Ether One (PS4)
You are a restorer, missioned with the task of restoring the minds of people with dementia. While exploring through your patient Jean's mind, you may find out more about yourself in the process.
Main Story: 5-6 hours
Completionist: 11-12 hours
PS4: May 5, 2015
PC: March 25, 2015
Developer: White Paper Games
Publisher: White Paper Games
Genre: Adventure, Indie
Rating: E for Everyone
One of my favorite things about playing video games is the emotion that can be pulled out of the experience. A good game can pull you in and immerse you in the story and keep you interested all the way through. One argument that has been presented especially with newer generation consoles is the importance of good graphics over story. Personally, I have always preferred a good story to great graphics. If a video game can keep me invested in what is happening to its characters, I will stick around for the long run. Of course, this is not always the case. Look at Minecraft. It has no real story and very outdated graphics, but it’s one of the most successful games of our time. Ultimately, it all comes down to the most important question: are you having fun? Today, we are going to be looking at Ether One, a first person puzzle game that will push that question to a new level.
You play as a “restorer,” an employee of the Ether Institute of Telepathic Medicine. You are tasked to retrieve the memories of Jean Thompson, a patient who suffers from dementia. The Ether Institute has a machine that allows you to project yourself into someone else’s mind and repair it;.as you solve puzzles and explore Jean’s memories from her childhood home in small village of Pinwheel, you not only piece together some of the most important parts of her life, but you also find out more about your own and the life of Dr. Phyllis Edmunds, your guide through Jean’s mind and the doctor in charge of the project.
Aside from maybe two curse words, Ether One has no questionable content. There is no violence or sexual content; it is very story-driven with one goal in mind and that is to teach about the hardships of dementia.
Ether One is all about exploration. With each part of Pinwheel you discover, you will have to retrieve red bows that represent a part of a missing memory that you were sent to fix. As you comb through Jean’s memories, you will find broken film projectors scattered throughout Pinwheel. You can fix these projectors by solving puzzles around them and they will reveal more about Jean’s past, but here’s the kicker: you do not have to solve any puzzles if you don’t want to. If you want to just retrieve the red ribbons and move on, you can.
There are ten ribbons in each level and after collecting them all, you are transported to a dark room with a camera. With each picture you take, it restores more memories to Jean’s mind. You have the ability to transport yourself back and forth from Pinwheel to the institute where you can move items that you have picked up in the memory to reality. Since you can only carry one item at a time, if you decide to solve the puzzles, you will be doing this a lot. This feature made Ether One feel a little detached at times, as you would have to jump back into reality to go pick something up that you found a while back.
There are puzzles around every corner in Ether One. Some range from simple “move this here to find the hidden key” to “take this wire you found all the way across the map to a random generator to start up a machine that opens a door in another part of the map.” If you do decide to play by just finding the ribbons, you will be missing out on not only more of the history Jean has with her village, but also the satisfying experience of completing some rather difficult but fun puzzles.
Ether One does not have the best graphics, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in sound and story. There are five spots in Pinwheel for you to discover and explore, all with their own unique feel and design to them. You can explore everywhere from its bright and colorful village to the dark and mysterious mine. While Ether One is not the best looking game, there are some beautiful landscapes and visions to behold. There were no major technical glitches or bugs to be found during my playthrough, making the experience very smooth.
Ether One’s story is not a hugely in depth one, but it does not have to be. What it sets out to be is a tale that most people can relate to if they have ever had a family member or a loved one go through the harrowing process of dementia. White Paper Games did not leave a stone unturned during the writing process. There are parts where you feel like everything is going at least fairly well and others where you feel like the world is being turned upside down because of the horrible disease that has fallen Jean. Even though you never see her, you really start to feel invested in what you are doing to help Jean. When I reached the end, I had to sit back and really think about what life would be like for someone who is affected by this terrible disease and the effects it has on those closest to them.
The voice acting is incredibly well done. Each voice actor adds depth to their character and enhances the experience by adding not only a sense of urgency into what you are doing, but also by drawing your attention to what they saying. As you progress, Dr. Phyllis begins to explain why she is helping with the project and it adds a whole new layer to this game.
Ether One succeeds in ways where most “big games” fail. It creates a sense of propriety and emotion that unfortunately is getting harder and harder to find. While it is not perfect, it is still an enjoyable experience with satisfying results. If you are looking for a game with fun puzzles and an excellent story, I would suggest going with Ether One.
+ Fun and challenging puzzles
+ Great story
+ Excellent voice acting
- A lot of backtracking