I just finished playing Antichamber, and I decided this world have not enough review of this game yet, not on Linux at least.
The game has no plot, it’s something that I would define an introspective journey. When the game starts, you see no introduction, you just spawn in a black and white room with four walls. One of the walls is the settings menu, then here is a a black wall, another wall with a strange symbol, that will become a map in future and another transparent wall behind what there is an “exit” door. Your adventure starts when you click on the first available room of the map.
From now on, your goal is to solve multiple puzzles to gain access to deeper areas of the maze-like game world, until you get access to the last stage. At the end of every puzzle on the wall there will be a panel with an image. If clicked, an aphorism related to the puzzle you just solved will show up. Some of those signs are extremely nice, and they are probably the soul of the game somehow: they seem like telling the story of a life, from the beginning to the end. I really appreciated them. Some of them are also useful, and give some hints for the puzzles to come. The structure is non linear, and the puzzles can be solved in almost-arbitrary order. Only some puzzles depend on items you find from previous puzzles. Some of the puzzles lead to other puzzles, and some lead to dead ends. Some times those dead ends are “dev-rooms”, where there are pieces of artwork showing you the development of the game.
The game looks like a classic 3D first person shooter, but there are no enemies to kill, no hurry and no stress situation: it’s just you and a non-euclidean world to explore. Yes folks: non-euclidean. It means that if you go a way, then you turn and go back, you may end up in a place which is not the place you came from. Sounds strange? And that’s not all! It also means that the place where you are may depend on the direction you are looking at: if you are not looking at a wall, such wall may well cease to exist. Sounds confusing? Well, it is, but it’s funny confusion: since the games is not random in any way, the only point is getting used to the structure of the world. It is a continuous side-thinking exercise, and what I liked most is that there is absolutely no hurry in any moment of the game. I really hate having to complete levels within some time limit, or having to redo the same thing over and over because the difficult part is not understanding the puzzle but doing the incredibly complicated sequence of very stupid actions in the right order at the right time. This is very rarely the case for Antichamber: look at the world around you, think how to go through the situation with the tools you got, and do it. Some puzzles are obviously simpler than others, and many of them look totally impossible at a first sight. After you have been able to solve the first puzzles, you will be given a strange ring-like gun. This gun is able to absorb and fire little cubes of the world, and will be key for being able to solve many of the puzzles. Further in the game, you will get upgraded versions of such a gun, with ability to quickly suck and spit cubes, move cubes around and create entire walls. The gun will be your only companion in this adventure: as I said, it is introspective.
Classic mouse and keyboard combo is the way I suggest for playing Antichamber. I don’t think there is controller support, and if there is I don’t recommend it: there are many other games where a controller will work very well, but in FPS-like games mouse and keyboard are what you want - unless Valve does the miracle. Controls are easy and there are no problems with the defaults. The time you will spend struggling to understand how to do what you want to do is near zero.
Graphics and sound
Graphics is minimally beautiful. Nothing too complicated, and basically no textures. Colours, colours, colours everywhere! I’m generally not much a fan of games that willingly look old-fashioned or minimal, but Antichamber is definitely nice, and this choice totally fits the spirit of the game and enhances the feeling of being in a strange, mind-driven world where geometry is broken. The graphic makes you feel like you are living in one of those dreams where you look behind a door two times and see two different places. The game runs on Unreal Engine 3, that seems to run pretty well on our beloved Linux operating systems. I played on Sabayon Linux using hybrid graphics and Bumblebee / Primus GPU for offloading the graphic tasks to my GeForce GT 630M. The frame rate have always been pretty stable. The game crashed a couple of times, though. The sound is nice but nothing that will make you scream of joy.
The soundtrack is embracing and relaxing, and helps you dive in the world, although is not the aspect of the game that you will remember most favourably.
I am a slow player, and I finished the game in about 12 hours. Once the game is finished, there is little reason to play it again, or to re-do over and over the same puzzles. It is a one-shot experience.
Antichamber is a very good game. In these times of clones and clones and clones, creating something really new is a good achievement per se. Creating something that is new and good is much more difficult, but Antichamber reached the goal. If you are searching for a testosteronic shoot-to-eveything-that-moves, move along: this is no place for you. If you feel like experiencing something new, dive into a world shaped like a dream and stress your brain with side, thinking, Antichamber is what you are searching for.