Up Is Down: A Look at Antichamber

Let's play Portal on LSD.

Let's play Portal on LSD.
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During the most recent Steam sale, I picked up a copy of Antichamber. When I bought the puzzle game, I didn’t expect to put my mind through such a rigorous process that involved witty fun. 

Antichamber forgoes any sort of initial tutorial or plot development and drops you right into the game world. You start out in a small room that serves as both your hub and the game’s main menu. It’s an inventive way to handle the traditional menu and an example of how the game defies typical video game conventions. From here you also teleport into the first of Antichamber’s many rooms and can, at any time, transport back by simply hitting the Escape key.

Exploration

The game gives up on what you can expect and throws a surprise at you at every step. You might be walking down a bland hallway when a staircase might materialize in front of you. You might hit several dead ends, and yet turning around will reveal a new path altogether. Falling into a pit after a mistep might reveal another branch of the institution you’ve yet to explore. The game rewards both trial-and-error and thinking out of the box.

Sparingly-used visual cues help push you to explore. Many of Antichamber’s puzzles use of color in an otherwise black and white world helps point you in the right direction or signal the start of something new.

Then there’s the host of pictures scattered throughout the game’s rooms. They occasionally give a crucial hint for a nearby puzzle, but they’re equally likely to present cute bits of advice such as living by your own time, not someone else’s. Even when they’re not particularly useful for gameplay, they still come across as sincere and endearing. They, alongside implementation of color, push you to overcome what’s ahead, because they signal something new, and you never know what to expect next.

Puzzles, progression, and you

An excellent addition to Antichamber is the pacing of learning. You’ll encounter a lot of areas that you’ll be unable to overcome at first, from either lacking the correct skill to do so or from lacking the perspective to do so.

One such example is an encounter with the eye puzzles: These puzzles respond based on whether or not you are making eye contact with them, and are time dependent. After you do the game’s “tutorial” eye mission, you’ll notice a lot of previous areas with similar puzzles, and backtracking rewards you. Unlike many games with backtracking, you’ll rarely feel frustrated; rather, a sense of progression is often there. 

There isn’t an actual plot to speak of; the strength of this game is the puzzle platforming and interesting takes on gaming. If you have the spare change and a desire for puzzles, pick this game up. I recommend it. 

Let's play Portal on LSD.
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Up Is Down: A Look at Antichamber

Let's play Portal on LSD.

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About the author

The Myrrduck

Too busy killing scrubs to play good games.