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Review

Antichamber Review

  • Game release: January 31, 2013
  • Reviewed: January 31, 2013
  • PC

Antichamber bends the rules of space and time with challenging puzzles and a fantastic sense of atmosphere.

by

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Antichamber is a game that demands patience. Its puzzles can't be rushed, nor their solutions fully grasped without a second's thought. No, this is a puzzle game that rewards a gentle, studious approach of careful logic and inventive experimentation. It helps to keep an open mind too, for there are few rules that Antichamber doesn't shatter with its swaths of non-Euclidean space and its stark, stylish visuals. But while its trials of the mind verge on the extreme at times, they are an integral part of this remarkable achievement. Few games reward you with such an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and intelligence, or boast such thought-provoking game design.

Part of the charm lies in Antichamber's reluctance--however complex the task--to provide you with anything more than the simplest of instructions. There's no hand-holding, no drawn-out tutorial section, and no quick-and-easy puzzle to get you started. Instead, you're placed in a small chamber where the walls are covered with the basic first-person controls, and an interactive map points you towards the first puzzle. It's from this room that you see the many secrets of the game unfold. With each puzzle you discover, the map grows larger, while another wall is gradually filled with unsettling but clever sketches and clues that you uncover during your journey.

Aside from providing visual feedback on your progress, this starting chamber performs an important task; it is the only constant in a journey full of misdirection. There are no set paths to wander down or a narrative to point you in the right direction. The joy of Antichamber is in discovering things about the world that shock, mystify, and teach. When you encounter a puzzle, you never feel like you were pushed there or that a character forced you. The path you take through Antichamber is guided by your own curiosity and your own inventiveness. So it helps that at any point you can instantly jump back to the starting chamber to gather your thoughts and see the sprawling path you've carved through the many puzzles.

Those puzzles are unlike anything you may have seen before. The simple white walls and thin black lines that make up each room, hallway, and tunnel provide an impeccable distraction-free backdrop for the most complex of ideas. There are rooms where stairs that point up or down lead back to the same starting point, and rooms where four right turns lead you into a completely different area. Floors appear in midair, walls disappear before your eyes, and huge chasms send you on endless loops back to their peaks. To succeed in Antichamber, you must forget the rules and embrace its unique way of thinking. And that applies not only to the laws of physics, but to the rules of video games too.

Where you might be inclined to push forward, going back may open up a new set of options. Jumping headfirst into a chasm might normally spell death, but here it is a means of exploring areas that are seemingly out of reach. There are no set rules to how these rooms are connected or how they interact with one another, which makes wrapping your head around the game's most wild ideas a stiff but inherently satisfying mental challenge. If you get stuck, your only option is to mull over each puzzle, and keep trying until you get it right. What little help you receive comes in the form of cryptic clues and illustrations scrawled onto walls that kick-start the thought process rather than give you direct hints about each puzzle.

What really messes with your mind, though, are the later combinations of logical and lateral thinking. The logical puzzles take the form of Antichamber's most traditional game-like mechanic, which is a gun that lets you pick up and place small cubes around the environment. The cubes are used to open doors, trigger laser trip wires, and build objects that can be used as bridges and steps. Those puzzles alone are tricky enough, but to switch between lateral and logical ways of thinking--and to often combine the two--is a challenge that can break even the most astute of minds. But with such great trials come even greater moments of elation. It helps, too, that the solutions never seem unfair.

Even during the later stages of your adventure, Antichamber continues to surprise with its puzzles and delight with their solutions. Most impressive of all is how it creates a sense of foreboding and horror, not through its narrative or with cheap scare tactics, but with the puzzles themselves. When the very fabric of reality is made meaningless by a world where up can mean down, left can mean right, and walls can be nothing at all, everything takes on a deeply sinister edge. The soundtrack that backs it all up adds to the foreboding, building up as it does from nothing into a fittingly eerie, synth-driven ambient soundscape.

There are moments in Antichamber that remain with you long after you've uncovered your last clue and solved your last puzzle. What has been created within its barren walls is supremely intelligent and wildly inventive, and Antichamber doesn't give up its ideals for the sake of accessibility. The few spells of frustration are fleeting and never compromise Antichamber's powerful achievements in design and style. "Every journey is a series of choices," you're told at the beginning of your adventure. You should choose to begin yours in Antichamber: it really is quite unlike anything else.

'
The Good
Mind-bending and inventive puzzle design
Stark and stylish visuals
Eerie ambient soundtrack is a fitting accompaniment to your travels
Gives you a great sense of accomplishment
The Bad
Some brief moments of frustration
8.5
Great
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87 comments
twistedman
twistedman

I couldn't disagree more with the reviewer. Antichamber looks and plays nice at first, but as soon as you progress in the game, it becomes really tedious and is no longer enjoyable, or even worth the effort that it takes to finish completely. Cumbersome backtracking gets boring very quickly and the actual ending is confusing and doesn't help at all. As a result, the overall experience is poor. And, despite the fact that Antichamber itself is a one-man-made game, this is a 4-out-of-10 for me, at best. It could have been so much better, what a shame...

twistedman
twistedman

I couldn't disagree more with the reviewer. Antichamber looks and plays nice at first, but as soon as you progress in the game, it becomes really tedious and is no longer enjoyable, or even worth the effort that it takes to finish completely. Cumbersome backtracking gets boring very quickly and the actual ending is confusing and doesn't help at all. As a result, the overall experience is poor. And, despite the fact that Antichamber itself is a one-man-made game, this is a 4-out-of-10 for me, at best. It could have been so much better, what a shame...

Lan_EX_Hikari
Lan_EX_Hikari

"Some brief moments of frustration." --Brought by oneself you meant.
Antichamber finally lead me to avoid any spoilers or walkthroughs from GameFaqs, I played it and if I ever got stuck, I went to bed and started over the following day. It's an unique experience on its own and failing is part of succeding.
I concur with this review though, it summarises one good share of what you can expect because every trip leads to a personal journey.

bruno_fmenedes
bruno_fmenedes

Very good review Mark!

I liked this game and the way it makes you think in a different way than in other puzzle games. But I have to say I found those "moments of frustration" to be much more significant and frequent than whats mentioned in the review. It doesn't explain extremely well how to use certain gameplay mechanics, which, depending on how soon you figure it out, can lead to a good amount of unnecessary frustration and repetition. And I like a good maze but in Antichamber there are a couple of times that the level design crosses the line into confusing for the sake of being confusing, with multiple paths leading to the same place you've been before, and not to just stimulate your brain.

If the game only bothered to explain better how to use each one of the gameplay mechanics, in other words, demanded less guessing from the player, the game would've been significantly better. The way it is now, you spend a good amount of time just figuring out how to play Antichamber, when you wanted to be focused on just actually playing Antichamber.

Still a very good and atmospheric 1st-person-action-puzzle game. Reminded me of playing the first Portal, because it has the same fresh feel of playing something truly original. Comparing to Portal, since they are similar games, Antichamber is less accessible, funny and slower paced, but it's more atmospheric, clever and will keep you busy for a few more hours, having the same 20$ price Portal was sold in the year of its release.

MY SCORE: 8.0/10

ViggyNash
ViggyNash

"The bad: some brief moments of frustration."

Well, no fucking shit. The point of the game was a meta analysis of traditional game design by convoluting it like an MC Escher sketch. You are supposed to be very confused at many points of the game since it pretty much always contradicts what you might logically think to be the correct path. But as you learn the mechanics of the game and how they apply to the various puzzles you'll encounter, the game will start to get a bit easier. At least until you find the next puzzle. This is a came you can only enjoy if you understand the point of the experience. It isn't about progress, especially since the game can be beaten in under 10 minutes if you knew the path to follow. If you're getting frustrated, you are either forgetting basic mechanics or not thinking far enough out of the box. 

BenderUnit22
BenderUnit22

Didn't like it that much. There are a lot of cool mind-benders, but two thirds of the paths loop back to somewhere you've already been to with no benefit, making me feel like I just wasted a lot of time. There were also some puzzle that I don't know if I solved them as intended.

Techmaster666
Techmaster666

This game is awesome, but not meant for everybody.
In Antichamber progress is based on understanding, more than advancement.
The game isn't just about puzzle... it's somehow about sperimentation.
There are many possible courses, some of them will lead to the same results, others are dead ends. You can't take anything for granted and the appearance is often deceiving.

About the visuals, I had no issues watching the monitor for hours.

About the game being a chore... it's quite the opposite.
Usually games explain you their mechanics and thenask you to use them.
That's a chore!
Antichamber doesn't tell you its mechanics, you have to understand and learn them first hand.

This games has a lot in common with Samuel Loyd's puzzles, you need to think outside the box and you'll have no help.

Khalidosan
Khalidosan

I just finished the game and it gave me an intense mental workout. Perplexing in a sense but it's more abstract to be honest. I played through chowing down countless numbers of carbs and still feeling hungry... The game actually upped my glucose consumption and my metabolism just went haywire with all neurons at play. Even after tackling every obstacle being it logical or just plain product of experiment, the game always gave you the sense that you didn't achieve much. It basically treats every obstacle like a hurdle and not as an actual challenge. In this approach, the game doesn't give any sense of gratuity or accomplishment. It just one-ups you and gives a snark remark. In a sense, the game itself is sort of self-conscious and conceited.

BUUUUUT!!!! Here's the thing !!!

If any of you are familiar with movie "Cube" you'd realize that this game is not about providing reassurance or comfort. It wasn't designed to necessarily give an easy and enjoyable experience ( as I said much of the concept is abstract and if you go through the game you'll get not so subtle hints of how self-involved the game developer is and how he forces his views on to you). But as mentioned, it's his domain and you are to decipher whatever convuloted maze this guy has manifested.This isn't a game, it's a reflection of of the developer himself and what he wants people to witness. It's an experience more than an enjoyable trip.

In regards to previous comments:

- The Representation of the game reflects its character. It's rigid and straight to the point and the colors are just there to add a certain accent and diverge from any sense of absoloutely monotony?

- When you take an IQ test or go through a maze ( Let's say a rat maze for instance ). It's purely for the purpose of the results and the designers predictions. The challenge is set to whatever the designer or architect wants to achieve and get through and not what you expect. If it was built to your expectations then it wouldn't be a maze would it ?

- Games are evolving. Templates and platforms are advancing. More and more people are sharing their vision. I commend indie developers in how they cut from the mold of mainstream and conventional gaming and turn into an actual expression. I believe in that sense, that they've adopted an unconventional and remarkable art form which should be acknowledged in it own right. I choose to perceive this as an experience not a game.

- Again, if you wanna know what's really messed up,check out the movie " CUBE" ( Caps-Lock for emphasis)

jerusaelem
jerusaelem

Boring, and honestly not very fun. It's the video game equivalent to solving a box full dayglo Rubik's cubes while tripping on acid in a dentists office waiting room full of motivational signs that look as through they were doodled out by a lame high school guidance counselor. More a measure of boredom and patience than skill or intelligence. I plodded through in about 6-7 hours, stumbling over illogical puzzle solutions almost as often figuring the "logical" ones on my own. I found the first two guns, as an example, completely by accident in the first 10-15 minutes. I'm not bragging mind you, as there was no intellectual agility involved. I just stumbled across them, and a sign on the wall reassured me that it was "ok to take a short cut sometimes". Whatever you say, anonymous guidance counselor!

If you thought the video reviews and game play footage looked boring, trust your gut. With very few exceptions it never really gets much better than what you've seen. However, if you've ever fancied the idea of wandering around a digital maze with a kaleidoscope taped to each of your eyeballs, this may be your lucky day. If you're looking for a genuine challenge, you may want to venture elsewhere. 

Zevvion
Zevvion

It's a good review, though I feel that the game being frustrating at points is your own fault. I had that too. I was frustrated to bits, but it was really me who was frustrating me, not the game. That's an idea Antichamber gets across so really well.

Also, the learning curve is kind off the thing the game does. It wants you to think yourself, not hint at how you can solve things.

So yeah, those points are true, but at the same time, they feel like part of the game.

M-Mniny
M-Mniny

doesn't have the Portal charm, still a very good game ..

good review by the way.

Naylord
Naylord

I'll get it as soon as it goes on sale. Can't wait

shadow131990
shadow131990

I really don't know who can finish this game in 3 hr . It took me 10 hr . It's a really good puzzle game. One of the best I've played .

Zarkhaine
Zarkhaine

Just finished this game and it is amazing. I thoroughly recommend it! (The only thing wrong with the game is that some rooms and areas that seem like puzzles sometimes aren't, so you can spend loads of time trying to figure something out, only to find out that nothing happens, and you've just wasted 30 mins on nothing.) But seriously, it's awesome!!!

Thyasianman
Thyasianman

I am very interested in buying this game, but I would love to know how long the game is. Anybody got some times? Also, is it worth the money? It's currently on sale on steam for $15.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

....and this was such a pretentious review! Really made me cringe.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

The Good - blah blah

The Bad - Didn't you forget the obvious, disgusting, eye burning visuals?

I'm one of the first to promote gameplay over graphics, but this is not just half assed and sloppy, it actually hurts my eyes to look at and is just too uncomfortable to play.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

I just finished the game and it was amazing. Though had anyone else played it? 

I was able to finish the game without ever getting the last red gun. I know there are some optional areas like a room with info about early stages of the game, but I feel like I figured out a way to bypass a whole section. Curious if anyone else can provide some input.

gamelovercouk
gamelovercouk

Love the Drunk Portal comment.  I have far too many other things going on in  my life to have the time to play this game. Which is a shame because it does sound amazing. My Brain  has been fried trying to work out my energy bills !

starduke
starduke

This game looked like someone took Portal and got it really incredibly drunk.  I definitely want to play it!

xeno1ith
xeno1ith

This looks like an IQ test dream world.

Minishdriveby
Minishdriveby

I got a little nauseous watching the review. I don't think I could handle it.

faizanhd
faizanhd

Faith in the gaming industry,RESTORED.

SciFiCat
SciFiCat

This reminds me why I love video games, because it allows for experiences that would be impossible in the real world.

Grovilis
Grovilis

I really wish I could wipe my brain of everything I've seen/heard about this game so that I could walk in blind.

Billieguy
Billieguy

@twistedman Or you just are not that open minded or smart. Sorry, but I had to throw that out there.

monicker
monicker

@Techmaster666 Dude, I know. ENOUGH WITH THE DAMN TUTORIALS!!  Often, typically don't get to actually PLAY the game until like 15-20 minutes in. I now equate tutorials to interactive loading screens. I don't need a whole sequence of events to tell me how to jump. Most 80 year olds don't play games and those that do aren't afraid of breaking the controller, most people, as soon as the game starts, start pressing every button to see what they do.

fbgbdk4
fbgbdk4

@jerusaelem I just finished it. I actually didn't like the game that much also. I think there were several puzzles that there were really chores, where you know what you should do, but that was a lot of cube building and manipulation to accomplish it... These times seemed like boring tasks, not a fun thing to do. This was my major issue. On the minor side, I think there was too much dead ends that did not contribute to a sense of progress towards finishing the game. 

Rickystickyman
Rickystickyman

@jerusaelem You do realize that the game changes each time you play it right? The reason why you got the first two guns without challenge is because the game even said "It's okay to take a short cut sometimes". Seriously the game plays differently each time. I have watched multiple videos on youtube where people have found their way around and stumbled upon completely different rooms than I did. You found a short cut. Congratz.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@M-Mniny I think it's much better at puzzles than Portal. It has more meaningful stuff. But to each his own of course, I could also see why someone would like Portal over this.

commuter1991
commuter1991

@shadow131990  The game is not actually difficult; but boring. It's designed to make you loiter from one room to another; if you're not lucky enough to reach the end as soon as possible, you get blind by its sadistically made white space.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@shadow131990 Agreed. It took me around 10 also. Though, to be fair, you don't have to finish a whole lot of the puzzles necessarily to reach the end of the game. Of course, if you don't use a guide or something, you won't know what you need to do and what you can leave behind. I think if you take the right path, playing it for the first time it might be possible to do it in 3 hours. But I doubt you stumble upon that path.

Also, the game encouraged me to explore and find new stuff to solve. If there was a way to get to the end, I would have skipped it for now. 

A second time through it is more than possible to finish it in an hour or so. Not that this game should be compared straight up to Portal, but that game also took me around 5 hours to beat and only 40 minutes on a subsequent playthrough.

Planeforger
Planeforger

@Thyasianman Some people are finishing it in under 3 hours. I have personally spent 6 hours on it and haven't beaten it yet.
It really depends on how much time you spend finding hidden rooms, and how often you get stuck on the puzzles. I do think it's worth it though, even if it isn't the longest game around.

spastikman
spastikman

@shanethewolf  whether it's film, music or games; "pretentious" usually means "I didn't get it" or "this doesn't stick to my 3th grade vernacular that I'm comfortable with"

Rickystickyman
Rickystickyman

@shanethewolf Did you seriously use the word pretentious incorrectly? Not only did you use the word pretentious incorrectly but then you started complaining about graphics. The visuals are great if you are an artsy kind of person. They aren't half-assed, they are really well done. It's a great game.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@shanethewolf That someone has to explain this to you: this review was based on his opinion. The visuals looking crap is your opinion, not fact. Apperently, he does not share your opinion on that matter. I don't either btw as the game looks insanely awesome when you play it. Really cool atmosphere.

bargeral
bargeral

@shanethewolf Ironic that you use "pretentious" in your criticism of the review and then turn around and exhibit it in your disdain for the graphics.


innominatus2
innominatus2

@shanethewolf I agree with that comment. I got scik just by watching the gameplay movie. As clever at it my be, the visualls are unacceptable. And review should have mentioned that 

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

@shanethewolf I have played the game all the way through and found no problem with the visuals. When watching a video it can seem off, but when you are actually playing the game they don't seem out of place. The game couldn't be done any other way.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@Toysoldier34 I'm wondering how you did that since you need the red tool to get to the endgame room? How did you work around that?

Planeforger
Planeforger

@Toysoldier34 I'm guessing that you can skip most of the game's rooms/puzzles once you know your way around, especially if you work out how to get cubes from one puzzle to the next.

 Still, you're missing out. The red gun was quite fun to play around with.

spastikman
spastikman

@gamelovercouk compared to other games reviewed on this site, this game requires FAR LESS of a time commitment. 
If every game on this site is too lengthy for you, then don't you think it's funny that you would come to this site just to say you don't have time for anything?

Rickystickyman
Rickystickyman

@Zevvion @shadow131990 I beat this game in around 6 hours the first time and honestly half of the puzzles aren't required to win. I never did figure out the "Stuck in a rut" puzzle.

Antichamber

  • PC
Antichamber is a game about discovery where geometry and space follow unfamiliar rules, and obstacles are a matter of perception.
Check out even more info at the Antichamber Wiki on Giantbomb.com
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