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Video Game / Antichamber

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Failing to succeed does not mean failing to progress.

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 a door marked "exit".

You can watch the game trailer here.

The game was originally developed as Hazard: The Journey of Life, in which solving puzzles provided short musings about 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.

Antichamber contains examples of:

  • 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.
  • Ability Required to Proceed: Mostly played straight with the different block guns. Sequence Breaking is possible, but it tends to require considerably more ingenuity and dexterity than the intended solution.
  • 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.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage:
    • 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.
  • Anti-Frustration Feature:
    • 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. Those who don't get the hint and instead turn around will discover that the door has been replaced with a wall with an ESC icon on it.
    • 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.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Walls are plain, featureless white and areas have no curves at all, favouring a blocky and efficient feel, which invokes an uneasy emptiness of life. This helps build the game's dream-like atmosphere.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: "A Book And Its Cover" has two exits, each blocked by a wall of cubes, as well as a red disintegrator field preventing you from directly taking out the cubes. Each wall has a nearby small alcove with cubes, visibly connected to it as they are from the same color as the wall's. If the player has completely understood the green gun's properties, he will realise he's expected to connect the cubes from the two alcoves, then break it: since one of the walls (the one with red cubes) is visibly smaller than the other, its side of the chain will disappear. However, when doing so, the larger wall with green cubes will be the one that disappears, which seemingly goes against the green gun's rules. At the other side of the green wall, a sign says "If you are missing information, it's easy to be mislead", which at that moment doesn't have an obvious meaning. Much later, once the player has acquired the red gun, it's possible to come back to the puzzle and get rid of the red wall using the red gun's properties. Unexpectedly, when doing so, what seemed to be a small wall of red cubes is actually a huge pile of cubes which will take several seconds to make disappear. The green gun had worked properly the first time, it's just that the game was lying in regards to which wall was smaller...
  • Classic Video Game "Screw You"s: Some of 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).
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The color of the blocks used in any given room hint at the gun required to solve that puzzle.
  • Completion Meter: The room you start in acts as a overworld map, a settings page, a place to track all the quotes you've found so far, and the place you can escape to anytime when stuck.
  • 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 about a feature that isn't advertised about the green gun (the game normally provides a simple puzzle immediately after the gun as a tutorial). A first time player may attempt a puzzle they've come across many times before that involves green blocks, but it's still unsolvable due to there being too few. After finding another, carefully tucked away puzzle, it teaches the player about the green gun's second ability: cube farming. And then the game provides a quote on precisely what the player just experienced ("Solving a problem may require using abilities we didn't realise we had").
  • 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.
  • Dummied Out: Two of the pink cubes are located in side areas that are impossible to reach in normal gameplay. One of them can be reached by exploiting a Good Bad Bug involving the area it's located in, but the other requires activating the console and then toggling noclipping to reach it.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: "A choice may be as simple as going left or going right". Facing this sign on the wall, to the left are the two stairways, and to the right is where you came from.
  • Final Boss, New Dimension: Once you catch the black block, you're transported to an endless void with floating platforms.
  • 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:
    • Since the red gun can make effectively limitless amounts of cubes, and the game can only handle so many cubes at once, it's possible to crash the game while performing convenient but inefficient bypasses of simple puzzles, or from just generally screwing around. Creating a block cube is also liable to crash the game, unless it's small enough. If it's taller than your character, you are pushing it.
    • 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.
    • In an example of breaking the game by insanity, creating a block cube over any non-static object, such as the motion-sensitive destruction ball or yourself, immediately crashes the game.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Some puzzles have very obscure solutions.
    • The various clickable images are usually prominently placed, so they're not hard to find. Figuring out where the ones you've missed are, however, is extremely difficult without a guide.
  • Hope Spot: The first time you realize you are on the other side of the glass by the exit door—maybe you've won! Nope.
  • Hub Level:
    • The room you start in acts as a overworld map, a settings page, a place to track all the quotes you've found so far, and the place you can escape to anytime when stuck.
    • 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 allow 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. This Speed Run video shows it's possible to complete the game without getting too far from those two rooms, thanks to their connections.
  • Last Lousy Point: Have fun trying to find that one last image you're missing on the Hub Level's picture wall! The game knows this and taunts you with it:
    The more you complete, the harder it gets to find what you've missed.
  • Leap of Faith: Double subverted in the first room, appropiately called "Leap of Faith". You find a shaft, an explorable area on the other side, and some letters that read "Jump". If you actually do it, expecting some variant of this, you'll fall down to the pit. However, when you come back later, the letters have changed to read "Walk". Try walking and, this time, some platforms will appear to let you cross the shaft—they're safe while walking, it's just that they disappear whenever you jump.
  • Luck-Based Mission: A few of the Last Lousy Points are Luck Based. In particular, the middle drop in "Laying the Foundation" is completely luck-dependent.
  • 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". On top of all of the geometry screwery and visual aesthetics, half of the game's score is of field recordings of nature. (On a related note, the two soundtrack album covers show the flocking red balls breaking through a wall on one cover, and an identical image replacing the balls with birds and the wall with trees on the other. The balls in-game make the sound of a swarm of birds. Now think about the rest of the game.)
  • 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.
  • Moon 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.
  • 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. note 
  • 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.
  • Permanently Missable Content: The first pink cube is only accessible 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).
  • Playable Menu: The menu is in-universe. There you can adjust several settings: mouse inversion, mouse sensitivity, sound, music, full screen or windowed and screen resolution. It also is a Hub Level.
  • 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.
  • Room Escape Game: Boiled down, the game amounts to this.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • Schmuck Bait: In one room the ceiling says "Don't look down". If you look up at that, then down, the floor disappears.
  • 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.
  • Speedrun: Using various Sequence Breaking techniques, YouTube videos eventually surfaced showing people beating the game in less than 5 minutes. The current world-recordnote  for the game involves beating the game with only the green gun, entering less than 5% of the rooms, and spending only 2 minutes and 9.67 seconds between resetting and firing the final block. This require tricking the games teleport, shooting cubes and catching them after visiting the menu room, and making the game think he's gone to rooms he hasn't yet. And he admits he could HAVE IDEALLY DONE IT FASTER.
  • Shout-Out: Several puzzles contain pop culture references in their names, such as "Down The Rabbit Hole", "Cry Me A River", 'I Like To Move It', "A Link To The Past" or "Stairway To Heaven".
  • Tag Line: "You are not here."
  • 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.
  • Timed Mission: As soon as you start the game, a timer appears in the Hub Level labelled "Time Remaining", counting down from 1 hour and 30 minutes. Once it expires, no indication is given until you return to the lobby area, and you see a cartoon displayed above the timer with the caption saying "Live on your own watch, not on someone elses. [sic]". Letting the timer run out is, however, required for getting 100% Completion of the picture panels.
  • 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.
  • Tutorial Failure: For the green and yellow guns.
    • You are shown that you can "grow" more blocks in the recess in the wall, but it takes a logical leap to figure out that you can do so by drawing an empty rectangle anywhere you want—not just in the recessed areas provided. This stymied more than a few players.
    • 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.
  • 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."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: If you find and activate all of the pink cubes before finishing the game... good for you.
  • When Life Gives You Lemons...: In real life: as stated by Bruce, the non-Euclidian spaces of the game came about after accidentally programming the Unreal engine that created a rendering bug, which he then expanded upon to create the full game.
  • White Void Room: The standard color scheme.
  • Wrap Around:
    • 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.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: The game pretty much starts this way.