Antichamber is an 2013 indie video game by Alexander Bruce. It is a first-person puzzler, where the normal rules of Euclidian space do not apply. You begin alone, in a single room, with the exit in sight behind a wall of glass. The only useful action is the clickable map, which leads to a long drop and the word "Jump". From here, all you know is there is an exit.You can watch the game trailer here.The game was originally developed as Hazard: The Journey of Life, where completion of puzzles will provide short musings of life and choices.Notes before reading ahead:
Because this is a puzzle game, many examples of tropes in the game may be unmarked spoilers. Stop reading here if you want to figure it out yourself.
The creator of this game himself suggests avoiding Walkthroughs of this game unless you are hopelessly stumped. The fact is, this game has no plot or story that you are missing by being unable to finish a puzzle. As opposed to most games where you finish a puzzle and then advance the plot, here the puzzles ARE the plot.
This game provides examples of the following tropes:
Alien Geometries: This game uses a portal-based 3D engine, and exploits this trope for all it's worth.
At one point, you make six 90-degree right turns in quick succession, with all turns being equally spaced out from one another.
In one puzzle, you may fall down a pit at terminal velocity for 10 seconds. To return to the room that you originally fell from, you board a not-particularly-fast elevator and ride it up for 1.5 seconds.
Frequently, two puzzles that are (presumably) spatially far apart will lead to the exact same destination. If you reach said destination via puzzle 1's path, puzzle 2's path will be nowhere to be seen, and vice versa.
The first of the three final rooms, "The Chase", uses the Final Exam Stage variation of this trope. After spending most of the game solving puzzles with your matter gun and blocks, this room brings back most of the elements from the earlier puzzles, including jump pads, bounce pads, transporter windows, eye walls, riot balls and vanishing platforms (most of these mechanisms seldom appear after you've acquired the blue gun). It even brings back the red and blue staircases from the "Many Paths to Nowhere" room (one of the very first rooms).
The "Failing Forward" room mentioned in the Empty Room Psych entry below does this too, using all of the mentioned mechanisms (except for using laser beams and doors instead of bounce pads), which contributes even more to the anticlimax feeling at the end of the room.
Stuck on a puzzle? Stuck by a puzzle? Not sure what to do? Whack the Esc key and go back to the main map. One room you might run into near the "beginning" of the game traps you in a tiny, inescapable box, with only the advice "Sometimes, we make choices that don't lead anywhere at all." and a picture of a person's finger pressing the Escape key.
In rooms with multiple paths, arrows will materialize on the walls to point you in the directions you haven't taken yet.
Rooms on the map with enlarged squares indicate there's still paths from that room you haven't found yet, even if (like with The Butterfly Effect) there aren't any other path indicators leading from it.
Artifact of Doom: The black block. It floats around emitting darkness wherever it goes, and tends to show up right as you get to gun upgrade rooms. What it is, what it is doing, and why it tends to pass by the block guns is never touched upon at all. However, it's a prominent moving thing doing something, so it's worth investigating.
Art Shift: The final area before the end is a really soft and rounded area in what up to that point was a very blocky, angular game.
Bellisario's Maxim: invoked At one point in the game, you can find a locked door similar to the Exit Door which is instead labeled "Under Construction", with a nearby quote saying "Some things don't have a deeper meaning." The door's purpose is unknown, but it obviously doesn't want you to dwell on something that doesn't matter.
Bizarrchitecture: Rooms don't necessarily connect to other rooms based on relative spatial position. Rooms often also connect to rooms based on where the player is looking and at what angle the player is coming from, or on the player's previous series of actions. Some rooms even change after visiting other rooms. However, the more esoteric means of getting around have distinctive objects that you can associate with what you need to do.
Classic Video Game Screw Yous: Some the most difficult, hair-pulling puzzles in the game in the end don't advance you towards the exit, but reward you with an Easter Egg room or plop you somewhere you've been before. This is fine when you've already beaten the game, but annoying when you're still trying to figure out where to concentrate your work to finish the game for the first time (especially when you still think there's a time limit, and therefore every second is gold: this poor guy found one of those rooms with only 8 minutes left on the timer).
Contemplate Our Navels: Solving a puzzle will reveal an apt quote about the solution, or sometimes about the next problem. It is hard to be sure which.
For example, at the end of a training track with the blue block gun, you are shown a door and a block. Look away from the door, and it will vanish behind you. The game then has a quote about keeping important things in sight.
A trippy one comes from learning a quirk about the green gun which can multiply blocks which isn't an obvious use. A first time player may attempt a puzzle they've come across many times before because they couldn't solve it with the blue gun which ends in frustration because there aren't enough blocks. After finding another, carefully tucked away puzzle, it teaches the player about the multiplication trick. And then the game provides a quote on precisely what the player just experienced.
Creepy Changing Painting: The entire game. Many things change ever-so-subtly (or perhaps not-so-subtly) when you look at them a certain number of times, when you look at them for a certain period of time, when you're looking at them from a certain angle, or even when you're not looking at them at all!
Damn You, Muscle Memory: The Escape key takes you back to the map room, negating some of your progress. If you are in the middle of a puzzle and something happens in Real Life requiring your attention, DO NOT PRESS ESCAPE TO PAUSE THE GAME as you do in games with similar movement controls like Half-Life or Portal.
Deconstructor Fleet: The game goes far out of its way to defy common sense and never behaves like you would expect. That is, until you get used to all the bizarre twists and it decides to throw a perfectly normal puzzle in front of you. Unless it isn't.
Developer's Room: The game has several, all of them hidden behind some of the game's most challenging puzzles.
Disc One Final Dungeon: The Tower, a seven-floor area that brings you to different rooms scattered across the whole map.
Don't Look at Me!: Certain parts of the environment change or activate depending on whether or not you're actively observing them.
Door To Before: Often, but the numbered rooms in the tower sections are the most obvious.
Dream Logic Puzzle: The game intentionally instills this atmosphere, although once the player gets used to the strange yet consistent dream-like logic, it gets a lot less frustrating. The puzzles in the game are usually either this or block puzzles, though sometimes both. The most common general principle is that areas will often change when you aren't looking at them.
Dummied Out: Two of the pink cubes are located in side areas that are impossible to reach without hacking.
Easter Egg: There are several Developer's Rooms that showcase concept art, historical screenshots, and even a piece of shader code (coded with the Unreal Engine graphical editing tools). These tend to be well hidden behind the hardest puzzles in the game.
Empty Room Psych: The room "Failing Forward" contains a quite long series of what might be the hardest puzzles in the whole game. You would expect to find another of the Developer's Room at the end of it (and, according to the difficulty of the puzzles, an extremely awesome one). Instead, you find a completely empty room. You can see it here.
Gainax Ending: You finally catch up to the darkness-emitting black block, as you suck it into your block gun, the entire world gets sucked into the black block first. You are left with a black block gun and an open monochrome space outside. You leave your white dome to find winding paths and towers everywhere, and falling merely loops you back where you were before you jumped. Finally you find a black dome. It opens up to reveal a floating cube and white wreckage. Shooting the black block into the cube, the wreckage floats up, forms into the Antichamber logo and sucks everything in, including itself, before everything goes white.
Game-Breaking Bug: One specific puzzle near the end of the game, if solved in the manner that is most obvious, crashed the game. Specifically, the puzzle requires using the duplicating properties of block squares to form a block cube, which would crash the game due to its size. Thankfully, the puzzle is optional, is still technically doable even in the bugged version (simply make a cube that only fills as much area as necessary to trigger the door, or, if you're crazy enough, try to do precision shooting at the beam emitters), and the bug since has been fixed.
The game can only handle so many blocks existing at a time, making the block duplication ability of the red gun liable to crash the game if you try to use it on larger walls.
The game crashes if you use a block cube on the motion-sensitive destruction ball.
Guide Dang It: Some puzzles have very obscure solutions. Also, some abilities aren't well demonstrated (particularly those of the green gun).
For instance you are shown that you can "grow" more blocks with the green gun in the recess in the wall, but it takes a logical leap to figure out that you can do so by drawing an empty square anywhere you want - not just in the recessed areas.
When a connected block structure loses a block from a middle of it, the smaller half of it will disappear. If the amount of blocks on either side of the structure is the same, all such sides will disappear. Sounds simple? Well, the game never actually tells you this, it just puts in two rooms where you're pretty much locked until you've somehow realised the pattern and used it to get enough blocks to solve the puzzle - which is a problem if you don't have any clue of why the blocks are disappearing but still somehow manage to complete the puzzle: you'll now be struggling among lots of puzzles that assume you've fully understood the pattern.
Also, the two first rooms, "Leap of Faith" and "A Jump Too Far", are connected to lots of different rooms, more than any other room in the game. Together, the different branches allows fast access (if you know well the layout, that is) to pretty much every area of the game. This includes the top of The Tower (which contains the Red Matter Gun), shortcuts to the rooms with the Green and Yellow Matter Guns and the access to The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. ThisSpeed Run video shows it's possible to complete the game without getting too far from those two rooms, thanks to their connections.
Lost Forever: The first pink cube is only accesible at the very beginning of the game. After you've completed a few rooms, the layout of "There's No Way In" changes and you can't access the area where it is. It's particularly bad because it's precisely one of the most Guide Dang It cubes (it requires you to walk among darkness through a passage that, in a first playthrough, you won't learn of its existence until after the point where the layout has changed).
Metroidvania: The game is non-linear, allows sequence breaking, features interconnected areas, requires upgrades to advance, and focuses on exploration.
Mind Screw: The trailer for the game starts with a quote from a critic saying "Even as the developer told me what the game was doing to mess with my brain, it still succeeded in messing with my brain."
Minimalism: Antichamber has no narrative, or a large number of game mechanics, just a few simple tools and many puzzles involving Alien Geometries. It uses primary colors in simple fashion. Most objects do not appear to have textures mapped to them. There is only ambient sound and no soundtrack.
No Antagonist: There's something that can be interpreted as an antagonist, but doesn't really do anything visibly bad.
Nonstandard Game Over: Killing yourself in-game (namely by crushing yourself with blocks) will crash the game engine.
No Plot? No Problem!: Further enhancing the game's minimalism, there is no narrative whatsoever. Just a minimalist series of hallways full of puzzles, wry observations on the current situation and how it relates to life written on the walls, and Alien Geometries.
Offscreen Teleportation: Assume the environment around you will do this to you, and it becomes a lot easier to progress.
100% Completion: In the form of fully exploring the map and locating all the images. And to a lesser extent, finding all the hidden pink cubes, though the game doesn't keep track of how many you have found.
Playing The Player: "The most tenacious, infuriating obstacle you’ll face throughout the game is yourself." The game is all about the player being Wrong Genre Savvy. The exit that you see from the first moment you start playing? You reach it quite soon. It's a wall with a poster. Except when it's not.
Point-and-Click Map: One of the walls in the main room has a map of all the areas you have visited, as well as their connections to every other room. Can be useful for restarting puzzles or moving to different puzzles when stuck.
Point of No Return: Averted. At any point in any puzzle, you can return to the hub level by pressing ESC. The only exception is during the final segment of the game - specifically, after sucking in the black block. Even then, you can return to the hub level once you complete the game, or by closing it out and opening it up again.
Portal Door: Some entrances to rooms involve going through what looks like a solid volume from a specific side.
Punny Name: The name of the game is Anti-chamber, kind of meaning the rooms are not what you expect normal rooms to be. And you start off in a proper antechamber, ie a small room leading into a much larger room.
Replay Value: Once you have beaten the game you can go for 100% completion, but aside from seeing the game with experienced eyes and just messing around with the gun the game doesn't really have much to come back to. (This is one of the reasons people shouldn't look up walkthroughs). The creator is on the record saying that games don't have to have a replay value, that he was looking to create a puzzle game and not thinking about replays.
Save Game Limits: The game has only one save. You can't really let a friend try it fresh without losing your own progress. As this is a PC game, you can of course manually keep multiple copies of the save file; in fact, this is what the creator recommends doing, shrugging it off as a Do It Yourself Plumbing Project.note (your Steam installation directory)''\steamapps\common\Antichamber\Binaries\Win32\SavedGame.bin
Scenery as You Go: Played with. Some puzzles feature this, and sometimes, the newly created bridges between the start and the destination stop appearing just before the final step, preventing you from reaching the exit, forcing you to find another bridge at a not-so-obvious place that actually brings you to your destination.
Sequence Breaking: While there isn't an exact singular sequence of puzzles that must be followed (the green and yellow block guns have multiple puzzles that lead directly to them), it is possible to reach the ending without getting the red block gun through clever manipulation and careful management of blocks.
Take a Third Option: Many of the puzzles will have this as a solution. Early on there is a hall leading to two stairways, one going up and one going down. It doesn't matter which one you take, they both lead back to right in front of both stairways, the solution is to turn around and go back down the hallway you came.
Take Your Time: There is a clock in the menu/pause/map screen that counts down from ninety minutes. After the ninety minutes are up, the clock remains at zero and this cartoon and caption◊ appear.
In case the image link becomes broken, the cartoon is of someone in bed throwing away an alarm clock and the caption says "Live on your own watch, not someone else's."
Timed Mission: As soon as you start the game, a timer appears in the Hub Level labeled "Time Remaining", counting down from 1 hour and 30 minutes. Once it expires, no indication is given until you return to the lobby area, which displays a cartoon above the timer with the caption saying "Go by your own clock, and not someone else's."
The Tower: The primary endpoint for successful puzzle completion, and a good indicator of progress. As would be expected, the act of navigating this tower doesn't necessarily involve going up and down, and it's easy to find the various levels of it out-of-order. You start the main game in the middle of level 1. On the other hand, once you have the Yellow gun, enter the tower at level 1 and grab the light blue cube, and it will teleport you to a seemingly random place. However, complete the puzzle where you get dropped off, and you find level 2 of the tower, and so on until you reach the top.
The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Behind some red bars at the beginning of the game, once you've acquired the Red gun, you can find the exit you've seen for a while behind the wall of glass - and this time, you can actually cross it. Behind it, you'll find a long series of corridors where you'll chase the black block you've seen for the whole game.
Video Game Tropes: It does kind of go unsaid - considering that it is a video game and all - but the hype is how different the game is. However once you get deeper into the game the recognizable tropes set in. The game got very good reviews, but one of the rare middle-range reviews points out that "Despite a bold start, Antichamber can't resist eventually becoming a videogame, introducing a gun-like tool that sucks up and fires off coloured blocks."
Used primarily to mess with the player's spatial senses. Various hallways and exits can take you to virtually any part of the Antichamber complex, and you often cannot go back the way you came.
The end section of the game features a seemingly endless open area consisting of walkways connecting towers and decks. The Bottomless Pits in this area actually loop around—falling off of a walkway just means you'll come down from above your starting position in a few seconds, which is necessary to reach the end. If you exploit the fact that you can stand on the black block, you can even skip the entire puzzle by just jumping off the starting bridge.
Yank the Dog's Chain: The game starts you off in a room with a door marked "exit" behind glass. You will actually get to the door several times during the game, but the first few times you are simply chided about being halfway there and things.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: After every gun upgrade, and at some points without gun upgrades, you often go by the exit door. It usually just has a wall with a quote about progress and endings immediately behind it. After playing this straight 4 times however, this is inverted in the very end, where if you try to ignore the exit door like you would before, the other door would lead you to a wall and a quote about how you should move on.