The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an atmospheric thriller that focuses on the mysterious town of Red Creek Valley. You play as a detective with a supernatural sense for seeing things that the normal world would miss. It’s his job to move through an eerie forest and uncover the secrets of this lost child and his family members.
Silence is the key aspect on moving around through this layered world of discovery. The majestic forest and beautifully designed landscape are what makes this title as glorious as it is. The ambient noise of animals, and the crinkling of grass as you walk are keys the enjoying the game. It’s the environment that draws you into Red Creek Valley, the lush vegetation creates a unique stillness that’s not often seen in video games.
A lot of people will liken this game to a horror title but it’s so much more than that. I don’t throw the name “Experience” around too often, but that’s exactly what The Vanishing of Ethan Carter accomplishes. I spent a variety of my time taking in the sights of the often mesmerizing surroundings. It felt as if I went on a vacation to a serene locale where I could bask in the wonders of nature. Even with that idea of comfort, there was always something around to push me on to further discovery.
Gameplay combines the exploration and puzzle elements of Myst with a heavy investigative nature of a detective adventure game. Without spilling too many of the beans about the story, the major elements come in the form of resolving ghostly mysteries. Whether it be chasing an astronaut through the forest, or recounting the events of a possible homicide. The trail crumbs all lead to notes that reveal the insight of a boy with a story to tell.
It’s a narrative affair and you aren’t just along for the ride. You’ll watch words appear out of thin air with logical hints, or use keen senses to form portals to discover hidden items to piece a case together. It’s not a difficult game because the focus is on the story and the ambiance of Red Creek. The keyboard is for movement and the mouse is for interaction. That’s as far as the control scheme goes, it’s a simple but elegant way to play that quickly becomes second nature.
I can’t find the words to explain how much the visuals delight the senses, but it’s not just because they are beautiful… it’s the wonderment that arises from the inventive discoveries in the world. I gained a sense of enlightenment as I discovered some out of this world places. The sound design fantastically creates a realistic world, and small musical cues play through the silence to inform players of completed puzzles. It’s the voice acting that can often derail the credibility of the humans in the world. Everyone that isn’t the narrating detective has a bland and generic voice. They often read the script out of sync with the emotional content during events.
Tons of people have had the debate about whether or not a video game can be art. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of those titles that showcases that video games can be an as wonderful as any statue or painting. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter receives four stars out of five from Geek Citadel. This may not be the longest or most difficult game, but it dares to take us on a thrilling vacation to a strange and wondrous place.