Antichamber tied our brains into painful knots back in January, and its clever puzzles both drained our sanity and pulled a positive review out of our confusion. Since then, the indie head-scratcher has pulled some impressive initial sales—Polygon reports that it has sold over 100,000 copies on Steam.
Creator Alexander Bruce says Antichamber's initial success "blew some people's expectations out of the water" as a predictor of total sales, but he kept his hopes reserved because its complexity made it difficult to market, by which he must have meant its tendency to cause players to karate kick the nearest teddy bear in frustration. (What, only me?)
"I've been burned by expectations before," Bruce tells Polygon. "I did that to myself with all of the competitions I was entering in. Several times, I entered competitions, I had all my hopes and dreams pinned on them, I thought it was a sure shot, and then I missed them. And that sucked. And as I went through later competitions, I made sure I didn't do that. I said back in 2010 that sales are just another competition to me. And if I can win all these other ones, I'm testing the waters for how it sells."
Bruce's gamble evidently worked out, and Antichamber is probably the best chance on Steam to make your brain do a somersault within your skull. You can grab it for $20.
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After a break, we're back. Chris, Tom Senior and Marsh discuss Antichamber, DmC, The Witcher, Destiny, the inner workings of Valve and a game called Half-Life 2 that is pretty good aparrently.
Also featuring an ass palace, places where one may or may not take a horse, the playground circular saw craze of the 1990s, a wonderous squirrel experience, and possibly the most inept attempt to begin a podcast since the last time we tried to begin a podcast.
We also talk about Rome II, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and the games of David Johnston.
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Our review of Antichamber.
Smudged Cat games.
Half-Life 2 is a good computer game! Who knew. No link here: just registering my surprise. Again.
Our review of the petition-tastic DmC: Devil May Cry.
Some pictures of Destiny, Bungie's game about a magic space ball or something.
A blurry screenshot of whatever Respawn Entertainment are doing.
Via Eurogamer: the PS4 will not block used games.
MAXIMUM SQUIRRELS "Nine out of ten." - Martin 'Marsh' Davies
Our Aliens: Colonial Marines review, Kotaku's report on its troubled development, and a xenomorph with a tiny little invisible piano.
Someone call a doctor. Chris has a case of not-really-thinking-this-through.
Jan 31, 2013
Review by David Valjalo
Unlike Portal, there’s no test-subject narrative behind Antichamber, an austerely intellectual first-person puzzler from indie dev Alexander Bruce - but that doesn’t mean you aren’t under the microscope. As you wander the blinding white corridors of a space-bending facility, unpicking the cryptic clues within, you’re encouraged to think that your own psychological state is the real barrier to progress in the game’s interweaving, claustrophobic tunnels.
Wall-mounted plaques punctuate each new area and challenge, delivering existential wisdom of a seemingly glib kind. "The path of least resistance is a valid option," says one. Another reads: "A few steps backwards may keep you moving forwards." But these are also crucial hints, some a good deal more opaque than they first appear, to puzzles which intentionally avoid conformity. One challenge might simply task you with following signs to the exit, another may secretly encourage you to ignore them, while others play with space and perspective in ways which defy traditional game logic: walk up to a window, fill your monitor with the world inside and, like magic, you’re in it.
The first section of the game is a breathless parade of new ideas that approach puzzling laterally, forcing you to muddle your way past non-euclidian geometry and other brain-bending architecture. The latter half introduces more traditional mechanics in the form of four handheld gun-things that fill in voids, pick up and shoot blocks, and clear matter out of your way. Even though these tools offer new methods of traversing earlier environments, it’s a somewhat anticlimactic transition from the relentless invention of the game’s opening - but that doesn’t make the tests here any less agonising to fathom or a triumph to conquer.
When you nail a solution - often best achieved by taking a time-out and drinking a cup of tea, very calmly, as your nails grow back - you feel like a cross between Hercule Poirot and Socrates. Hercules, if you will. That said, there are some puzzles in here guilty of simple obscurity, and this undermines the satisfaction of their completion as well as throwing off the pace of the game. Luckily a hub room (instantly accessible by a tap of ESC) allows re-entry to any of the game's main areas, alleviating the need to pummel yourself against the same puzzle, and allowing you to re-evaluate the messages you've encountered so far.
For some, Antichamber may prove a little draining. It's a title that aspires to challenge your way of thinking and problem-solving and it’s a slightly chilly and solitary experience with it. If that doesn't sound like much fun - there are certainly times it isn't - that's likely part of Bruce's point, suggesting life is a struggle in which you get out what you put in. But Antichamber isn’t all earnest chin-stroking theory - it also hosts moments of transcendent beauty and vignettes that engage your brain on a level few games attempt.
Price: $20 / £12.50
Release: Out Now
Publisher: Alexander Bruce
Developer: Alexander Bruce
Antichamber is released tomorrow, which is handy, because I'd quite like to know what the hell's going on in this trailer. There's some serious stairway indecision, followed by lots of mind-melting matter manipulation. Aren't launch trailers supposed to explain things?
That, however, is Antichamber's hook. It's deceptively simple, but delights in turning your perception of the world against you. That's a brilliant concept, and one its great to see being explored in a place where time and space can be absolutely anything.
With physics turned on its head, you're left to experiment with reality and reconstruct the game's rules. According to the game's description, "hallways wrap around upon each other, spaces reconfigure themselves, and accomplishing the impossible may just be the only way forward." Sounds ace.