Escher, Eat Your Heart Out

I picked up more games than I meant to during the recent Steam Sale. That is to say, any. But the combination of deep discounts with recently-acquired (or soon-to-be-acquired) holiday cash proved too powerful. If it’s any consolation, most of the games I picked up were ones I was thinking about buying for a while; that is to say, there were very few pure impulse buys. I’ve talked about some of the other games I picked up recently, and I’d like to continue to do so today. Today, I’d like to talk about Antichamber.

Antichamber, in what is apt for the newly “Mile High” state (topical reference!), is quite trippy. It’s difficult to describe, but I guess I would start by saying it’s a first-person puzzler similar to the Portal games. You are thrown into a sparse environment with practically no preamble, having to find your way through the world while at the same time coming to grips with its rules.

Rules? Yes; the world of Antichamber doesn’t work like you would think. For you see, it is non-Euclidean.

Walls shift. Doors lead different ways depending on which side you enter. Things are bigger on the inside, or exist only when observed (or not observed). Basically, the world is a maze where the normal rules apply only when they feel like it.

This mindbender is shepherded by a very distinctive, stark art style. Almost everything is rendered in pure white, with crisp black edges. There are occasional splashes of color, sometimes used to differentiate paths, other times to make them blend together. But everything is bright and simple. Deceptively simple.

The single purpose of the game is to make it through to the end, conquering obstacles by breaking your brain ever so slightly. Eventually you acquire a device that lets you manipulate colored cubes you come across. These cubes can be used to open doors, access unreachable areas, and solver a myriad of puzzles. As you progress the manipulator gains more functions (and colors), making more complicated puzzles solvable.

I just finished the game after 8 hours, and really enjoyed it. A lot of the puzzles had me stumped for quite a while, and there were a few places where the solutions seemed unnecessarily obtuse or random. But I managed to get through the game without consulting a guide or wiki even once, and for that I am proud of myself. The rules of the world even began to make sense, and I was able to use them to my advantage more often than they hindered me.

One notable feature is the ability to warp from your starting room to any previously-visited location. This is useful, since it is usually infeasible to retrace your footsteps to get to where you just were. It makes solving puzzles a thing you can do as you want to, rather than banging your head repeatedly against the same stretch of sterile white wall. The feeling of elation when you return to a room and solve the puzzle with ease is unparalleled.

So if you want to kill several hours (and brain cells), and cerebral puzzles are your kind of thing, I can heartily recommend giving Antichamber a whirl. You have been warned.