Video Game Review – The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Release Date: September 25th, 2014
Developer / Publisher: The Astronauts
Format: PC Game
First playthrough time: 3 hours

Hill top landscape
Peaceful?

Major Pros:

  • Beautiful scenery contrasted by gruesome murders
  • Gameplay encourages exploring the environment
  • Puzzles are well laid out to help players not get stuck while also providing challenge
  • Lots of short side stories that fit right into the mood

Minor Pros:

  • Minimalist start screen and no in-game UI helps bring the player into the setting of the game
  • Good character dialog and narration
Beautiful lake
Beautiful scenery

 

Major Cons:

  • Game uses only autosaves so if you’re partway through a puzzle you can’t force a save with your progress
  • I ran into a two bugs where I couldn’t “inspect” something I was supposed to be able to and had to close and reload
  • Ending feels anti-climatic for some players

Minor Cons:

  • Minor crashing bug on some machines with anti-aliasing turned up too high
  • The town (while not confusing in its layout) is layed out nothing like an actual town
  • One puzzle had jump scares that don’t quite fit the feel of the rest of the game (and they scared me a lot QQ)
  • Crouching is only needed in one part of the game and there’s nothing to tell the player they can do so
Flooded passageway
I’m sure this smells delightful…

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter really gets players into the setting and mood of the story. I found the puzzles very interesting and the side puzzles in particular (the non-murder ones) are all incredibly different. The murder puzzles follow a basic set of goals of first “resetting” everything to how it was before the murder took place and then ordering the memory fragments to interact with that environment. The beauty of the scenery is at sharp contrast with the murders and steady tone of a descent into madness. Although the ending might not be liked by some players, I found it particularly enjoyable. Other than a few bug fixes and the addition of a manual save feature, the only thing I would change is the layout of the town to be something more logical since it’s impossible to drive a car to at least half of it and no one would build a house where they couldn’t even walk to without getting their feet wet.

Charred corpse
He’ll get better. Maybe.
Find this game at the publisher’s website or on Steam.

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