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“Antichamber is a psychological exploration puzzle game set within an Escher-like world. It’s a world where the rules don’t follow the same physical rules as other games would or our own world would.” -Alexander Bruce
When the example he gives is a “non-euclidian four-dimensional space”, you know you’re in for something really special. And it was, for the first hour, and here's why.
Antichamber is set in a unique and striking world in which you explore for the sake of exploration, which is something that’s really rare. These days, exploration usually means exploring to find a power-up, or to find all the collectibles, but in this case, I actually found myself exploring the world because it was worth exploring in and of itself.
It works better as an exploration game
And I think the game provides the best exploration within the first hour, when you have none of the devices which you pick up later on (once you get these you get into a more traditional puzzle game mindset rather than an exploration mindset) to use in many puzzles involving different colored cubes. To me, the game works better as an exploration game than a puzzle game - it’s harder to freely explore the world when puzzles act as blocks to the exploration.
In the first hour, before “the game proper” starts, Antichamber is just acclimatizing you to the nature of the world, to the strangeness and beauty of both the juxtaposition of color and pallidity and the truly amazing level design. It shows you the world, and lets you observe anything and everything at your own pace (which is something I hope Jonathan Blow’s The Witness does too), and rather than guiding you down a linear path it lets you go your own way. Granted, there are limited paths to take, unlike an open outdoor space, but it still offers a unique location and space everywhere you go - at least for the first hour, the introduction to the world.
After a few hours, the game and more than that, the puzzles itself often get boring, repetitive and tedious. You see, it’s in this first hour where you’re not interrupted by puzzles and you’re just set free to roam and explore to your heart’s desire.
A gallery of sorts
One of the first locations you arrive at is a small room, a gallery of sorts, where there are cubes set in a grid-like pattern. To get to this location, you walk down a corridor, and from a short distance you can only see one side of a cube, with the letters L I F E appearing every time a pendulum ticks by the center. As you walk towards it, the space opens up to you, showing many of these cubes, all containing unique and colorful 3D images, such as electrons flying around a nucleus or sets of rocks orbiting a large central rock and being orbited by mini-rocks of its own.
The amazing thing is that depending on which side you view each cube from, you see a different “sculpture”. And I use the word “sculpture” loosely, because what you see varies from a globe spinning to a game of Pong being played to a cube floating in space surrounded by block arrows pointing at it from all directions. This seemingly simple scene not only illustrates the kind of mentality that Antichamber provides, but also shows the player that this sort of beauty can only be achieved in a videogame. Simple pictures or video can’t capture the ability to walk around in a fantastical space and observe everything as you please.
I wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone who's even a little interested, because this sort of game needs to be experienced firsthand. I give the first hour of the game an unequivocal 10/10, and think that it's worth it for that amazing hour alone. And if you've played Antichamber, what did you think?