Antichamber review

written 2023-08-30

Antichamber is a puzzle game that I heard someone say is *better than Portal*, which is absurdly high praise. So of course, I tried it on 2023-08-29. I found it... far short of those expectations. To avoid spoilers, I'll put all my crititique first and substantiate it with examples later.

The biggest problem with the game is a systemic one. It's non-linear with a map for you to explore in your own order, and some puzzles reward you with new abilites that can be used to solve puzzles you couldn't have solved before. In other words, it's a *metroidvania* puzzle game. The problem with this concept is that you can't know if the puzzle you're trying to solve requires an ability you don't have.

There's also a lot of puzzles with unguessable gimmicky solutions instead of using established game mechanics. And even with the established game mechanics, there's a lot of confusing subtleties about how they work that lead to solutions I feel I couldn't have figured out because I didn't have the necessary information. Finally, intended solutions are sometimes tedious or require such precise execution that I thought of the correct solution but decided it had to be wrong because I couldn't execute it.

Overall, I enjoyed the game for the first hour or two, but the number of puzzles with these problems seems to increase after that. I had to look up most of the solutions in the second half of the game, and never felt like "oh that was obvious I should've figured that out", but instead felt like "oh I never would've guessed that mechanic worked that way, I'm glad I didn't spend 15 more minutes staring at this puzzle". I quit the game when I was probably 3/4ths done, but that was largely because I had a problem where the chorded inputs required for later abilities often didn't register which was probably my mouse's fault. If my mouse had been fully working I probably would've finished the game, but I still would've found the second half not very enjoyable because of all the other problems.

Spoiling puzzles from this point on

Puzzles wth unguessable gimmicky solutions:

Confusing subtleties about main mechanics:

Example of tedium: there's a room with no floor that you have to cross over by placing some blocks for you to stand on and then dragging them along with you through the room, which twists and turns. This dragging has to be done super carefully because with this 2D-aim-on-3D-world mechanic, it's super easy to accidentally drag the trail of blocks downward or to somewhere totally different than you meant to, and if you fall you have to start the whole process again.

Example of excessive precision: there's a room with 4 horizontal bars blocking your path that you have to use your erase matter ability on, but they regenerate super fast after being erased. At first I thought I could erase them and quickly go through before they regenerate, but after plenty of trying, I concluded I couldn't do that and the game intended for me to do something else. In fact that is the intended solution, it's just really difficult to do.

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