Antichamber just blew my mind

I didn’t know a whole lot about Antichamber when I started playing. That ignorance was intentional; after first laying eyes on last year’s teaser trailer for the indie puzzle game, I decided it would be best to steer clear of reviews and other promotional materials. Some things are best experienced untainted by preconceived notions, and this looked like one of them.

Besides, the teaser revealed that Antichamber had already won all kinds of awards on the indie gaming circuit. That’s usually a pretty good indicator a game doesn’t suck.

After spending several evenings with Antichamber, I can confirm that all of the accolades are well-deserved. I cannot, however, say that I have a firm grasp of what’s actually happening in the game. That’s part of what makes the experience so compelling.

Antichamber starts abruptly, with no story or introduction to set the stage. There’s no tutorial, either. You figure things out as you go along, aided only by cryptic hints scrawled on the walls. These illustrated clues provide vital insight into a game world unlike anything I’ve explored before.

The stark, largely black-and-white environments look like they’ve been pulled from M.C. Escher’s sketchbook. They show a similar disdain for Euclidean space. The world is presented in three dimensions, but those dimensions don’t always line up as one might expect. Corridors that should lead to the next room sometimes empty out right where you began—and without covering the necessary distance or making the turns required to actually loop around to your original position. Even the content of the world can change based on the speed of your movement and the direction you happen to be looking.

Want to navigate this surreal maze successfully? Be prepared to forget everything you think you know about how to play video games. Antichamber seems to delight in defying expectations. The scattered hints may seem vague and obtuse, but they make it pretty clear Antichamber shouldn’t be approached like other games. At times, it feels like you’re playing against yourself, battling habits reinforced by years spent in titles designed according to an entirely different rulebook.

Although Antichamber isn’t a shooter, there are guns. These are used to solve puzzles by manipulating blocks of matter distributed throughout the world. I’ve managed to collect three of the four guns so far, and each one behaves differently. The game doesn’t tell you how differently, of course, but it provides ample opportunity for you to make that determination yourself.

If my descriptions seem a bit hazy, that’s because I’m trying to avoid saying too much. Antichamber‘s genius, at least for me, is how it lets players discover the world for themselves. The game doesn’t unfurl before your eyes; you unwrap it, fold by fold, as if deconstructing an intricate piece of origami from the inside out.

While the process is often frustrating and confusing, the puzzles don’t feel unfairly difficult. Players aren’t really penalized for failure. It’s impossible to die, as far as I can tell, and hitting the Escape key brings you to a sort of home room that allows instant warping to any location you’ve visited. One wall of this room contains all the hints encountered thus far, while another has a 90-minute countdown timer. Nothing happens when the time runs out, but I assume there’s some kind of bonus for finishing within the limit. That may be the only achievement the game offers, since rewards aren’t doled out for progression.

In a game like this, progression is the reward. I’ve felt deep satisfaction solving some of the puzzles and figuring out various mechanics. I’ve also felt incredibly stupid for not seeing some solutions earlier, especially since they were right there in front of me the whole time. Antichamber can be maddening when you’re stuck, but getting unstuck is a liberating experience. You’re freed not only from the shackles of the puzzle, but also from the preconceptions making the path forward—or not forward—so difficult to see.

So, yeah, mind blown. And I haven’t even finished the thing yet.

The more I think about it, the more Antichamber reminds me of a low-grade magic mushroom trip. Or, ahem, so I’ve heard. I’m not talking about hallucinating roughly sketched surroundings with occasional splashes of vivid color, but about perceiving the world from an askew perspective that offers moments of genuine insight and inspiration. Playing Antichamber evokes a relaxing, almost meditative state, as the ambient soundtrack and overall design encourage calm contemplation.

At $20 on Steam, Antichamber is a little pricier than the average indie game—and more expensive than the psychoactive fungi I may or may not have ingested during my misspent youth. But there is real depth and brilliance here, even if the developer’s methods feel just a little bit exploitative.

Comments closed
    • sammiej230oo
    • 6 years ago
    • willmore
    • 6 years ago

    Now on sale half off at Steam:
    [url<]http://store.steampowered.com/app/219890/[/url<]

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      The installer’s borked, but if you run all of the individual stand-alone 3rd party installers you can get the game to work under Steam.

        • willmore
        • 6 years ago

        Hmm, worked for me. Of course, I got motion sickness a half hour in. No native resolution support? Really? FFS….

        • Aphasia
        • 6 years ago

        Worked fine for me too when I bought just as it came out.

    • annamavrovski230
    • 6 years ago
    • Ashman9001
    • 6 years ago

    Great post – This will definitely be my next game purchase.

    I’m just glad there’s more games out there that don’t mollycoddle you through the experience.
    I think Dark Souls was the last game I played where I ever felt truly challenged.

    • fellix
    • 6 years ago

    Very similar concept to Q.U.B.E. — a brain-storming FPS.

    • Aphasia
    • 6 years ago

    I would say it’s actually a must buy for anybody interrested in artsy puzzles. It’s a great game and took me what… 8 hours to find every single nook and cranny of the game, although at one Point I cheated for a single solution that I somehow missed. That said, if you look at the speedrun, I think the record is 4min 53 seconds or something totally bypassing most of it using some very clever things that I dont even think the developers envisioned.

    • cynan
    • 6 years ago

    Why wasn’t this review simply titled: “Antichamber: Worth checking out despite being more expensive than (what I used to pay for) shrooms”?

    • Kurkotain
    • 6 years ago

    I’m rather fond of the indie horror genre. SCP: Containment Breach comes to mind as one of the best examples.

    The game isn’t trying to jumpscare (discounting SCP-173) you; 20 minutes in, you feel genuinely scared of the enviroment, the atmosphere, the sounds, the unknown and what plainly just doesn’t make any sense.

    Just like a proper horror game ought to be.

    Seriously, try it.

    • brucethemoose
    • 6 years ago

    Antichamber is brilliant. You summed it up perfectly, but words are simply inadequate for describing this game… I would’ve shelled out $60 for it.

    Remember Cyril’s frustrations?
    [url<]https://techreport.com/blog/24613/modern-shooters-and-the-atrophy-of-fun[/url<] Blockbuster FPS titles bundled with graphics cards aren't the only games around. These days, the absolute best games are coming from Indie developers. Look at Minecraft, Antichamber, the Spring RTS engine, Enderal, Bastion, all the amazing things on ModDB, and the hundreds of other titles... There's some truly astounding gameplay out there if you're willing to dig deep enough. And more is coming. Starforge, for example, is an RTS, FPS, RPG, Voxel Builder, Tower Defense, and Physics Sandbox game all in one, Planetary Annihilation will make Starcraft II look silly, and alot of those enormous Kickstarter projects are coming out next year, if not this year. The biggest games are coming from the smallest developers [/rant] Seriously though. Cyril, if you're reading this, drop what you're doing and go play Antichamber.

    • BIF
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]The world is presented in three dimensions, but those dimensions don't always line up as one might expect. Corridors that should lead to the next room sometimes empty out right where you began—and without covering the necessary distance or making the turns required to actually loop around to your original position. Even the content of the world can change based on the speed of your movement and the direction you happen to be looking. [/quote<] What you're describing is a quantum-based game. Did you find any cats yet?

      • ronch
      • 6 years ago

      Bettet yet, is the cat dead or alive?

        • nanoflower
        • 6 years ago

        Yes! So long as you don’t open the box.

          • trackerben
          • 6 years ago

          So long as you don’t look.

            • yogibbear
            • 6 years ago

            So long as you gouge your eyes out first!

      • Sheogorath
      • 6 years ago

      There was actually a cat reference somewhere…

      • Wirko
      • 6 years ago

      It might as well be a simulation of Modern UI. Any hot corners? Any charms bars?

      • PixelArmy
      • 6 years ago

      Sounds like you are the cat in this game…

        • BIF
        • 6 years ago

        Ooh, nice answer!

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    Have you played Portal 2? This sounds like a low budget version of it (not that there is anything wrong with that). I’m sure you have, just curious as you didn’t make any sort of comparisons.

      • wizpig64
      • 6 years ago

      Yeah it’s very much like an open world portal.

      • Dissonance
      • 6 years ago

      I’ve played both Portal games. Loved ’em. But this experience feels very different in a lot of ways, enough that I didn’t want to draw any comparisons.

        • brucethemoose
        • 6 years ago

        Same, and I agree.

        • Bensam123
        • 6 years ago

        Hrmmm…

          • Meadows
          • 6 years ago

          Has nothing to do with Portal.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 6 years ago

      It’s something entirely different to Portal, believe me. Portal is set in a conventional reality, and gives you a tool to bend the rules.

      Antichamber is set in its own reality, where the basic physical rules are constantly in flux, and you have to work out how to use the changing rules to your advantage.

      • tipoo
      • 6 years ago

      It’s actually quite different. Similar in the first person puzzle concept I suppose, but the mechanics are very different.

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