Paul Prospero doesn’t exactly have an easy job. He investigates cases with a supernatural twist, making them nearly impossible for any ordinary detective to solve. Luckily, he has a few supernatural skills himself to get it done.
Paul arrives in Red Creek Valley to assist a boy named Ethan Carter, who is apparently in distress, though he actually knows pretty much nothing about Ethan’s situation. To get to the bottom of it, he is able to reconstruct an important scene until he gets a strong enough connection to see a spectral replay of the event. Paul is also able to focus on key items in the scene and pinpoint their locations as he figures them out, including being able to envision them, helping him easily find otherwise well hidden objects. Not too shabby, Paul!
This is how a majority of the gameplay goes in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. A number of scenes are scattered about in Red Creek Valley waiting to be solved. The game states that it does not hold your hand right off the bat, though it actually does a little with some of the mechanics of investigation, it does mostly leave you to figure the game out. After you reconstruct a scene, you simply touch the corpse to begin the replay. Now, you have to walk around to the locations of the key events and place them in chronological order to see the replay.
This took some getting used to for me as the first few puzzles took me some time to finish, but I soon had the hang of it, making the later puzzles go by much faster. There are a couple different types of puzzles as well, all challenging enough to get your brain working. I found the puzzles to be a good balance of challenging and interesting, and I never got to the point of giving up in frustration.
The story is well done. Although short, it has an interesting plot and characters, which kept me curious enough to press on. I’ll keep it spoiler free but let’s just say that Ethan Carter has some paranormal family issues. It took me just over two hours to complete the game, including the back tracking I had to do. The saving system had some issues, and resulted in me having to redo a couple of the puzzles. Not a huge problem, but a problem nonetheless.
The high point of the game is definitely the graphics. My word, I can’t say enough about the graphics! Apparently the developers, an indie studio called The Astronauts, use a technology called photogrammetry to take and scan photos of real life objects. The scanning allows the photorealistic textures that you see in the game. If you have a mid to high end PC and are a graphics junkie, it might be worth the twenty dollars just to see the environment. This technology may well be the next revolution in video game graphics.
Click the below image for an example of how incredible the graphics are in this game.
Finally, we have the sound. The music in the game is, like most everything else, very well done. Its subtlety really contributes to the mood, which they nailed in this game. Although the voice overs and narration were not the best I’ve ever encountered, they were still adequate in delivering the story.
Honestly I’ve never quite played a game like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It is a unique and intriguing mystery-puzzle game capable of invoking feelings of anything from adventure to a creepy, unwelcome feeling. Everything is done in good taste and attention to detail. The game suggests to me that developers have huge potential. I recommend the game to anyone who enjoys a brief, yet satisfying mystery tale.
I give The Vanishing of Ethan Carter an 8.5 out of 10.