Review – Antichamber

Antichamber • PC • Available now

(Caution: potential spoilers within)

Antichamber is a very difficult game to get your head around. It’s a very minimalist first-person puzzler that completely defies its simple plain colour palette on white backgrounds by confounding the hell out of you in a massive labyrinth.

From the moment you enter the game you’re placed in a black room with controls and options scrawled on it. There’s also a countdown clock which starts at 90 minutes, which leads you to believe you’re under a strict time limit to get through this confounding maze (but haha, you’re not really. Clever joke devs…)
To the left, a blank black wall that fills up with little motivational cartoons you find inside the maze, while to the right is another blank wall that eventually becomes a map of the chamber once you enter various rooms.

Not that the map is useful in any way apart from spending a few minutes trying to find the picture of the room you quit out of so you can return to somewhere you don’t feel lost from. Rules change with each room you go to and if you decide to turn back, you’ll find a completely different room than the one you came in from. There are floors vanish in front of you, the resultant pit maybe sending you across the map into a completely different area, impossible staircases as well as adjacent rooms which are actually above or below you – it certainly messes with you perspective.

Antichamber thinks it’s a clever game and it can come across as a little pretentious due to this – for example the timer and the aforementioned motivational cartoons after you’ve solved the related puzzle giving you tips only after the puzzle – but this can be forgiven because thankfully it is a clever game. To send you into a labyrinth with no instructions other than to get out of it is brave considering the amount of hand holding that exists in the genre. I spent a good 50 minutes absolutely baffled at what to do next as I didn’t realise you could even get a block gun to help you move progress, but it was my own fault as I completely forgot that I had done something similar before.

The puzzles are intuitive and while they may seemingly be impossible, once you know the solution, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it in the first place. There’s no real out-there ridiculous solution to be missed because as long as you know how your block gun works, you’ll be able to work out what to do. There’s

I did have a major problem with this game though and that was the end. I’ve mentioned before about the slight pretentiousness that Antichamber shows and this comes to a head once you reach the ‘exit’. There are a few neat puzzles afterwards but then you’re suddenly part of a typically indie artsy ending that feels tacked on as if to encourage the message of ‘oh we’re so clever, here’s an ending with a message’. This game doesn’t need this at all – there’s no story, there’s nothing guiding you to this completely unnecessary juncture which nearly ruined all that was before for me because the game didn’t need it. There seems to be a fascination with tacking on ‘meaningful’ endings to every single indie game in existence and it’s something that is starting to grate, especially in games where it just doesn’t fit.

But if you can get over that and the flashes of smugness the game shows and are up for a challenge without hand holding, then you should really enjoy Antichamber. The visuals, for such a simplistic style, are actually quite stunning and the puzzles are interesting and varied – certainly worth a gander.

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