Price: £14.99 Developer: White Paper Games Publisher: White Paper Games Platform: PC
First person adventure games are a genre I am helplessly attracted to, like a moth to a flame, or an idiot to UKIP. And like both of these pitiful creatures, I often find myself burned by this attraction. It turns out there's a reason why first person games have relied on guns to provide compelling experiences for so long, and it isn't because gamers are all psychopaths. Guns enable the player to interact with the world in a variety of ways at a variety of distances, and removing them leaves a gap that is very difficult to fill.
In recent years games like Dear Esther, Gone Home and Amnesia have all tried to resolve this problem, and while each attempt has been admirable, none has proved definitive. Now we have Ether One, another first-person game that eschews traditional action and violence in favour of exploration and storytelling. Can it succeed where so many others have failed?
Not quite, but it sure isn't for lack of trying.
Ether One is set in the not-too-distant future, where a research initiative is on the verge of finding a cure for dementia. This is achieved through the work of "Restorers", who enter the minds of patients through telepathic means, explore their fragmented memories and attempt to piece their life stories together, thus returning coherency to the patient's mind and treating the ailment. Ether One's story casts you as one such restorer, treating a 69 year old patient named Jean on the day before the institute's research grant expires.
The story has multiple layers to it, and it's this which makes it so intriguing. On the one hand, there's the story of Jean herself, who has apparently been strongly influenced by an accident at a mine near her Cornish hometown of Pinwheel. Yet weaved within this is the institute's own struggle with its research into dementia, and the plight of your supervisor - who doubles as the narrator - between human compassion, scientific objectivity, and the need for funding.
Credit must also be given to the environmental design in terms of keeping Ether One engaging. The village of Pinwheel and its surrounding locales is an absolute delight to explore. The opening area, Pinwheel's harbour, has quickly ascended to very near the top of my list of "favourite gaming locations". I want to buy a pint in the Crow's Nest pub, sit outside and watch the sun set between the masts the moored fishing vessels, listening to the waves lap against the shore, and the herring gulls cry as they wheel in the air above.