Have you ever had the sort of dream where, on some level, you’re aware that you’re dreaming? Antichamber gave me that same feeling of being in control, while at the same time having no command over my surroundings. Like a dream, the world in Antichamber has its own rules, not bound by the constraints of reality. It’s a wholly unique experience, and one that many gamers will likely enjoy.
Antichamber is played in first person perspective, using standard keyboard and mouse controls (no controller support). You begin the game in a room that serves as a sort of hub, facing a wall that displays your controls and some minimal configuration options. From here, you proceed into the world, a maze of interlocking white corridors that will challenge both your puzzle solving skills and your ability to think in different ways.
The game’s most distinguishing feature is what it lacks. The physical laws that govern our world are absent in Antichamber, allowing for construction and environments that could not exist elsewhere. You may walk down a hallway, only to turn around and find a blank wall in place of your original path. You may go up a floor, and find that you are now right next to the room in which you started. Looking through a window will give you a glimpse into another room, but it may also change the one in which you are currently standing.
The realization that my senses and knowledge could not be trusted in this place was genuinely unsettling, and the way it pushed the limits of my comfort zone is one of the game’s biggest achievements. Just as impressive, it manages to create this feeling even with no real consequence for failure. There is no death in Antichamber; falls do nothing, and as you proceed, progress populates a map in the main room, so you can jump to any area you’ve already been to should you get lost.
As you progress through the game, you will find different guns used to solve the game’s puzzles. Each one allows manipulation of blocks in a different way. The first offers the ability to move blocks, while subsequent guns expand on that skill. The mechanics are well executed, and each gun significantly changes the gameplay and what you are able to accomplish. New tools led to some great moments where the light bulb went on and I realized how to solve an earlier puzzle.
While those moments are great, they also highlight one of the elements that can be frustrating. Due to its extremely non-linear nature, it’s very easy to wind up facing a puzzle that you are not properly equipped to solve. The problem is, at those times you don’t know that the ability you need to solve it exists. One of the keys to Antichamber is realizing that if you think something is impossible it may actually be the case, and your time would be better spent exploring elsewhere.
The graphics in Antichamber are very minimalist, with most of the game being flat white. It works though, and it really makes the color associated with puzzle areas stand out. As you progress you’ll find images on the walls that when clicked will reveal a short saying that often gives a hint about the area. The sound is very sparse, with really no background music to speak of, but the lack of sound fits in with the solitary, almost lost nature of the game.
The controls work well, and even as someone who has little skill with a keyboard and mouse I was able to get around with no issues. There is rarely any sort of quick movement involved, so being a little slow didn’t really hinder me. Moving blocks is definitely better with a mouse than it would be with a controller. My only issue was with a gameplay element that requires you to click in the mouse wheel, which seemed to only trigger about half of the time. Still, some slight repositioning was usually enough to fix the problem, so it was just a minor annoyance.
Playing Antichamber is a unique and almost trippy experience as you navigate halls that fold into themselves, windows that become doors and paths that disappear and reappear right before your eyes. It was a constant challenge as I not only learned how this new world works, but also let go of my preconceptions about how it should work. If you like a good puzzle or just want to try something new, Antichamber will stretch your mind and twist your perception, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.