Impact Plays – Antichamber

Tom Evans just finished Antichamber, the first person puzzle game released on PC in January 2013. He may have picked it up late, but he highly recommends you do so now.

Nowadays, many of the details of an upcoming video game, or indeed any entertainment media, are frequently spoiled before you even start them. Particularly in videogames, even avoiding spoilers doesn’t necessarily lead to surprise and excitement: plots aside, a player often knows all the types of goals and gameplay mechanics that will feature throughout. Being in contrast to these commonalities alone makes Antichamber a gift to those looking for a new experience in gaming.

The most important rule of Antichamber: don’t look it up. Consistently across user reviews one is reminded to avoid all walkthroughs and guides. No hints or tips. Avoiding the temptation yields an incredible reward. Starting the game loads a door-less room. One wall states ‘All you need to know’ and shows the simple controls used throughout the game. A door marked EXIT is inaccessible behind a transparent pane. Between them a message: ‘Every journey is a series of choices. The first is to begin the journey.’ On the last black wall there is merely a white box and an instruction: ‘Click here’.

The most important rule of Antichamber: don’t look it up.

And so the journey begins. Antichamber’s aesthetic is simple, but powerful. The floors, walls, and ceilings are crisp white. Colours are used just the right amount to inject variety without affecting the tone the game creates. Also dotted around the world are charming cartoons, which if clicked on show a sentence in white. These intelligent messages, the only form of dialogue throughout the game, help with one’s understanding of the world of Antichamber, and are also helpful life lessons. The ambient sound effects are also understated but contribute massively to the experience. It’s amazing how such an empty white world feels charged with an indescribable, potent atmosphere.

From the first puzzle Antichamber begins warping reality. Challenging preconceived notions of gaming, answers are sometimes things that just wouldn’t exist in any other world. The impossible puzzles call to mind the work of M C Escher. So much of Antichamber makes no sense, but as you progress you discover, figuring out enough of the rules to keep moving on. And yet these puzzles are not the only puzzle: Antichamber itself could be described as an open world. Multiple paths exist and are free to use, if you can manage them. This can become irritating when taking large breaks between playing the game, but adds extra wonder to the revelation of the true route once found.

Antichamber’s aesthetic is simple but powerful.

Avoid walkthroughs, even for individual puzzles. Antichamber could be beaten in ten minutes, but will likely puzzle you for hours and hours. Rooms can be baffling, but feeling the cathartic sense of achievement is brilliant. Secret rooms and red herring paths provide more content to complete if you don’t bump into them on your way to the end. It’s not certain on the way, but when you reach the end, you’ll know it. And for a game devoid of plot or characters the climax felt as much the end of a story as other games I’ve played. Antichamber is not a long game, but it’s a thoroughly worthwhile one.

Thomas Evans

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