“…more rewarding than any Sudoku or Crossword puzzle when you find the consistency in the universe’s warped rules.”
ANTICHAMBER is like walking around an Escher painting: endless, confusing and terrifying at times. Yet, in doing so, you gain an intimate understanding of the twisted logic that defines the space.
When you start, you’re dropped in a stark white room with a chasm between you and a black sign. “Jump!” reads the bright pink text ahead of you. In any other game, this would be a predictable and familiar way of teaching players the jump mechanic. In Antichamber, trying to jump the gap will land you at the bottom of the pit – but a sign reads “failing to succeed does not mean failing to progress”.
You walk through a tunnel and round an infinite staircase before finding the chasm is discovered by looking behind you. It seems like the same space, but now the text says “Walk.” Doing so glides you to the other side.Within 60 seconds, Antichamber tells you what it will remind you throughout the game: forget everything you know about game design.
The clean interconnected ‘puzzle rooms’ whiff a bit of other first-person puzzlers (The Ball, Portal), but you won’t have seen challenges like Antichambers anywhere else. Abandonment of ingrained laws of space and perception overshadows the management of boxes, buttons and cubes as the key game mechanic. Game-breaking is the focus of Antichamber, and with each room forcing you into a new way of thinking about puzzles, it’s much harder than you think.
Using a conventional solution to a problem will lead you back to where you started – but this isn’t always a bad thing.
It’s scary to feel powerless in a universe that seems to bend its laws just to trick you, but more rewarding than any Sudoku or Crossword puzzle when you find the consistency in the universe’s warped rules.
Later in the game, more block pushing is introduced and it’s a shame to have the anti-puzzles take a backseat to ones we’ve seen hundreds of times before, particularly when tedious 2D problems prevent you from progressing.
The joy of Antichamber lies in the feeling of wrestling with a strange beast from the inside. You’ll be repeatedly tricked and led places you weren’t intending to go, but discovering how to use the space’s bent rules to your advantage makes for novel gameplay.
It’s a technical and design feat, but the flatness of the atmosphere and lack of real story make it easy to surrender when you can’t see a solution.