Gaming for the X-Files Fan's Soul: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

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Gaming for the X-Files Fan's Soul: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Sometimes you have an itch that simply can't be scratched. Characters you loved disappear into the recesses of fanfic and Netflix binge watching, long gone plot threads from dead TV shows, comics, and novels dangling in your memory. What you really want isn't necessarily more of the old stuff. Would new episodes of The X-Files really be awesome? Seeing Mulder and Scully with iPhones, instantly looking up info on demigod worshipping cults via their Twitter feed just seems wrong. What you really want is just something new to scratch the itch, something that captures the tone, texture and feel of that lost fiction love. If you're an old X-Files freak, The Astronauts' The Vanishing of Ethan Carter will soothe your mind and body.

As Joystiq's own Richard Mitchell noted in his review of Vanishing when it came out in September, it's hard to say too much about the game without giving away much of its magic. Like a complex illusion, peering too deep into its workings before the prestige may ruin your enjoyment of it. Even on the surface, though, The Astronauts captures the arboreal beauty and intimidation of The X-Files.

In the game, Detective Paul Prospero heads off into Red Creek Valley to find Ethan Carter, his young pen pal with strange abilities. That sense of something old and strange lurking just beneath the surface of the mundane that made The X-Files's standalone episodes so powerfully addictive runs through every inch of Vanishing. When you start poking through Red Creek's windy autumn forests, stumbling upon scenes of stark violence in your search for Ethan, you really do feel like a paranormal investigator.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is by no means pure X-Files. There are moments of peace and relief in the game, but its melancholic atmosphere is never broken up by humor. Paul Prospero never talks about his exhaustive porn collection to make you laugh in the middle. Even without the laughs, though, this is gaming far closer to Mulder and Scully's journeys into the American wilderness than the actual X-Files games that hit PS1 and PS2.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is available now on Steam for $20, and will be available on PlayStation 4 in 2015.
[Images: The Astronauts]

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