I like games like Antichamber. Normally I don’t have a very large tolerance for puzzle shit, but “think outside the box” puzzle shit is fairly easy to stomach. That’s especially true with constant tidbits of helpful advice that apply to the real world as well as they do to the game world. I suppose it would be easy to label such a game as a pretentious artsy fartsy “explore yourself” gambit, what with philosophical advice literally hanging about on walls. Not saying that it isn’t, but I am saying that it’s good enough to make that guru stuff tolerable.
When I first played Antichamber, I noticed some distant parallels to Portal. Clean, white walls, unvoiced subject wandering through initial puzzles before getting a gun, then relying on that very gun to make it through the rest of the challenges… I say “distant parallels” because these similarities aren’t enough to break immersion. This is the perfect example of the phrase “inspired by.” Whether Antichamber actually was inspired by Portal or not I can’t say, but the balance of uniqueness and similarity is just right to make the point I’m making. If you need a short version of that, here it is:
If something inspires you, don’t clone it. Just break it into components and change everything you can, over and over, until the “clone” has evolved into its own beast. That way the product of inspiration has more room for the creator’s ideas, rather than being stuffed full of the original’s concepts and ideas due to a fear of inadequacy.
Back on track. Antichamber is a block-based 3D puzzle platformer that utilizes several very clever mechanics to make its puzzles challenging yet fun. Most of those involve hiding solutions in plain sight, such as a room of giant hollow cubes that contain different things when looked at from different sides. It just so happens that one of those spatially paradoxical sides is a door to the next area. There’s plenty more to the mind game, of course: vanishing stairways, appearing pathways, doors that lead to different places depending on how you enter them, infinite loops…
Those puzzles tend to be the most entertaining, whereas the block puzzles require practical problem-solving skills. Your block gun (when you acquire it) is capable of picking up and spitting out blocks taken from your environment. It has several upgrades that allow it to perform different things, like dragging block lines, creating single-layer walls, or draining a large clump of blocks quickly. While some areas are inaccessible without said upgrades, this is a game of cunning. Sometimes it’s possible (but admittedly difficult) to slip through higher tier puzzles regardless of your gun’s abilities. You just need to think outside the box… with blocks.
The achievement system involves reading the black advice panels as you happen upon them throughout your puzzling. Collecting all of them awards you with something truly worthwhile, but I won’t get into that. I can tell you that it isn’t a cookie or a fancy hat, however.
Antichamber deserves a cookie for being so gosh darned fun. If there’s one thing I like, it’s a game that challenges what video games can challenge you to think and do. I would highly recommend this game to Portal fans and anyone who enjoys a nice brain teasing puzzle every now and again.
Patrick Hancock of Destructoid has a better title than me, which makes me rather sad. “Confusion and Illusion.” That’s fun to say. Right, well, he most definitely enjoyed Antichamber around as much as I did, and his review contains some video examples of the in-game tricks used to keep your head-gears whirring. Check it out right here: http://www.destructoid.com/review-antichamber-243431.phtml