Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: Antichamber

A game that is surely likely to mess up with your mind. Antichamber can easily boast with its unique art style and rather mind-bending environments. It presents itself as one enormous labyrinth full of various puzzles. However, the puzzles often require you to think outside the box and a lot of the time do not follow standard rules of physics. You could end up in a never-ending corridor, or you could turn around and realise a completely different way has opened up than the one you came from. Sometimes you’d end up walking in circles, other times confronted with branching paths.

The style of presentation in Antichamber is definitely commendable, but is it really fun? The mind-bending environments are interesting at first, but the novelty wears off very quickly and instead you start wishing that the game would just stop misleading you all the time. The game has a very non-linear approach to it. A lot of the time if you’re stuck, you can simply return back to the ‘lobby’ area and pick a different path and solve the puzzles along that route. Eventually all routes are meant to be important, or at least that’s what I’ve gathered anyway.

One of the problems about this approach is that as you go on through the labyrinth, you will acquire certain devices that will allow you to pick up and place cubes of different colours in your environment and are meant to be used to solve some of the game’s puzzles. This means that at times you’ll be coming across puzzles that you can’t yet solve until you’ve gotten the right device, which can at times be annoying because there’s no way to tell whether a puzzle in front of you can or cannot be solved at the time. A lot of the game’s ‘rules’ don’t seem to make much logical sense and require a lot of random experimentation. For example, walking over some of the drops will create a path in front of you, or trying to pick up green cubes from the middle of the structure they’re in will cause its ends to disintegrate, leaving you with less cubes to work with.

Throughout the game there is also a number of philosophical quotes scattered about. However, most of those quotes don’t inspire much thought and instead are a collection of common sense mantras that you’re more likely to teach your kids. It’s stuff like ‘sometimes you’ve got to go backwards before you can go forwards’. As you go collecting each quote, they all compile on a huge screen in the lobby area. To what end I am not sure, because I didn’t collect them all, but it seems as though it tries to draw a diagram of a person’s life and some of the time they seem relevant to the puzzle in a nearby room.

Overall the game’s setting is way too abstract for my liking. I couldn’t get much satisfaction from solving the game’s puzzles, because every time I solved a tricky puzzle, the game would either take me back to where I’ve been already, or bring me to one of the puzzles that I cannot yet solve. The sense of progression is not felt and there is little to no incentive to keep going through the remainder of the labyrinth. After several hours in I got tired of coming back to the same puzzles over and over again, so I ended up giving up on the game. I think Antichamber is the kind of game that you either get it or you don’t. It stands out with its unique art style and unorthodox way of puzzle solving, but it’s hardly rewarding for the player and I couldn’t get much fun out of it.

My score: 6.5/10

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