Let me get this out of the way before I talk about what game I recommend for this October; I do not do jump scares. At all. I don’t enjoy horror movies, I don’t play many horror games and you can forget about convincing me to go into a haunted house attraction. I can, however, enjoy dark, supernatural stories with creepy atmospheres. And that’s why, today, I’m talking about the recently released indie game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
Developed by the independent Polish studio, The Astronauts, Ethan Carter places you in the shoes of Paul Prospero, a detective with the ability to sense paranormal activity. Through his eyes, you investigate the town of Red Creek Valley to find the titular child, who requested your help before, well, vanishing. Along the way, you’ll solve puzzles, gather clues and communicate with the dead, as you come to find out more and more of a dark, ancient force corrupting the town.
It’s telling that, upon starting a new game, the first things that show up on screen are the words, “This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand”. True to it’s word, you start out wandering in the forest with very little instruction. It may take you half-an-hour or so to formulate a game plan, but once you start accomplishing something, it all clicks into place.
The biggest selling point for this game is the atmosphere. Ethan Carter is one of the most aesthetically beautiful games I’ve ever played. Nearly every second of gameplay would be worth photographing. More impressive is that the entire world of the game can be traveled without a single loading screen ever popping up. The game doesn’t forget where the roots of it’s story are, though. This idealistic country-side town is made all the more eerie with the supernatural, occult-centered events.
So as much as I’ve been raving about the game up to this point, it may surprise you to know that I haven’t beaten it, yet. Why, you ask? Well, let’s go back to the start. I don’t handle jump scares very well, and, despite the lack of indication anywhere that there would be some, there are some.
The section of the game I’m talking about is a side maze in the mines. It looks like something you can skip, but you come to find out that you cannot complete the game without completing all of the side activities. So my game abruptly ends there. It would be nice if The Astronauts could patch in some kind of work-around option for the more squeamish, because I know I’m not the only one.
However, if that’s not an issue to you, than I highly recommend this game. It’s beautifully atmospheric, the puzzles are creative, the crime scenes are fun to solve and the story is intriguing right up to the end. It’s an enormously impressive debut effort from The Astronauts and I’m very interested in where this new studio goes from here.
You can check out The Vanishing of Ethan Carter on Steam by following this link.