The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter is a mystery puzzle game where you take the lead as Paul Propsero, an investigator on your last case before retiring. You receive a letter from a young lad called Ethan Carter who, as the title suggests, has done a disappearing act, and you have to figure out what happened after a family to-do.
There’s not much I can say about story-wise, as it’s all for you to discover as you play through, hence I can only dip straight into my thoughts while doing so, but I will just add that it has a decent twist to the story, too, which I obviously won’t reveal here.
The visuals are colourful and lush (and in 4K with the requisite display), albeit with some slight draw distance issues, so you’ll see some pop-up right in the distance, hence it’s not a 10/10 for graphics. Plus, as much as I enjoyed looking at the sumptious scenery and listening to the stunning soundtrack and audio clues all around – in glorious DTS 5.1 and accompanied by a great score, I did resort to looking up guides and walkthroughs to figure out what to do next, or even sort out how and where I went wrong, since it gives you very little margin of error.
The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter – Xbox One Trailer
This game has far more puzzles than my brain can even begin to figure out, and when getting as far as I could in this relatively short game, after a few hours, it confused the hell out of me. It’s certainly not like Tomb Raider where you can’t go far without tripping over the clues, or even the answers, since in this game, I feel like you really need to have a sixth sense for this sort of thing, and I can see how brilliant it is in that respect.
I’ll link to a video (bottom video) of the walkthrough I resorted to using, but if you are into serious puzzle games, then do get this… and if you’re really stuck early on, then watch around the first 10 minutes of this video, maximum. I didn’t look at it until I’d had a go of wandering off the beaten track, double-backing on myself, and not really knowing where to go next.
Of course, for seasoned puzzle-players, it may just be that I’m not quite getting the complexities of what you have to do – without a bit of help, same as how my Dad used to hugely enjoy the Logic Puzzles books in the ’80s, while I really couldn’t figure them out.
If you don’t want to watch any of the walkthrough, I’ll safely advise that you should look out for moments when words are ‘swirling about’, and then look around you slowly, in order to make sense of them. Since I’m not familiar with this sort of thing, it did feel a little like it was, say, No.5 in a series of puzzles which used the same format and that, as I was coming to it completely fresh, I was at a disadvantage.
Once complete, you can’t play it again and learn anything new in terms of outcomes, as the puzzles will be the same each time. The average gameplay length is 4-4.5 hours first time for most people, although for me it would be ‘forever’ as I’m running around trying to find out what to do next.
The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter – Gamescom 2014 Trailer
Would I play this kind of puzzler again? Not sure. I enjoyed it more as an experience, when following the walkthrough, although you don’t spend £15 to have someone else do the work. Once I figured out the process involved in completing the ‘chronology’ puzzles, where a number of story scenes appear before you – and which have to be revealed before you can start this – I enjoyed figuring out how those went together, but the fruitless running around is something I can do without, as I need some structure otherwise I find it just becomes irritating. Imagine running around your town to find a pizza shop when no stores had any labels on the front – frustrating, right?
The walkthrough I’ve embedded, I presume is from the PC version, or at least one where it says ‘Saving…’ when it’s auto-saving. On the Xbox One, one thing that will definitely be annoying for any players is that while the game auto-saves from time to time, it NEVER tells you when it’s doing this, unless that’s what the “…” in the corner of the screen is meant to signify, but it never told me that. Also, it doesn’t allow manual saves, and nor does it give you a list of previous saves from which to choose. Hence, when I gave up on my fruitless wandering about and started afresh, any saves from the first attempt were all gone into the digital ether…
If the “…” thing isn’t part of auto-saving (then that’s yet another clue I haven’t figured out – and which wasn’t part of this game’s puzzles), then I thought receiving Achievements was, but, of course, these only show up the first time you receive them. I also thought another auto-save moment happened when I triggered a piece of dialogue and the game ‘jerked’ slightly as it brought it in… but that’s not always the case, either. I am confused.dom!
Oh, and one thing I’ll ask for which I’ll hide behind a spoiler heading, and which you should only read if you’ve also completed it.
The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter – Full walkthrough – Gamesmoother
- Publisher: The Astronauts
- Developer: The Astronauts
- Players: single player
- Subtitles in English
Directors: Adrian Chmielarz and Michael Csurics
Writers: Robert Auten and Tom Bissell
Music: Mikolai Stroinski
Paul Prospero: Marty Allen
Ethan Carter: Jake Amigo
Travis Carter: Kyle Harrington
Ed Carter: Steve Hirsh
Chad Carter: Danny Katiana
Missy Carter: Ashley Laurence
Dale Carter: Michael Sinterniklaas
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.