Antichamber Review

Antichamber a gripping environmental puzzler that will continue messing with your mind long after you’ve finished its campaign.

Antichamber encourages you to forget everything you know about space, physics and the world that surrounds you so that you can then learn new ways of interacting. Naturally, this creates a constant confusion where the world of Antichamber clashes with the preconceived ideas you have about the real world. But that constant discrepancy makes Antichamber a gripping environmental puzzler that will continue messing with your mind long after you’ve finished its single-player campaign.

Antichamber 01

Yeah… I don’t even know how to describe this.

The environmental puzzles are mind-bending. To make progress, you need to take leaps of faith, backtrack, use unconventional weapons or look in a specific direction. You can’t make progress? Turn around and a new platform will materialize out of thin air, look up and the floor beneath your feet will disintegrate and so on. Explaining more puzzles would be revealing an important part of what makes Antichamber what it is, so I’ll refrain from saying anything else about the brainteasers or the mechanics that make them work. Still, take into account that this is a game that constantly changes its own rules and that’s part of what makes it so absorbing.

At first, navigating the labyrinthine maze seems impossible, but as you make progress, more mechanics come into play which let you solve puzzles that seemed unattainable just moments ago. So making progress is a combination of moving forward to find a tool and then backtracking a bit to solve puzzles using said tool.

Antichamber 02

There may be two stairways in front of you, but they’ll take you to the same place.

Instead of trying to define Antichamber by saying what it is, let’s say what it isn’t. Although there are visual cues here and there, Antichamber isn’t one of those games that constantly holds your hand. On the contrary, this is a title that encourages exploration, so most of the time, finding the solution to a given puzzle means making use of trial-and-error or running into the solution by sheer luck.

Furthermore, Antichamber isn’t a game that you play a few minutes at a time. It’s not a matter of playing for a while, solving some puzzles and then leave. The game requires careful exploration, paying attention to detail and analyzing the core mechanics until you’ve master them. Antichamber is the type of game that keeps you intellectually invested, so once you’re in the game’s world, the way in which you perceive your surroundings will change.

Antichamber 03

Throughout the game, I kept asking myself the same question.

Despite what some screenshots might lead you to believe, Antichamber isn’t Portal. Although the upgradable gun you have let’s you solve most of the brainteasers you run into, solving those puzzles isn’t as simple as pushing the right mouse button and left mouse button. In Antichamber, puzzles are more cerebral and some of them are so hard that you are likely to find their solution by chance.

From a visual aspect, Antichamber is extremely abstract. The levels are filled with colored-corridors, bizarre geometrical shapes, random acronyms, clever signs, appearing and disappearing platforms and cryptic symbols. On top of that, the map of the labyrinth seems unreadable at first and it’ll take you a while before you realize what each icon means.

Although minor, Antichamber isn’t without some problems. Since making progress isn’t a linear process, sometimes it’s hard to know if you have the necessary tools to solve a given puzzle or if you’re just stuck. Similarly, some of the puzzles are so convoluted that’s hard to find the solution without hints or the help of a more experienced friend.

Antichamber 04

Some puzzles are more convoluted than others.

Sometimes I was so frustrated with my inability to solve certain puzzles that I tried hitting escape to check the controls or the general configuration and the game sent me to the map of the labyrinth. This meant losing all the progress I’ve made on that particular puzzle. Although this sounds like a minor complaint, it was infuriating when it happened.

It’s almost impossible to play Antichamber and immediately forget everything you know about space, physics and the world around you. As a consequence, your mind will constantly develop ideas of its own to solve the unconventional puzzles that plague every corner of the game. Most of the times, your mind will be wrong, but when you finally unlock the door to a new section, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction that only a handful of games are able to transmit. And Antichamber is one such game.