Format Reviewed: PC
Publisher: White Paper Games
Release: 25 March 2014
Minimum Spec: 2.2 GHz Dual-Core CPU, 4GB RAM, Shader Model 3 compatible GPU, 3GB HDD
Online Reviewed: N/A
For a game as refreshing as Ether One, it seems unfair to boil it down to a simple comparison: Myst meets Gone Home. The premise here is an intriguing one; you are a Restorer, tasked with entering a patient’s mind to relive their memories in the hopes of curing the dementia infecting their mind and ensuring the scientific research can continue.
It’s clear almost immediately that all is not as it seems with Ether One, however, and this central mystery is surprisingly strong enough not only to draw you in, but to keep you enthralled throughout. You’re not just discovering the truth behind the patient, though, but behind yourself, behind the memory restoration company and even the scientist that has put you up to the job. It all intertwines beautifully, and keeps that desire to see more ticking along nicely.
Which is just as well, because Ether One is a game that rewards the inquisitive. At its very base level all you’re required to do is locate a series of collectible ribbons dotted throughout Pinwheel, a small, fictional, industrial town in Cornwall. With these in hand you can experience a ‘core’ memory, and ultimately reach the end of the game. It’s simple enough and if that’s all you choose to do, then you likely won’t have too difficult a time doing it.
While you will learn about Pinwheel, your patient Jean and more simply by collecting these, there’s always a sense that you’re missing out on vital information. Each area also comes with a selection of projectors, and while optional these can only be restored by solving a puzzle of some manner.
It’s never explained neither what the solution is nor even the problem to begin with, which in fact makes Ether One all the more rewarding. A puzzle solved is done so through your own inert desire to explore, to uncover secrets and – all being well – put the pieces together successfully enough to stumble onto a solution.
In this regard you’ll have to know what you’re getting into; the slow pace and required rummaging could put off as many as it impresses. It’s sadly invigorating that such a simple idea – which, for a cheap reference point, is akin to Myst’s directionless design – empowers an adventure game in an era where puzzles are more often overtly spelt out to the gamer.
Ether One respects its players, and though you’re never told all that much if you have that intrepid sense of mystery you’ll feel as though you’re missing something if you don’t search every drawer, press every button and try to solve every puzzle.
It might not appeal to everyone, but Ether One is an exceptional example of what can be done with simple game design. It has a quality not commonly seen in smaller indie titles, and the courage to do things a little differently.