Antichamber might be a better designed puzzle game than Portal 2. Wait, don’t burn me at the stake as a witch just yet please. It doesn’t have the wonderful characterization or story that Portal has, and it’s definitely not as polished. It did however test every ounce of my puzzle solving ability and constantly messed with my mind — playing on every preconceived notion about video games. It’s the kind of game that I frequently hit walls in, but that’s okay because I could rotate between a dozen other puzzles until I got myself thinking the right way. Every puzzle is creative, challenging and ruthless.

I’ll keep details on the game’s puzzles minimal, because the less you know about the specifics going in, the more impact the game will have on you. You start by being dropped into a centralized hub. One wall has a set of controls and an ominous timer, one wall is blank for you to fill as you progress, one wall is made of glass with the exit visible behind it, and one wall contains a map that will fill in as you successfully explore. You’ll click on the first puzzle on that wall to teleport to it, and can teleport back to this hub room any time you get stuck by taping Esc.

Antichamber’s puzzles are often heavily centred around perspective, which works great with the fairly limited field of view offered by its first person perspective. You might push your face against a window that is showing a room which shouldn’t exist, looking closer until that room is all you can see, then step back to find yourself now in that room. You might get half way down a corridor, turn around and see that the corridor behind you isn’t the same one you came from. You might stare at one part of the environment for long enough that it changes subtly, allowing you to progress past it. I had to be looking at everything and trusting nothing.

The game has a very minimal art style, stripping environments of all unnecessary detail and using lots of black and white for the basic visual elements. The game will use colour, but it will always be used to emphasise and highlight exactly what needs to be focused on. Unlike Portal 2, where environments were too cluttered or too open at times, making it difficult to focus on what was important, Antichamber’s art style means that no matter how large or busy the environment, I was always aware of the important objects and loations in the room.

As I progressed, I began to find little chalk drawings after each puzzle is solved, each with a philosophical quote relating to the puzzle that asked me to stop and think about what I just learned. These quotes and pictures were a huge driving force for me, which gave me a huge sense of accomplishment and progression every time I completed a puzzle; even if what I’d done felt like a failure by traditional gaming standards. The game has no failure states, just paths that while not the one you needed, did teach me things through failure that I applied moving forward. The opening puzzle, for example, told me to jump over a pit. I failed and fell to the bottom, but didn’t die. I just found myself exploring a different route I wouldn’t have seen, otherwise. Sometimes in Antichamber, you can only progress by not trying so hard to progress.

While I’d love to go into more detail, Antichamber is one of those games where I suspect that going in with too much prior knowledge will negatively affect your experience. Just know that there’s a story running through about the journey of self discovery in our lives and that, while occasionally frustratingly hard to progress through, never felt unfair to me for even a second. If I got stuck, I just had to come back to the game down the line and retry all my available levels until I worked out a new solution. It was always my inability to observe, rather than the game not giving me enough hints.

Antichamber is the game every game designer needs to plays, because it does amazing things with world layout, puzzle design and general game design. It’s not Portal, it doesn’t have any real character or story for you to be pushed along by, but it does have  the most amazingly paced puzzle design of any game I can think of. It took me about 6 hours to complete on my first playthrough, but I’ve seen playthrough’s last 12+ hours for some, and speed runners have completed the game in mere minutes. If you’re a PC gamer, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t give Antichamber a go.

Antichamber Review
Pros:
  • Brain-bending puzzle design
  • Functional minimalist asthetic
  • Uses perspective meaningfully
Cons:
  • Lacks plot and character
8Overall Score

About The Author

Founding Member

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

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