Antichamber is a game that doesn’t mess around. You load it up and suddenly you’re faced with a wall in first person. No menus, just a box that says ‘Click Here’. So you click it. Now you’re in a room with a floating sign hovering over a pit saying ‘Jump!’. So you jump. You plummet and land in a different room below. A sign in front of you reads: “Failing to succeed does not mean failing to progress”. Don’t expect that sense of confusion to lift anytime soon.
Antichamber has no narrative. Portal makes a big point of informing you that you are the subject of a test. Antichamber doesn’t need to. You follow white corridors on some great impulse, stumbling through the various puzzles in your way. You find signs accompanying the puzzles which seem to want to teach you life lessons along the way. In fact, they also double as clues to the various puzzles ahead, or as a pat on the back for solving one. One puzzle requires you to head back down the corridor you just came from, after circling through a series of staircases. Upon finding the corridor completely changed, a sign reads: “When you return to where you have been, things aren’t always as remembered”. At first it feels like the game is laughing at your ignorance, but the humour in these signs (be it congratulatory or mocking, you decide) is what drives you forward.
Several rooms and areas have more than one exit, requiring you to return later once you’ve explored one path. Some rooms are an absolute dead end with a simple instruction to press the ESC button and return to the ‘hub’ of the game, where you can then pick a room to return to and continue on a different path. Several times you will find yourself in an area you’ve been through before, but from a different path. Developer Alexander Bruce has really captured the idea of being lost in a great maze.
He has also created a fantastically unique design for Antichamber. The majority of the game is made up of white spaces and black lines, so when colour is added to various rooms, it looks brilliant. Shadows and blending are used well for different effects. The soundtrack is made up of seemingly ambient noises. At various points throughout the game, I think I heard: a shower running; a lightning storm; and various clicks and whistles from insects. There are few games that you could say that are truly visually unique – Antichamber is definitely one of them.
On paper, there is a lot missing in Antichamber. In game, none of it matters. The sheer immersion of being lost in the world of Antichamber forces you through, and the puzzles are what will keep you entertained. Soon enough, people will have mastered the intricacies of this game and then everybody will be speeding through it. At this point in time, I can’t even tell you there is an ending to this game. Here’s something that happened to me that sums up Antichamber better than I can. When you load the game, there is a clock telling you how much time is remaining. After getting stuck in some far corner of the game, I returned to the hub and looked at the time – it read 2 minutes left. I watched it count down (expecting… I don’t even know) and when it hit 0, it was replaced by a sign reading “Live by your own clock, not by anyone else’s”. Whatever else you say about this game, it is a one of a kind experience.