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Review: AntichamberSteam PC indie puzzle Antichamber
Developer: Alexander Bruce
Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: January 31, 2013
ESRB: N/A (E suggested)
Puzzle games have really been seeing a comeback over the past few years. With the huge success of Portal, other developers saw that the genre could still be extremely popular with more than color matching or other 2D puzzle mechanics. That leads us to 2013 where the release of Antichamber has been making waves. The question now is whether the game is simply derivative of something else or if it is an entirely new experience?
It’s incredibly easy to answer that question after spending only a few minutes with the game. Antichamber offers up a wildly creative puzzle game which is best compared to Portal only because they both use first person viewpoints. Oh, and there also happens to be a gun that can shoot things, but they certainly aren’t portals. For best results, clear your mind of all Portal references and read on.
Antichamber is a game that reveals very little to the player. At the start, you are dropped into a location with little pretense and no story. You are told the controls, but beyond that you’re on your own to discover and figure out just what on earth the game is about. Basically, you’re set to solve a variety of puzzles throughout the environment. I say “basically” because that is what it all boils down to, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has played it and thinks that all the game offers.
What makes the game so instantly compelling is how players are forced to discover and learn everything on their own. Sometimes the game offers up commands spelled out in blocks such as “jump!” or “don’t look down”. So what do you do? Do you obey their orders or try something different? Each response results in different things so it’s not as if any one choice is wrong. This is a huge strength of the game because there is never only one way to explore. The hallways and rooms you visit weave a fairly large map full of puzzles, but it’s up to you to figure out how to get from one end to the other.
Of course, no area is simply a breeze to walk through. Each new room and discovery also yields a new puzzle to solve. Puzzles go from simple to quite complex with regularity. For example, some puzzles require players to simply walk instead of run. Others, however, require some serious thought about the multiple steps required to simply open a door. After a bit of exploration, players encounter their first gun as well which introduces the element of blocks into the game. With blocks, you can block sensors, hold up doors, and activate functions.
Unlike most puzzle games, you aren’t simply left to your own devices to power through solutions. Sometimes, the game shows its cruel side by tricking you. You may be excitedly be exploring a new puzzle-rich area to simply fall through the floor. These aren’t glitches, but carefully designed events meant to keep players alert. Even if you do end up somewhere very different, all that must be done is press the escape key to get back to a hub. From there, you can instantly warp back to any explored location.
One other massively intriguing feature of Antichamber is the fact that the world is not static. For example, there are times when you may enter an area, turn around, and find that the entrance you had gone through is now gone. Similarly, looking through certain windows and looking out will reveal that you have entered the area you were previously looking at. Things are always in flux and it is astounding.Games rarely attempt strange feats like this which makes it especially neat. Thankfully, changes never become overwhelming or too constant, so they are able to leave players with a feeling of wonder rather than frustration.
For all endearingly different about the game, there are still some issues. One of the biggest is that a handful of customers have found the game crashes on them. This has yet to happen to me but is a very valid complaint until the issue is resolved. Another issue is that the control on aiming and placing blocks leaves something to be desired. Considering how ambitious the game is though, this is a pretty minor complaint. Finally, the game is not tremendously long (6-8 hours) if you’re proficient with the style of puzzles.
Those who wish to try a very different sort of puzzle game definitely need to check out Antichamber. There is so much creativity bursting from the game that would never be found in a more standard release. With tons of puzzles and exploration available to players, it creates an experience sure to leave you confused but also enjoying it. Hopefully Antichamber’s success will have us seeing more games by Alexander Bruce in the future.
+ Tons of puzzles to discover
+ Large environment to explore
+ Unexpected and interesting environmental changes
- Crashing occurs for some users
- Finicky placement of blocks
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Antichamber is the game for people who want to engross themselves in a weird and exciting puzzle-filled world.
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