$19.99 via Steam.
What Antichamber Got Right
- + Absolutely mind melting experience
- + Stark visuals are absolutely stunning
- + Unlike any other puzzle game, ever
- +Made in Melbourne!
What Antichamber Got Wrong
- - Ending is a little flat
- - Will only appeal to a certain crowd
- - Could be considered a little short
Portal may have put mind bending, first-person puzzlers on the map, but Antichamber takes the genre to exciting new places. Forget what you think you know about games, because Antichamber is going to challenge your mind on so many levels.
Antichamber is a series of interconnected "chambers", with no linear path towards completion. Everything is connected by the central hub, which allows you to re-visit any chamber you have been to before simply by clicking it on the labyrinth like map. Thankfully you can quickly access the central hub by hitting the ESC key at any time, which is a life saver considering how dizzying the world of Antichamber can be.
The puzzles in Antichamber all employ a logical solution, yet the game never gives any indication as to what logic the solution requires. THe player is treated to a number of lo-fi paintings which often give a hint as to what the puzzle requires, along with a short note that ofter somehow relates to the struggles of life. It's an interesting way to get players thinking in the right ballpark, but Antichamber's biggest strength is that it never holds your hand.
Without breaking too heavily into spoiler territory (stop reading this paragraph if that is a concern), the very first moments in the game setup exactly what will be required by players throughout their journey. You are presented with two staircases - a red one that goes up and blue one that goes down.
No matter how many times you go up or down, you always end up with the same two staircases staring you in the face. It isn't until you turn around you realise that the path from where you once came has changed, allowing you to leave the room and begin your journey. This is the kind of thing Antichamber throws at you constantly.
While the inter-connecting chambers are enough to make you dizzy, the stark graphical style of Antichamber is both unique and breathtaking, adding to the confusion in the most beautiful way. A majority of the world is made up of a white background with simple black outlines, with splashes of colour used to highlight important features, puzzle mechanics, or simply to capture your attention.
Much in the same way that colour is used sparingly to offer visual cues towards important areas, items or to simply catch your attention, the sound design also offers subtle hints as to where you should be going next. A seemingly vacant hallway will suddenly fill with the sound of crickets, which seems a little strange until you work out how they fit in context with the puzzle ahead. Antichamber does everything to confuse you, in the most delightful of ways.
There are a few concerns with the game however, which ultimately limit its audience to a select few who "get it". At the beginning it feels as if you are stumbling across solutions by accident rather than a skilful decision, yet in this reviewer's opinion, that is actually intentional. The constant backtracking and mind-melting puzzles simply won't fit everyone's taste, even when you hold the power of an awesome block gun in your hands. The ending also feels a little flat, particularly considering how the puzzles ramp up considerably in the lead up to the conclusion. None of these are deal breakers, but Antichamber is only going to appeal to a certain audience, despite its minor flaws.
The Final Verdict
This review is intentionally vague, and for that I apologise. I want to sit here and type 2500 words about how Antichamber changed the way I approach games. I want to scream from the mountaintops how Antichamber is the smartest game to come out in the past five years, particularly for its genre. I want to tell every Australian gamer to pick it up and support the local industry. The truth however, is that Antichamber is an experimental experience, one that will appeal to a select few who are willing to throw everything they think they know about gaming behind them. Take a look at the trailer - if you think you're up for it, it will be the best $20 you spend this year.
By Stephen Heller