The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a mystery adventure game with tinges of thriller here and there. The year is 1973. You play as Paul Prospero, a paranormal investigator who has been called upon to investigate a small town called Red Creek Valley in rural Pennsylvania through an enthusiastic fan letter from one of its denizens, Ethan Carter. Paul arrives at Red Creek Valley only to find that the town itself has been long abandoned following economic collapse of the area. Ethan Carter, the boy who summoned him there, is missing; as is the rest of his family following what appears to be a tragic arson incident. Paul investigates.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’s story is easily the main highlight of the game’s package and the focus of the events that play out. From beginning to end, the game drip feeds the player with small bits and pieces of information to slowly paint a picture of what actually happened to Red Creek Family and what the deal was with the secretive Carter family. It’s a story that’s told fairly linearly and left purposefully vague but eventually makes sense and comes to a conclusion.
And while the story itself is quite linear in how it’s presented, there are other facets to Red Creek Valley that are explored and give extra weight to the setting as a whole. Some stories are simple tales of folklore in the region while others are phantasmagorical interpretations of simple events in the news as if retold by an imaginative child. One things common throughout the storyline whether it’s the main one or the secondary ones – they’re all told rather excellently.