Ether One looks like a Walking Simulator at first but it's actually more like an evolution of Myst/Riven combined with the new Dear Esther line of games. A meatier Gone Home if you like. While you will spend most of the time exploring a masterfully handpainted British coastal village of the 60s (powered by the latest Unreal Engine) getting sound cues whenever you approach something meaningful, you will have to collect pieces of the various puzzles scattered around and put them together to learn more about the story of this now abandoned village and its long gone inhabitants.
While one could maintain that the environment is beautiful and extremely fascinating by itself, and the puzzles easy enough that you feel compelled to complete them even if you are usually not a big fan, it's the story that draws you in. It begins without telling you much, other than you are someone willing to undergo a certain experiment apparently dealing with memory recovery and memory loss. You enter a high tech facility and sit on a weird chair that sends you back to the magnificent Pinwheel Village and its wonderful tangle of intense, dramatic and lovely little stories. As a detective of memories, that you will somehow piece together, you will learn about a slew of minor facts and most importantly what led the village to its downfall, not to mention the most important task you've been sent to solve: who are you.
As I mentioned, I don't have the patience for puzzle games anymore, but Ether One got me hooked since the very first minute. The smartest idea White Paper Games came up with is that you DO NOT really have to solve the puzzles if you don't want to. You can advance the main story simply collecting some red ribbons in the each area you visit, but it goes without saying that by doing so you will skip the large amount of content they filled Pinwheel village with. Every house has a story, every office of the mining facility seems to have some memories worth uncovering and every character you find traces of in one part of the little town might have more of his/her personal story revealed later on as the lives of all these people were intertwined with each other, and their sons and daughters, as you would expect from such a tiny community. Thing can get emotionally intense, which is a bonus for me, but never in a suffocating way. For a puzzle game this does a really good job in leaving the players freedom to play it the way they like.
Took me about 15 hours to go through all the content I could find only to realize there's a whole extra section I missed that will totally make me replay the game. I feel like I am from Pinwheel too now, and I care about my neighbours or at least the memories of my neighbours, and feel bad for what happened to some of them or happy for the positive outcomes of some others. While I am sure that more expert puzzlers than me can finish the game in about 8 hours, there's much more to see and do than I was expecting from a 7€ title. The visuals are great and so is the level design, and a special mention deserves the audio department which does a wonderful job in giving life in an otherwise empty and abandoned village.
Rating: Buy it.