) Review
Kalvin Martinez / Oct 7th, 2014 No Comments
The creative minds at The Astronauts formed the studio to take advantage of video games’ potential to be the ultimate form of art and entertainment. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is the first game released by the developer, and it aims to make good on this philosophy.
From the outset of the game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter promises not to hold your hand — rather, it is built around exploration and discovery to uncover the truth behind Ethan Carter’s vanishing and the real story of Red Creek Valley. While not the ultimate form of exploration or discovery, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter manages to be an artful and entertaining experience.
A young man sends you a letter containing content no kid should know. A symbol with nefarious connotations catches your attention. In your line of work, something like that is hard to ignore. The boy has to be in danger, that much is evident. You have no choice but to head to Wisconsin and figure out what happened to Ethan Carter and Red Creek Valley.
As Paul Prospero, players head to the sleepym desolate village. Disregard the letter and something about Red Creek Valley still just doesn’t seem right. After players make their way into the village, the bizarre occurrences begin. Is this place playing tricks on your mind?
Worse yet is when the bodies start showing up. All of these victims have been murdered in brutal fashion. Solving these murders and the supernatural phenomenon is key to discovering the truth behind Red Creek Valley and Ethan Carter’s disappearance.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’s narrative works in tandem with the gameplay. As you explore the village, you uncover various crime scenes and puzzles, which help construct the storyline and uncover the truth. It is a smart way to construct a narrative experience and makes for a compelling story.
The murders propel the plot along to help players figure out where Ethan Carter went. While puzzles reveal more information and background on the boy, they also play an important part to solving the true mystery of the game. Learning about Carter and the boy’s life in a small, isolate village is exciting, and the shape of Carter’s family life adds depth to the overall story.
Don’t Let Me Go
Prospero has a few tricks at his disposal to solve the case in Red Creek Valley. His most obvious and powerful tool is observation. When investigating the game’s crime scenes, players’ main task will be to find clues to analyze. This is done simply through discovery. Each clue opens up a flurry of questions as players will need to figure out what the clues mean and how it fits the scene at hand. Most clues are obvious, but others require more investigation.
Clues with deeper significance prompt Prospero’s supernatural abilities. When trying to find an important clue, players can use a supernatural ability to pinpoint where they need to go to continue the investigation. Evidence picked up along the way must be placed back in its original spot to recreate the original scene. Restoring the crime scene requires Prospero’s ultimate supernatural talents.
Once all missing evidence is restored, Prospero can read the body at a crime scene to uncover what happened. After enacting this recreation, the scene turns blue and orbs fly out of the body at various points around the crime scene. By running into these orbs, they reveal images of the events of the crime. Players will need to decide the order of these disparate events. Solving each mini-case rewards gamers with more information on Carter and where to head next.
Figuring out each crime leads players closer to solving the disappearance of Ethan Carter, but gamers will have to explore the village to fully comprehend the truth. Players can find incongruous elements that play an important role in solving the mystery. Each clue is a puzzle that has a different feel and theme, often learning toward the macabre. Puzzles are quite clever and often involve visually stunning moments. While smart in their own right, the significance they play in the game’s narrative is what really makes them standout.
Despite some minor issues, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a worthwhile experience. The game’s desire not to hold players’ hands puts the onus of narrative and gameplay discovery on the player, and it ends up making the game a more rewarding experience.
A wealth of great ideas work together successfully in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. More than anything else, the game contains wonderfully imaginative moments that seer into players’ minds long after turning off the game, which is what any piece of art or entertainment hopes to do.
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