Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a breathtaking, peaceful, partly exciting experience that will have you solve mysteries of an abandoned creek while absorbing its atmosphere. It is not one without a flaw however, despite its artistic excellence and technological novelty, sheer human laziness manages to seep through in the form of hideous grey-scaled foliage that tints entire branches with hues of green, yellow and red, in the form of jarringly visible texture stretches and poor unwraps as if the artists depended on the technology more so than their own craft. Regardless, the game still manages to amaze the unsuspecting eye.
You will find yourself in the skin of Paul Prospero, an occult detective on his quest to solve the mystery behind Red Creek Valley and save the boy Ethan Carter who seems to have accidentally found himself in the middle of it. You will be given a set of simple, but intuitive gameplay mechanics to solve the rather gruesome crimes occurring and to find more about Ethan and his family. The crimes require you to find all of the pieces of the puzzle first then chronologically order them to solve the mystery. While intriguing on paper, and in the game for the first couple of crimes or so at least, the puzzles become way too straightforward and won't require you to actually think, despite the game claims it won't hold your hand it most certainly does by explicitly showing you exactly where every missing item is boiling the puzzle down to what are essentially tiny fetch quests. As you progress through the game the crimes become less and less exciting, only a shade of what they could have been if the developers had improved on the first one. The rest of the interaction is comparatively simple so don't expect an adventure of the likes of the old ones. The game could still impress, with decent voice acting and soothing soundtrack. With crimes, although not too exciting to solve but still unique enough. With weird yet amazing secrets that you stumble upon while walking through the woods.
But it ultimately falls flat with not enough of these things to discover, with crippled vague auto saving system that may lose you progress, dumb mechanics that won't allow you to finish the game unless you found and solved every single little thing in the game. About to get to the possibly exciting climax ? Too bad, go back to the beginning for that tiny piece of charred newspaper you failed to read then trek all the way back to trigger that last cutscene. Ultimately, the ending may leave you feeling empty or even betrayed. It may leave you feel like your detective effort was completely meaningless or that it made no sense. In the end, it is all about a young boy and his friend.
Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a beautiful piece of art ruined by underlying human sloppiness, a piece of story that attempts to impress and touch your heart but fails doing that. I finished the game in little over 3 hours, while beautiful the game felt a tiny bit weak to justify its price tag. I still recommend this one to pick up once the price goes down.