GAME REVIEWS PAVAN SHAMDASANI

Quest update for nostalgic gamers; sleeper hit Ethan Carter goes console

Sierra has recreated the magic of the Quest series for consoles, while Ethan Carter detective story has lost none of its gothic horror in transfer to PS4

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 August, 2015, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 August, 2015, 1:25pm

Nostalgic 1990s gamers rejoice - your prayers have been answered. After many years without an adventure to truly challenge us - without many games to excite and entertain our moderately puzzle-hungry minds - we've been rewarded with a new quest. Long-time fans of publisher Sierra will remember the many Quests that once kept us glued to our boxy, glaring PC monitors: the Police Quests and Space Quests, the EcoQuests and Quests for Glory.

All paled in comparison though, to the fittingly named King's Quest, the jewel in Sierra's crown. A Knight to Remember, the opening chapter of a five-part series available for the PC and Sony and Microsoft consoles, is the first game in the series in nearly 20 years. It's really a reboot of the series' first release from 1984, with our players once again following the eager adventurer Graham as he mentally battles it out against wannabes for the role of knight. Sierra and developers The Odd Gentlemen have cleverly kept things classic while simultaneously updating the series for a generation that's long forgotten good storytelling. There's the obvious graphical update, current-gen at its finest but with cartoon-like flair that ensures everything feels both realistic and animated.

There are puzzles, of course, the key gameplay component behind any good adventure game. These are challenging, but with ideal levels of humour and panache, each fitting for the tale that's being told. Veteran actor Christopher Lloyd narrates this adventure as the elderly Graham, relaying his tale to smarmy young granddaughter Gwendolyn, and it's here where the full flavour of the series comes rushing back. Whether it's the back-and-forth banter throughout or the humorous backtracking as you plummet meekly to your death, it's all delivered with the right sense of relatability, an old-school charm that never feels too put on.

That's what we all remember, though: the endless magnetism behind these games. Sierra has recreated that magic again, at least for this first chapter, and we're confident that this quest will lead to glory.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (The Astronauts) crept up on gamers when it first appeared for PC just under a year ago. With hardly any hype, little marketing and a title that didn't inspire much excitement, it wasn't predicted to be anything but a throwaway. Instead, Ethan Carter revealed itself as a surprising step forward in the world of adventure gaming.

Players were thrown into the storytelling deep end, given endless freedom to traverse wonderfully tonal environments as they solved a literary-inspired mystery. This PS4 transplant keeps every original detail intact, from the game's beautifully creepy atmosphere to the tattered rural setting, effortlessly switching things over to console without losing any of its distinctive qualities.

Gamers find themselves in the Pennsylvania countryside in the 1970s, taking on the role of a detective tasked with finding the missing child of the title. But this is no ordinary whodunnit - Ethan Carter is gothic horror at its finest, medium be damned, and the writers behind it have done an incredible job crafting well-rounded characters, a uniquely eerie setting and subtext galore, which still resonates even after the credits have rolled and everything has seemingly fallen into place. Ordinarily, gamers would be treated to a limited setting in which much is laid out for them. Ethan Carter subverts all that with its incredible freedom - players can explore the vast wilderness in any order they choose.

As for the actual puzzles, patience is key: these are far from your run-of-the-mill brainteasers. A unique flashback structure, alongside many modern-day challenges, create a pleasing sense of novelistic confusion, while a wily sense of logic and plenty of scribbling on paper are required to keep afoot of the goings-on.

Switching Ethan Carter over to the PS4 wasn't much effort for developers The Astronauts. The game always felt like a classic PC adventure updated for the new world, but it certainly looked more like a console escapee: first-person perspective, wonderful environments, endless liberties, and the kind of unsettling atmosphere normally only seen on the big screen. If you missed it the first time around, Ethan Carter is ideal for fans of any medium.