The next sentence you read is one that my fingers will not type very often. If you have any kind of interest in playing Antichamber, do not read this review. For this rare moment in history, I grant you permission to jump right ahead to the score and leave (to another article, of course). That is because although Antichamber is very much a game, it’s also so much more. It’s an experience and boy golly is it a good one at that.
Part Portal, part acid trip, Antichamber essentially acts as one giant labyrinth for you to run through. Straight from the outset, you are placed in a mostly monochrome world – the smart menu itself, built into your surroundings. There is no tutorial and no manual; just a basic control scheme that you must become accustomed to before you are quickly sent on your merry way. That’s because the name of the game here, is exploration. You will be ushered from room to room, often presented with a ‘puzzle’ that requires solving in order to proceed. These are no ordinary riddles though; these are mind benders even the most dastardly foe would fear. In the beginning, things are simple – a bridge that only appears before your very eyes when you slowly walk over a seemingly giant abyss, for instance. But it doesn’t take long for everything to substantially escalate, meaning before long, your head and the wall will become quickly acquainted.
Solutions are discovered via creativity and experimentation within Antichamber’s deceptive environments. Maybe you’ll stare at a wall, only to watch it vanish, or maybe walking backwards will be the trigger. Once you’re in possession of your very own ‘weapon,’ expect your brain to hurt even more. Experiences such as this will undoubtedly aggravate you at first. It’ll make you curse the game’s Melbourne-based developer, Alexander Bruce, for placing such an emphasis on apparent ‘luck’ to proceed. Then you’ll realise something, much like I did. You’ll realise that Bruce isn’t the modern day Lucifer, but a revolutionary genius. Few video games force you to think outside the box anymore. For the most part, linearity and audience pandering is the order of the day, and while most gamers are fine with that, an experience like Anitchamber acts as a virtual palate cleanser.
Here is a game, truly unlike anything you have played before. The solutions you discover will not follow you throughout the rest of your journey in a logical manner. There is not one basic set of rules that you must follow in order to progress. Antichamber‘s world is constantly adapting around you. Just because an idea works once, does not guarantee it will work again. Instead, you must continue to experiment and test the world around you. As you do, small notes appear on walls, often recounting a lesson you have just mastered or foreshadowing a moment that is to come. They’re never intrusive and often bring a wry smile as you reveal in your own self-accomplishment.
Even the game’s basic visuals can help aid you in your quest forward. Brief spurts of colour can, at times, become a guiding light or clue as to what must be done next. During others, it can mislead you – a distraction in a black and white world until you find yourself trapped and forced back to the start all over again.
But being thrown into the start is not game-over. As you open new areas, your overall map expands, allowing you to instantly kick-start off again at any point you desire. Don’t get excited, though, that doesn’t mean your end-game is any easier to achieve. Rarely will you travel in one direct path, because you know, that would be normal. No, moving from room to room often teleports you all over Bruce’s maniacal creation. You’re never quite sure where you are, where you’re going or where you are meant to be.
If anything, it’s this notion that symbolises the entirety of the Antichamber experience. Uncertainty, wonder and an incredible wealth of enjoyment.
- Reviewed On