Review by bbears
A unique but unsatisfying experience.
Antichamber is a puzzle game that takes place entirely from from the first person view in the same vein of Portal. Impressively this ambitious game was a one man operation expanded from a Unreal Engine 3 mod and is the hew poster child for artsy indie games. Antichamber tries very hard to confuse the player and early on breaking many gaming conventions that players are used to. Even using the narrow first person view is a tool itself in many of the puzzles. While this all sounds cool and makes for a very unique experience I would not call it entertaining. In fact, unlike Portal, is so devoid of character that it feels more like a chore than an enjoyable game.
Antichamber has a very minimalist visual and sound design but uses this to create complicated and purposely confusing environments. The color pallet is mostly black and white defined by sharp lines splashed with bright neon colors thrown in. Actually describing the visual style is a little difficult and really needs to be seen in motion. The sound design is also basic. There is little to no music and often out of place nature soundtracks are the only sounds in the background. The audio/visual experience of Antichamber is half the enjoyment and is very unique despite it's simplicity. Technically the game works flawlessly and pretty much any PC should be able to run it.
Antichamber feels like it has two different styles of play conflicting with each other. The first hour or so of gameplay is mostly puzzle exploration. It is not so much a puzzle game at first and more a game that just puts you into a nonlinear maze. Looping hallways, stairs that go nowhere, and windows that transport you when you look in them fill the first hour or so of gameplay. It can can be very disorienting and there is little about it it that is intuitive, instead lots of trial and hour are needed. Though early puzzles are all about movement and taking note of your environment, the game quickly changes once you collect the the cube manipulating gun. The player uses this gun to collect and shoot tubes to solve environmental puzzles. Some doors need cubes to be fired into specific slots before they'll open. Sometimes you'll need cubes to block sensor beams that might shut a door if tripped. And, much like Portal there are energy fields that will wipe out your entire supply of cubes, ensuring that you can't always go collect cubes from a nearby puzzle and bring them along with you to the next. Slowly this gun becomes a more and more powerful tool manipulating several different aspects of the cubes. While this works well and can be even fun this by the numbers rigid environmental puzzles are very different from the unique and disorienting maze at the beginning. Additionally the linear nature of the upgrades for the gun along with the dead ending maze creates it's own problem. Whenever the player hits a road block you can never be sure whether or not you're actually stumped or if just need to try a different path to get an upgrade. At any given time there will be multiple paths to explore most of which will be dead ends until the necessary upgrade is had. The fast travel map at the beginning is useful but this still creates a feeling of haphazard progress.
Overall while it has it's flaws Antichamber is a unique game that fans of the puzzler genre should try. Just don't expect it to have much in the way of character and bring lots of patience.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Antichamber (US, 01/31/13)
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