The lights are on
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 astounding colors,
excellent level construction, and plethora of “aha!” moments result in a
wonderful journey of madness and discovery none should pass up.
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 puzzles 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.
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