The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is definitely not a game for everyone but even if the subject matter and style of play doesn’t suit you, it’s hard to deny the love and care that went into the making of it. The game follows paranormal detective Paul Prospero who travels to the small town of Red Creek Valley after a fan of his, Ethan Carter, sends him a letter imploring him to come visit. Upon arriving Paul discovers several grisly murder scenes and paranormal phenomena.
The gameplay is mainly puzzle based as you wander the seemingly deserted town looking for clues to what mystery is unfolding, as well as search for the titular Ethan Carter. The games environments are lush and full, and you really feel immersed in this spooky small town. The gameplay is very minimal with no HUD, and little to no tutorial. This was one of my main complaints with the game, I don’t mind exploring and discovering on my own but I felt frustrated with the game at times because there was little to no guiding whatsoever. I don’t need a game to hold my hand and lead the way but I would appreciate at least a basic understanding on how the game controls work. As far as the gameplay goes its mainly trial and error puzzle solving but I’ll admit that I’m terrible at puzzles. I’m still not sure how I made it through the first two Silent Hills without the help of internet walkthroughs.
The story unfolds and is told in the form of flashbacks, found items, and audio narratives as you explore. It seemingly involves a malevolent spirit released unwittingly by Ethan, and his families desperate attempts to restore order and reverse the curse. The more you explore the more of the story you reveal, so the game encourages you to fully immerse yourself in the surroundings.
As I said the games environments have been lovingly crafted, and I didn’t experience any technical issues like frame rate drops or screen tearing. The voice acting is really good, and the audio cues and score are just as lush and full as the environments. As I said, I’m not very good at puzzle games so I did struggle a bit with this playthrough as I found myself getting frustrated quite often. Though I was interested in figuring out the mystery of the game, I often got bored as I seemingly mindlessly wandered around at a pretty slow pace through the game. I think if I was more excited about the puzzles and better at solving then I would have a different opinion but this was just straight up not the game for me. However, If you love puzzle games and slower paced, story based exploration games then I would absolutely recommend picking this up. If you’re looking for a more linear game with more scares and actions, I would give it a miss.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is currently available on Microsoft Windows and Playstation 4.
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