What Could Be Considered the Most Revolutionary Puzzle Game Ever
Every once in a while you have an experience that you can say is truly mind bending. Like the first time you watched Momento. Then every once in a very great while you have an experience that changes the way you perceive the world. One of the first times this happened for me was when I learned about<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOYyCHGWJq4">Schrodingers Cat.</a>
That and just about anything else that I have studied on <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_field_theory">quantum field theory</a> or other <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgaw9qe7DEE">advanced level physics.</a> When trying to muster up these experiences in my head I am also brought back to my college years, sitting in my desheveled hovel of a bedroom pouring over modern western philosophy such as Hume and Locke (both of whom I don't agree with btw). When first delving into these books I had to train my brain to try and think differently in order to wrap my head around what they were saying and not fail Philosophy 101. It was difficult, just as quantum physics are difficult, but academia that forces your mind to work in wholly different ways is incredibly exciting for some people. It eventually became incredibly exciting for me as well and I have since sought out myriad ways to test my perception and figure out new modes of thinking for me to experience. Happily, Antichamber was one such experience.
When first diving into Antichamber it can be incredibly confusing. The game is built to make you think differently about how you approach situations that may at first seem familiar for anyone that has played games. You see a group of blocks and your first instinct is to of course mold them into some kind of shape or really just to interact with them through the tools you have at your disposal. The things when you start Antichamber you have no tools save for the world map. All you can do is walk and teleport to rooms you have already been to through your world map.
This can be quite disorienting for your typical gamer as this contains very little of the traditional elements that we generally feel comfortable with when firing up a new game, yet Antichamber does seem to take the tropes we are all familiar with and give us new ways to think about and use those tools. We have a gun that could only be comparable to a Portal and Qube mechanic kind of smashed into one (as you get upgrades for the gun it moves far and away from either of those games in terms of how the game wants you to use it.) You have bleak looking hallways that are usually monochromatic with the cubes you shoot and create being the only splash of color in entire rooms on a very regular basis. The music is also incredibly minimalistic and a bit creepy.
With no clear cut goals the motivation to reach new rooms is mostly driven by a sense of curiosity. You will find yourself enthralled with a game world that is incredibly simplistic and bleak if only because there is a constant driving force behind every room in trying to figure out what exactly the game has in store for you next. Solving the puzzles is incredibly satisfying especially if you can figure one out fairly quickly. None of the puzzles become too incredibly complex, it's just that they require a mode of thinking that has never been presented to you before.
Now let's talk about design. Antichamber is a feat of design excellence both in terms of aesthetic and puzzle creation. First off I have no idea how someone comes up with these puzzles. As someone who has no idea how to create a puzzle himself and would most likely create a six turn maze when pressed to create one, this stuff seems like pure, unadulterated genius to me. Furthermore once those puzzles are designed a great deal of credit and faith must then be put into the coding team (or perhaps they were the same people) because I find it fairly unfathomable how you code a cube that has different rooms you may enter on each side or rooms that appear or disappear depending on how you are observing them.
All of that being said I can see where this game takes a deep root in those things that I first mentioned that gave my mind such a workout in the past. One of the main ideas involved in quantum physics application is that states of matter changed upon observation. That seems to be one of the core hooks of this game too, that and challengeing just about every one of your traditional senses of how movement and perception works.
There are small signs all throughout the game that kind of reward you after you complete a puzzle by giving a piece of sagely advice that relates to the puzzle that you just completed. These chalkboard signs further reinforce the asthetic relating to quantum physics and other philosophies or theoretical modes of thinking that challenge how you precieve the world around you.
All in all this is a wonder of a game that comes at a little bit of a steep price for the amount of content it delivers. It can be a fairly short experience if you can figure out the puzzles quickly but most likely you won't. While some may turn their nose up at the $19.99 price point, it really is not one to be missed. This game does for your perception of reality what Portal did to show you how much fun physics are.
Also it should be noted before purchasing this that the middle mouse button (click of the scroll wheel) is essential for this game. If you are a PC gamer this most likely does not apply to you whatsoever but I have read some complaints from people using laptops so just be forewarned that if you are going to play this you need a mouse that you can click the scroll wheel with.
+ One of the most innovative games of the new millenium
+ Beautiful aesthetic that is fleshed out all the way through the experience
+ You may be smarter after beating this
+ Playing with blocks, especially after you have all the upgrades, is incredibly fun
- Can be short if you are a genius
- Some graphical hiccups
Excellence in puzzle games is rarely achieved so don't miss out!