‘Ethan Carter’ has quite the story to tell — if you can figure it out
Before the “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” begins, we’re told that the game will “not hold your hand,” that it’s a narrative experience meant to be explored free of influence from anyone. That freedom to move at your own pace, however leisurely or frantically, is the beauty that lies at the center of this mystery-solving, first-person adventure.
Your decisions in how you progress in “Ethan Carter,” developed by The Astronauts, is entirely up to you. I can attest to this because the first time I “played” through, I got about 40 percent of the way through the game without having actually solved a single mystery, much less all 10 scenes’ worth. My role as a detective takes me on a quest to solve the disappearance of Ethan Carter in rural Wisconsin. But I’m no ordinary sleuth, as I have the ability to see scenes from the past and to reconstruct those memories in order to solve whatever puzzle is in front of me. This is the basic mechanic of “Ethan Carter”: You enter a new area and notice clues lying around that you can examine, and then it’s up to you to figure out the puzzle and unlock further backstory. The environment is both the puzzle and the story for the most part.
I’ll give you a piece of advice: Have pen and paper ready. It’s be an immense help while you try to solve several mysteries. “Ethan Carter” expects a certain level of involvement in its puzzle-solving, for which patience and determination are paramount. You’re not going to be able to just whiz through these mysteries, and that’s good because that’s not the point. Not to mention that it would ruin the amazing ambiance and storytelling that comes when you do manage to piece a mystery together.
Four “Wait, let me write that down!” stars out of five.
Editor’s note: This version of “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter,” provided courtesy of The Astronauts, was reviewed on PC.