Platform: PC /Genre: First Person Puzzle Platformer
Developer: Alexander Bruce / Publisher: Alexander Bruce
Anti-Chamber takes reality and spins it on its head. You can never trust what the game is telling you, nor can you trust your usual thinking. Anti-Chamber is a first person puzzle game that tests your ability to think outside the box whilst teasing you with clues in the form of riddles. Created by Alexander Bruce, the game provides a charming experience – if not a challenging one. Its brilliant use of colours and soothing sounds creates an amazing atmosphere, although sometimes the mind bending puzzles can inevitably lead to confusion as to where the next objective is. These instances are when the game loses its ability to provide a fun, unique experience and instead frustration creeps in as you wonder, “What do I do next??”
Within the first 20 minutes Anti-Chamber proves how mistrustful it can be, blatantly lying to you and challenging your creative problem solving skills. These perplexing puzzles continuously find a way to test your adaptability to the ‘Anti-Chamber way’ – similar to the Portal games. It makes you question everything you see; things might change depending on how close you are, staircases may appear out of nowhere and the game may even force you to travel backwards to progress forwards. Anti-Chamber gives players clues in the form of riddles on black paper scattered throughout the world; these riddles are very cryptic and will make your mind do back flips trying to outwit the game. They can also provide a deep life lesson or good advice along the way, which is a nice touch.
When starting Anti-Chamber many will recall The Unfinished Swan, Portal or even Quantum Conundrum. The first person puzzle-adventure genre, with an emphasis placed on strong atmospheres, has boomed over the past few years. Anti-Chamber is yet another example. Its use of sound effects and music is top-notch; exploring a level and hearing waves crashing, gulls in the distance and the sound of rain pouring down sets a truly unique scene – one that engrosses the player within the world. I found myself getting lost within its setting. Though there is no story told within the 5-6 hour journey ahead of you, it never takes away from the experience at hand.
The further you explore the world of Anti-Chamber, the more clever level design and terrific use colours will continue to impress. The game also finds ways to extend the intelligent level design, while keeping it fresh, in the form of 4 collectable guns. Each gun you collect adds another ability to the player from moving small blocks from point A to B to controlling their movements as if they were a snake slithering across the ground.
Anti-Chamber is not restricted within the constraints of level by level progression because you are able to revisit previous levels with ease due to the innovative level map. The map and settings menus in the game are all located in-game, via the games main hub. This is an interesting feature and allows easy access to the games many levels and can be brought up with a simple press of the Escape key whenever you choose. Going back to past environments when you acquire new weapons is the best way to discover new areas, progressing your way through the game Metroidvania style.
However, this is also the game’s biggest problem as it never clearly directs the player towards their next objective or level to explore. In this sense you are stuck going from level to level trying to find hidden areas you couldn’t access before – doesn’t sound too bad? Well, every time you switch levels, the previous one resets and you are left repeating the same challenge over and over. This becomes even more frustrating as the levels all intertwine together and you are never given an apparent indication when you have left the area you needed to explore, leaving you scratching your head when you return to the main menu only to find you are far away from your desired locale.
This isn’t helped by the confusing map system that lacks the detailed depth that is desired. The map itself could have been explained better; you won’t know what parts of the map need exploring, where you must go to unlock new guns and overall it lacks a defined path. Looking at your map to see a massive amount of areas open to explore and having no idea where you’re meant to be going is beyond frustrating. This is where the fun ends and the confusion sets in.
Repeating areas is only so much fun when you have no idea what you are doing.
I also had the game randomly shut down on me about 5 times during my playthrough and no definitive reason was given except that the game was ‘Not Responding’. Though this wasn’t a huge issue, it was never enjoyable to see your progress on a certain level reset because of an error. The game does however require minimal loading time – jumping from the in-game hub to any level is done with ease and without much waiting whatsoever.
Anti-Chamber provides a uniquely charming addition to the first- person puzzler, providing an atmospheric experience that is up there with the best titles in the genre in terms of aesthetics. Interesting use of colours will keep you entertained and the mind-bending puzzles will leave you mentality exhausted – in the best way possible. Yet it seems to lack the defining qualities that many games have been able to showcase before it, mainly polish. Though some concepts were really impressive in theory, the execution seems lacking.
Anti-Chamber is a definite purchase for any fan of puzzle experiences, but don’t expect to be blown away in comparison to the best the genre has to offer.
+ Great atmosphere
+ Clever puzzles
+ Provides a challenge
– Confusing map design
– Lacks direction
Overall Score: 7.6
Jamie Briggs manages Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and their videos on YouTube.