You are standing in a room. The black walls are lined with a thin white grid, and one glass wall looks out over a hallway with a tempting exit sign. The glass blocks your way. The clock is ticking. "Choose your destination" pops up on an otherwise blank wall. There is only one place to go. Push a button and suddenly the room disappears; you are left standing on the precipice of a jump you can't make with a glowing orange chasm waiting to swallow you whole. The word "jump" hangs huge and three dimensional over the gap. Curious, you back up a few steps, prepare, and run toward the opposing ledge. Even though you jumped at just the right second, you're suddenly tumbling backward into the breach.
Gravity has reoriented. Seconds earlier you were plummeting to a certain digital death, and now your feet are firmly on the ground in yet another white hallway, the lights cranked up to coat the wall in red-orange mist. After another gap and another fall you finally reach the bottom: yet another white room with a little sign on the wall welcomes you. A simple illustration shows a sheep falling off a cliff with the note, "Falling to succeed does not mean failing to progress."
Welcome to Antichamber.
Frequently compared to Portal, the flagship of menacing, experimental puzzle games that rose to cult status in 2007, Antichamber is a first-person, single-player, puzzle platformer released on Steam in late January, 2013. The entire game, a mind-bending journey into otherworldly geometries, was designed and developed by one guy, Alexander Bruce, from the ground up.
Instead of starting with a puzzle mechanic, (Portal provides you with a gun to shoot two portals into a basically realistic environment), Bruce began with the space itself. Antichamber is a maze of non-Euclidian proportions. Most long-time players develop skills at remembering the map and layout of a video game's physical space, just like you would remember the streets in your neighborhood or the layout of your office. But in Anitchamber those mapmaking neurons are put to the ultimate test. The rooms and hallways twist normal ideas of space; recursive hallways, direction dependent doorways, and even easily changed gravity all require the player to relearn and reorient how they interact with the environment. Bruce has said, "Breaking down all those expectations and then remaking them is essentially the core mechanic of the game."
Fortunately the game is as beautiful as it is four-dimensional. Room after room is brushed with richly pigmented colors, bold visual patterns, and crisp line quality. The witty signs and player hints make the game feel at once intimate and continuously unfolding. Antichamber hasn't redefined games, it simply stands outside the genre and has declared itself valid. And with the awards and fan praises already pouring in, it's obvious Antichamber is on the right track.