Exploring another persons memories like in the movie The Cell sounds like great premise for a video game, Ether One is the first game that truly lives up to that idea.
Now I know that a lot of people have never heard of Ether One, it went completely under my radar until it showed up in a Humble Store sale and the trailer had me sold immediately. Thankfully the game itself also lived up to my expectation. The closest relatives to it are games like Dear Esther and Gone Home, which I both liked but as traditional walking simulators, they weren’t really challenging.
Ether One is in my opinion the better game. The story is a bit trickier to figure out though but instead of one house like in Gone Home you have a small town on your hand. The beginning is odd, but once the games opens up it starts to shine. Ether One also proves once again that video games don’t have to offer traditional mechanics or violence to offer a deep and rich experience.
The main game play involves the player solving puzzles by picking up items, inspecting them and trying to find clues and hints in the environment. There are no NPCs to guide or distract you, the environment is the true protagonist of the game. From the moment you step into the town of Pinwheel you can see with how much love and care the world has been built. All the puzzles have a purpose in the context of the town itself and don’t feel forced or just there to be an obstacle for the player. This becomes even more clear as a big amount of puzzles are actually skipable and completely optional.
Their difficulty levels vary but figuring out the creative way they are tied together is what makes Ether One truly shine and will keep you coming back until you solved them all. The moment when you realize a connection and solve a puzzle because of it is comparable to the feeling of accomplishment you'd usually get from finishing a difficult level or beating a hard boss in another game.
Weeks after beating it I still think of the feeling of being in Pinwheel and the time I lost sleep thinking over how a certain piece would fit in a puzzle. I can recommend Ether One to everyone who likes atmospheric games with challenging puzzles and who can appreciate a more low-key storytelling.