The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first person mystery game developed by The Astronauts. Players find themselves assuming the role of one Paul Prospero, an occult-minded detective. Upon receiving an unsettling fan letter from a young boy named Ethan Carter, Prospero ventures to the boy’s hometown of Red Creek Valley under the impression that the boy is in grave danger.
Prospero travels to the boy’s hometown only to find him missing. In addition to this, he finds a string of murders all involving the Carter family that appear to be far more than they initially appear to be. Prospero must now put his detective skills to work not only to solve the murders of Red Creek Valley and the vanishing of Ethan Carter, but also to determine if this tragedy is the spawn of something far beyond the comprehension of man.
Prospero’s tale in Red Creek Valley is one told through the eyes of the dead as each mystery solved progresses the story while also revealing how this tragedy befell the Carter family. The narrative always blends with the dark atmosphere of the game although voice acting that never truly feels compelling diminishes this aspect. Similarly, the soundtrack works well to capture the situation at hand from solving a murder to walking through the woods, however, there are no real transitions to ease the music in or out. This can make the music feel randomly placed at times even though this is not the case.
Red Creek Valley is a spectacle to behold, as the environment feels alive while also capturing the ominous presence that stirs beneath it. Occurrences such as trees rustling in the wind always feel natural and soothing. The only issue with the graphics is the frame rate as running or turning causes the screen to become shaky. Those that take their time to experience the game may not find it to be too much of a hindrance especially in comparison to those that choose to make quick turns or use the run mechanic.
The Astronauts make it crystal clear during the beginning of the game that there is no handholding. Devoid of tutorials and anything else of that sort, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a game that expects players to learn the ropes without any guidance. This proves mostly effective as progression is achieved through solving the murders and mysterious of the locale, which all require far more detective work than it takes to figure out the game’s controls. The lack of handholding can be somewhat problematic in the sense that players are very likely to initially overlook some of the mysteries present in Red Creek Valley.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a very short experience, but it is an experience that will have many that play it, longing for more. The ominous beauty of Red Creek Valley combined with the enthralling narrative and creative puzzles do well to convey that. The Astronauts are more than capable of developing an immersive experience.
There are some shortcomings to this game such as the underwhelming voice acting and frame rate issues, but they are not serious enough to tower above the overall experience offered. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter combines mystery with macabre to offer a creative experience in a hauntingly gorgeous world. What happens now? Another review, reader. What else?