Antichamber

Like last year's Fez, Antichamber's relationship with its pre-release media functions as an elaborate bait-and-switch.

For Fez, that meant playing up the charming indie platformer aspect of the game, without even nodding in the direction of the complex lingual and numeral headfucks that were sitting behind curtains stage right. In fact, the reason that this trick worked so well in the case of Fez is that all of those puzzles are surfaced from the beginning of the game -- you just happen to walk past them unknowingly or puzzle on them for a moment but eventually move on. Then, once you're given the ability to look around in first-person after your first play-through, you can finally fully appreciate the world that you have been in all along. Burying the mechanics of the latter half is clearly in service of creating moments of authentic insight within the player.

Antichamber is not about "non-euclidian" geometry (as if I, or the majority of those typing those words, have any idea what they mean). The distortions of space and geometry are awe-inspiring and beautiful and I made sure to grab anyone who was around my apartment while I was playing and show them the art gallery, or the window room, but these distortion simply aren't what the game is about. They are an important part, maybe the most important, but certainly not the only.

But then there is the matter of blocks, and the block guns, and the block-destroying force fields -- and these are the elements that compose the bulk of the game after the introductory stages. This is what is Alexander Bruce has buried in the design, creating an introduction to the world that is about the power of distorted geometry and then slowly becoming a puzzle game about creating and manipulating items in the environment. And it is a pretty fun game! Each of the gun's upgrades are satisfying, giving you a new ability that totally redefines the way you see the world. And this does give you a new conception of the world around you, allowing you to see how truly insane the structure of the world is by giving you more mobility.

And then there are the signs. I found the lo-fi clip art charming, and was intrigued by the way that the way that they loosely traced the life cycle. Sometimes the clues were helpful, sometimes they were useless. But what do they all mean?

That is the main problem with Antichamber. Because the world is so disjointed and surreal, my assumption is that what seems like chaos is actually regulated by a very specific set of rules. And that could be my failing as a player, because what is clear is that Antichamber is not about a simple set of rules that you expand to apply to a variety of situations, but rather a series of connected, but ultimately distinct puzzles. While I thoroughly enjoyed Antichamber, and would recommend it to anyone who saw a trailer and found it interesting, the game's obvious merits eventually just highlight its obvious failings.

xposted - anothercastlegames.wordpress.com

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