This is going to be a difficult review. You see Ether One is all about the story it tells, the way it tells it and the way you play it. All factors relevant to talk about when reviewing it. Yet you will get so much more from it if you approach it without having read any preview, review or article. Having said that, I want as many people to play this as possible because it is one of those unique games that demands to be played.
Originally released for Microsoft Windows and now available on PS4, Ether One is a first person adventure/puzzle game set in a futuristic time period where it is possible to investigate (and interact with) thoughts and memories. You are cast as a “restorer” sent into a persons mind and guided by a Doctor from the company responsible for making this possible.
The main task has you collecting a set number of red bow ties that, when complete, will unlock a major memory that can be explored using a flash camera to highlight specific events. Side tasks involve the discovery of broken film reel projectors indicating a puzzle (mental or physical based) which when solved and the projector fixed, will reveal even more memories and build on the story. The game is also littered with objects to pick up, notes and posters to read with every single thing relevant to the story being told. This is where Ether One ascends into true greatness – its story.
The person whose thoughts and memories you are immersing yourself in is suffering with Dementia and the whole point of you infiltrating their mind is to “cure” them by reconstructing damaged memories and ridding the patient of this horrible disease. You make your way through childhood experiences in the town of Pinwheel and find out the story between patient and parents whilst also discovering things about the other villagers, a terrible accident that took place at the local Mine and later a romantic relationship that completely flips the game on its head.
The environment and look of the game fits perfectly with the subject matter representing a world which is somehow off; a broken, confusing, mess both beautiful and scary yet structured with a solid heightened style. Gorgeous minimalistic music adds to the atmosphere and feel, playing with our emotions from start to finish and giving the game a definite film quality whilst the controls are very simple yet effective requiring you to move, interact and run.
Playing time, depending on how many of the puzzles you want to complete will range from three to six hours but replay value is very high especially when you reach that ending, you will want to go back to the start with that discovery.
It won’t be for everyone. The general mood of the game is of sadness with a sombre tone and it does require investment to get the most out of it. Some of the puzzles can be very tricky and confusing but for me, this fits into the subject matter nicely. It doesn’t blow you away with its graphics and can be a bit glitchy at times but it’s not anything that takes away from your enjoyment.
Overall, this is a game which will have very individual experiences and views from the players who play it, good and bad, but is also a game which should be applauded for taking on its subject matter, making it very playable and treating it with the respect it deserves. More games like this please!