Another relative unknown (to me), Antichamber, by Demruth (a publishing entity that may or may not consist entirely of one Alexander Bruce) burst onto my Steam screen and my gaming news sites of choice on day in a flurry of monochrome confusion. Difficult puzzle game? Black and white aesthetic with muted colour use? Pun for a name? Sign me up!
And here we are.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, nope. Mechanical, fairly high.)
I boot up Antichamber for the first time. After an obligatory Unreal Engine advert, and a brief bit of blackness, this is what I’m greeted with.
O…kay. Is this… is this a loading screen? Is this a menu? Did we start already? Should I be jumping into the next review section? Why am I asking so many questions instead of trying any of this out?
I jiggle the mouse a bit and find that a) I’m actually in-engine right now, seeing as though I can look around, and b) I haven’t ‘started’ in the proper sense, because…
Well, let’s put it this way. I start out staring at that strange message-wall. Clicking on the message shrinks it into a little icon in the top left corner. Interesting in and by itself, sure, but when I turn my head ninety degrees to the left…
Looks like I’m hanging out in perhaps the most innovative main menu I’ve ever seen.
I make a note of the controls, change the mouse inversion setting, and look away again. To the left of the Options Wall is a tantalizing exit, hidden behind glass.
And to the left of that… well, this:
What am I do to but obey?
I can already tell Antichamber is going to be an interesting game.
As you could have seen on the Options Wall, Antichamber controls like a basic first-person game. WASD, mouse for looking, Space for jumping, you get the idea. I click around a little, but neither mouse button seems to have much effect right now. Maybe later.
Floating words tell me to JUMP. My All Puzzle Game Shouty Voices Are Lying Bastard genre savvy kicks in, however, so I decide to look around a bit first. Directly behind me, there’s this.
Not to mention, this:
Chromatic as this all is, though, I can’t see any way to proceed here. Hesitantly, I return to the Gap of JUMP, take a deep breath, and jump.
I hit the floor with a dull thud. No death, no broken limbs, no falling damage? Good. I look around. What nonsense pit did you send me to, game?
Hey, there’s a black square on one of the walls. On it is… an image of a sheep, jumping off a cliff.
Clicking on it changes the image to some text.
Alright, fair enough. I walk through the one corridor I can see, taking a few turns, and before long find myself before an anaglyph choice.
‘A choice might be as simple as going left or right’? Well, in that case, I’m going to choose LEFT. Red down path, ho!
Right, right, forward…
Okay, I’m not surprised. I sort of see what the intent is, here, but I’m going to walk the red path a few more times just to be sure. It’s not like this is the kind of game that wouldn’t trigger my forward progress based on simple persistence.
Sadly, no luck: after three identical trots over the red stairway, I’m forced to conclude this is the wrong choice. Maybe the blue stairway will fare me better?
Okay, you know what? Screw you, coloured stairs. If you’re not going play nice, I’m just going to take my metaphorical ball and quit in a huff! I turn around and storm off, fully intent on tracing my path back to the beginning. I’ll find my own way out.
When I round the first of the seven or eight corners I took to get to where I am right now, reality decides to throw sand in my eyes.
(Okay, okay, I actually did just figure this out. It’s more amusing to imagine I found it while storming off in anger, though.)
The green door has me make a few right turns in rapid succession, taking me through a multi-coloured hallway — five or six turns, actually, much more than should be possible in Euclidean geometry — before dropping me off in front of a red-circled door. A laser guards it.
I walk through the laser, and the door opens. Behind it is another laser, and one of those black wall things. I walk through the second laser — hearing the door close — and read the wall text. ‘Some choices leave us running around a lot without really getting anywhere’. Well, that’s just silly. I turn around, intending to see if I can’t get that door open again by re-triggering the laser.
The door and the laser have both disappeared.
Exasperated, I press ESC. This takes me back to the Main Menu Room.
The wall that once only said ‘click here’ has updated to reflect my progress. It turns out I can click on any of these little hubs and immediately get teleported to that location. The game gently suggests I try returning to the first room, the one that lied to me about jumping before. Something may have changed.
The shouty JUMP is now gone, replaced by an equally shouty WALK. Well played, game. It turns out that walking onto the gap causes an invisible bridge to appear; jumping, however, immediately removes it from existence. So I could have passed this way immediately, had I not taken the game’s message at face value. Well I didn’t, but still. You get the idea. Never listen.
More rooms happen in quick succession. Sounds, colours and impossible geometries layer upon themselves like the world’s least appealing cake. I could probably write five Indies Wonderland worth of text just detailing how I finally manage to get to this weird-ass gun, but this section is already approaching walkthrough levels of detail. Just imagine a lot of headaches and me going ‘Wait, what?‘ and you’ll get it.
Oh yeah, there’s a weird-ass gun. You see that little blue block in that screenshot? The gun allows me to absorb that block from the world, then re-place it anywhere I want. It allows me to trigger certain door switches, hold open other doors, and act as a stepladder in places. I’ve actually seen more of these blue blocks here and there. I’ve also seen blocks of other colours — red, yellow, green — which leads me to assume I can probably find other weird-ass guns scattered across the Antichamber. I want to catch them all.
‘Solving’ the brief stretch of puzzle attached to the Blue Gun room provides me with a new viewpoint on a familiar location.
Yes, I’m in the glass-covered Exit hallway. The Exit itself is blocked by another one of these text squares, though.
In the distance, the timer — did I mention the timer? — counts ever down. Fifty-five minutes left. Will I be able to complete the whole Antichamber before it reaches triple zeroes?
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