Change your perception of a puzzle game right now. Just throw it out. Those puzzles you’ve seen recently in your third-person action games are all child’s play in relation to what I’ve just laid eyes on. I’ve been to Antichamber and I came back a different person – a shadow of my former self. Alright, maybe that’s an overstatement, but the lessons of reasoning, seeing the unseeable and expecting the unexpected are all very much the forces at work in the Antichamber – and it’s taken a very devoted man and very long time to pull it off.
Antichamber is the offspring of Alexander Bruce. If – like me – you hadn’t heard of this game until very recently – despite a preview of the Rezzed build being up on the site for over 6 months – then might I suggest reviewing your own gaming news networks. This brain-bursting game of visual riddles is what Christopher Nolan is to film-making. Alex was wracking up the awards for the game long before it formed into its finished state a good few yeas ago completely under my own radar – but that’s no more of a brain teaser than the puzzles of Antichamber itself – far from it, in fact.
Boot up the game and I’m sure you’ll feel a warm sense of well-being, belonging and déjà-vu. Look around you. You’re in a clean, white room with writing on the walls and its main menu all up in your personal space. It took me a few seconds to even realize I was in-game with the menu basically being interact-able parts of the environment – like the holographic door switches from Dead Space. Before you know it, you’re already prodding at the map on the reverse wall and delving into the chamber without hesitation.
“Walk”. That’s it. Looking forward and that’s all you have. You’re in a blank corridor with the words “Walk” levitating in the centre of the room. Below that; A wide, gaping hole. Already, the chamber teases and toys with your mind. Throughout each room you’re pressed with more reasons to not skip to conclusions, look before you leap and to see things from a different perspective. There’s a lot of emphasis going on that last one.
Throughout your time in the Antichamber, you’ll see some unusual things. After rebounding from several rooms and winding up back at the start, I pressed “ESC” just like the walls told me. They’re constantly picking you up from your failures with life lessons of encouragement to push you forward. It’s endearing at times, and uplifting all the rest. With each attempt – be it right or wrong – the boards on the wall are enough to keep you going. Perhaps they’re really the main thing pushing you forward in the end. Reading more of the philosophical phrases from the walls that you may have heard before, but never really understood, can sometimes become very clear once the Antichamber spells them out for you in a glorious mix of smartly designed – though gentle – visual brain teasers. They’ll never have you pulling your hair out and feeling like an sorry excuse of an intellectual lifeform, but instead, a more enlightened one.
Progressing further and further through the chambers will reward you with the tools you need to conquer even more. It’s as if a dungeon from The Legend of Zelda were stripped of its evil and recreated in Google SketchUp. The amount of times you’ll wind up in the room you left behind 10 minutes ago will poke at your head until eventually you come across the means to best it and move on – like climbing a mountain and then pushing yourself to claim an even higher one.
Through a mix of perception, illusion and faith, you’ll eventually come across the coloured gun placed conventiantly to get you to the next. oftentimes you’ll see the gun in a distant room with the next 20 minutes spent working out how to get there. With 4 weapons capable of mastering the coloured cubes around the chambers, you’ll start to regain the treasured memories of the companion cube you befriended back in Portal only to have it destroyed in front of your very eyes. Much like that cube, the matter placed around the chambers is there to get you out.
After just a few minutes have passed inside the chamber, you’ll begin to traverse room after room without so much of a thought of why you’re doing it or where you’re trying to go. You won’t know where each corridor leads until you get there, and that’s all you really need to keep pushing forward. The charming thing about the chamber is how it’s there to mess with your head in such a way that you don’t feel angry by its attempts, but instead rewarded – even though you gain nothing in face value for each room you solve. Antichamber really does push the boundaries of conventional video game design to a point where you don’t know what to believe in anymore – and that’s precisely what makes it such a grand journey.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Subtle sounds paint the image of surreal surroundings, much like the blankly designed walls around you. It really feels like you’re living inside a sketch as its being drafted.
Gameplay – 5/5: You can’t sum this up in two sentences. Antichamber leaves you feeling rewarded without rewarding you, toys with your head in such a way that you’ll want to say “thank you” by the end of it.
Innovation – 5/5: Trust an indie title to mess with the conventions of design. Having you see something that wasn’t there through another object only to have it suddenly become a reality never loses it’s appeal. Having the game world change your perception of what it already delivered is an incredibly compelling feel.
Value – 3/5: You won’t find anything to do once you’ve uncovered all of the chambers, sure: but you’ll come back just to bask in its creative marvel
Final Score: 4.5/5
– Josh reviewed Antichamber on PC -