Thursday, 8 August 2013

Review: Antichamber

A thought-provoking sojourn into non Euclidean geometry, Antichamber feels unique yet familiar, as everything you know about level design gets twisted; known truths, such as A leads to B, may no long be true, or may only be true in certain situations. Antichamber forces you to reset the axioms you've learnt from other games, and challenges you to think way outside the box. Quite soon into the game you acquire a tool that lets you pick up and place little coloured blocks - that can be used for a number of purposes, such as to trip switches, block lasers or traverse the environment. 

There is no story and no real reason to have one, you occasionally see what looks like what might be an anti-block that menaces the hallways, but no exposition is provided. Make of the world what you will but this is a pure puzzle game that doesn't feel the need to tack on some contrived story for the sake of it. Sound is done in a very minimalist way, certain areas containing certain sounds, but otherwise it is very underplayed. I soon found myself recognizing where I was from the foley and even coming to despise some of the sounds as I meant I was somewhere I didn't want to be.

The map is made up of puzzle rooms and corridors, though corridors can have just as many secrets hidden in them as any room does. The map is constant, however walking down one corridor then back the way you came wont necessarily take you back to where you were before - but that path will always be the same. Another trick the game plays is to make you focus on looking at something, then when you pull out putting you into another place. Puzzles mostly boil down to either putting a block in a hole or blocking lasers, stuff that sound simple, but which can take a while to work out. 

In many ways you progress through the game in a metroidvania fashion as you upgrade your tool to have greater utility. At first you can only pick up and place small blocks, but as your gun upgrades, you can do new and unexpected things, which opens up more and more of the map. I found the first quarter of the game to be the most challenging, because I had to relearn how to play and got stuck on a simple problem for way too long, but after that breezed through the rest of the game in one glorious sitting.
I found Antichamber to be unputdownable, when I was stuck I wanted to keep going, and when I was on a roll I didn't want it to end. The game doesn't have a discernible story or anything, but it does definitely come to a point where the main progression of the game is done; Antichamber is that rare sort of puzzle game that makes me want to go back and complete every facet of it. Antichamber takes an interesting idea, non-euclidean geometry, and executes it wonderfully - creating a unique puzzle game, that feels like it achieves exactly what it sets out to. 

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