Antichamber Hands-on PAX Prime 2012 Preview -- Yeah, It's Still Pretty PhenomenalBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Sep 07, 2012
You’ve heard people say it far too often, but when it comes to Antichamber, you really do have to experience it for your yourself. Only then will you truly understand why its garnered such praise and attention over the past few years. The stark corridors punctuated by splashes of vibrant colors--or darkened hallways lined only with the faintest of white lights carving away the darkness in two long strips along the walls and floor--give the game a haunting yet inviting feel, not unlike Portal, which it understandably gets compared to quite a bit.
Of course, the game’s visual style is only half of the overall experience. The sound design is just as minimalist and just as effective when it comes to setting the mood, as it blends a seemingly endless variety of sound effects--the patter of falling rain, a dog’s distant bark, etc.--and melodies that float in and out of your head as if you were passing through a cloud. As a result , there were times when I genuinely couldn’t remember if I had heard a particular sound or melody or I had just imagined it.
The sounds are just so delicately intertwined with the exploration, that it’s easy to forget what’s real and what’s not. This sort of “living dream” feel appears to permeate the entire Antichamber experience. At least, that was my impressions based on playing the first 40 minutes of the game at PAX Prime 2012.
But the game’s overall dreamlike quality owes everything to its puzzles, which is actually a little misleading, since the entire experience is one giant puzzle that you are trying to solve piece by piece and step by step. The briliance comes from the way these challenges blend together and how they force you to not just think about the puzzle pieces in front of you but to question the way in which you are thinking about those pieces in the first place.
For example, one of the first scenarios you encounter in the game is a pair of stairs, one leading up and one leading down. No matter which staircase you choose, you end up circling around a hallway and find yourself in front of the staircases again. This loop will continue forever if you keep walking forward. However, if after you use the stairs you turn around and backtrack, you will see an entirely new hallway, and you’ll be able to proceed to the next area.
Screwing with the player’s expectations, perceptions, and sense of control are at the core of what Antichamber appears to be all about. I’ll refrain from spoiling any of the other challenges I encountered, because surprise is one of the game’s crowning achievements. Let’s just say it’s no wonder Antichamber has wracked up so many design awards, and has so many people clamoring to get their hands on the finished product.
Rest assured, you will not want for mind-bending and smile-inducing experiences when Antichamber (finally!) lands on Steam later this year.