Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: "Antichamber"

Antichamber. Hmm how do I start? When I was at PAX last year, a shooter puzzle indie game with really simplistic graphics caught my eye. I took a glance and saw Antichamber, and players screaming "WTF IS HAPPENING?!" while they play. I tried it and I felt the exact same "WTF" moments for each and every puzzle presented to me. I was hooked and looked forward to its purchase.

Fast forward to Steam Summer Sales today. I saw Antichamber and instantly bought it. From a very matter-of-fact perspective, I think it's at most a decent puzzle game. I was at first caught off guard as I did not know that the game focuses on exploration. You basically go room to room, arranged like a maze, and try to solve each puzzle. If you can't, either you are not trying hard enough, or your 'gun' does not have the ability to solve. Your 'gun' basically manipulate small coloured cubes, and its ability get stronger as you progress. That's it really. Very simple idea. Fantastic level design around that idea. 

But let's not sing too much praises for the game. When the game fools with your mind once, you'd think it's amazing. However, if it keeps using the same trick, it gets monotonous and you will eventually 'accept' the amazing as something norm. That, I feel, is the biggest problem I have with the game. After it screws my mind with disappearing walls, floors, exchanging entrances, exits, teleports, illusions, teleports with gets old. I would say that it is more of a genre problem than a game problem though. Imagine playing Portal without narration or story. There is no motivation for me at all to complete all the puzzles. 

One thing I would definitely change is to put the 'hints' or 'words of advice' to the puzzle at the START, not at the END of it. As I complete each puzzle, seeing the 'words of advice' at the end felt like the game is mocking me. I understand the designer's perspective though. I'm assuming he wants us players to get through the puzzles with our own hands and conclude with 'sayings' so that we will learn more about life. A novel idea, but it is just not working out for me. This is because all these 'sayings' are common sense, like most 'sayings' of the world. 

"The world looks different from the other side."

"Old skills are useful after we have learned new ones."

To me, all these abstract sentences hold no purpose. It's like me telling you "The space is black" and people start explaining it like "Oh it's very true! Black symbolizes nothingness, which can be read as having unlimited possibilities...etc". It's abstract! Like for programming, abstract code means nothing on its own unless some other guy decides to use it and interpret it in his own words, giving it more meaning. By itself...well the space is fucking black. 

Anyway, Antichamber is still a game worth playing and buying. I know that not many are going to share my opinion, and I can totally understand why. If I were able to look past these small little things, maybe I would be able to complete the game in one run. The level design is fantasic. Did I mention that the level design is really good? Oh The level design is really good! 

However, for some reason, prolonged exposure to the game gave me motion sickness, which never happened to me before =(