Video Game Review: “Antichamber”

 

Indie developer Alexander Bruce has created a mind-warping first-person puzzle game reminiscent of “Fez” and “Portal,” yet still entirely new and fresh.

The title is “Antichamber,” and its brilliant aesthetic, incredible puzzles and haunting soundtrack is something every fan of puzzle games—or even unique ideas and innovative gameplay—should experience. The brilliant colors, excellent level construction, and plethora of “aha!” moments result in a wonderful journey of madness and discovery none should pass up.

Commentary by Jake Magee

The game starts you out, inexplicably, in a bland chamber with a set of directions of how to play the game on one wall and an exit door taunting you from behind an impenetrable sheet of glass on the other. As you progress, the other two walls begin to fill with the complex map for quick access to specific areas and small graphics containing short, proverb-like bits of wisdom that are just as applicable in game as they are in real life.

As you begin your journey, you’re not given any direction or story at all. You merely start walking and see where the path takes you, and therein lies the beauty.

As you begin solving basic puzzles, you quickly realize this game doesn’t follow any rules but its own. Paths that disappear when you look at them, rooms that change depending on the angle you view them at and staircases that materialize where no path existed before are some of the unusual ways “Antichamber” establishes itself.

More than once, I found myself solving running through rooms only to turn a corner and impossibly end up where I had been ten minutes prior, and the resulting feeling of confusion and delight never escaped me. Just when you think you’ve figured out what it will take to solve the next puzzle, a new way of thinking becomes necessary to progress. The pacing is perfect and keeps you feeling rewarded without making the game too simple and cheap.

The feel of “Antichamber” quickly changes when you discover a gun that shoots and absorbs cubes scattered around the map. Using it opens a whole new way to solve puzzles. Cubes can be placed anywhere to create makeshift bridges and staircases, activate tripwires and hold moving doors in place.

The first-person gameplay and use of a futuristic firearm to solve puzzles will remind you of “Portal,” but “Antichamber” can’t truly be compared to it; the gameplay and style is entirely its own.

After you solve a few rooms using the cube gun, the game grows in difficulty. Fast. Pretty soon you’re finding forks in the road, solving multiple puzzles in the same room, and traveling to the other end of the map to solve chains of puzzles you didn’t even know were there.

The game becomes confusing; often you don’t exactly know what you’re solving, only that finding a solution here may open a door far down the road. The game isn’t so frustrating in its gameplay as it is in the fact that you often can’t remember where you need to go in order to advance to new puzzles.

Despite these minor setbacks, it’s clear in the first five minutes of gameplay that “Antichamber” is an achievement in thinking outside the box.

What the game lacks in story and depth it makes up for in incredible puzzle design, brilliant visual appeal and a perfect companion soundtrack. Fans of last year’s “Fez” or the “Portal” series need look no further than “Antichamber” to scratch that unique puzzle game itch. For only 20 bucks on Steam, “Antichamber” is practically a steal.

4 out of 5 stars.