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Hazardless Journey: Antichamber

Last time we talked about Antichamber it was called Hazard: The Journey of Life, which means we’ve never specifically talked about Antichamber. Hazard was a non-commercial Unreal mod whereas Antichamber is a UDK-developed game that should be out before the end of the year. It’s a first person puzzler, or a “mind-bending psychological exploration game”, with a striking art style. The version shown off at PAX this week appears to be close to finished. For those of us who’ve been following development for the last couple of years, this is all rather exciting. Why? Stay a while and listen.

When I first played Hazard it didn’t look like anything else I’d ever seen. White backgrounds with hard black edges between walls and floor made the world look like a wireframe with the occasional bloom of colour. Playing the game was curiously like the tutorial sections that we always have to play in this modern age, now that everyone has forgotten how to read manuals. Through oblique signs and confusing spatial tricks, Hazard slowly taught the player how to navigate its impossible mazes. And when I say impossible, I don’t mean that in terms of difficulty. I mean it in terms of physics. Alexander Bruce, the designer, describes Antichamber as first person Escher and it’s a good reference point.

Looking at the game now, not much has changed on the surface. Crucially, it will be a full length game so there should be plenty to do. The previous version, which Alexander suggests people ignore for now, was short and sparse. As well as being bigger, the game will now have expanded Metroidvania elements. Whether this means there will be equipment to collect or skills to gain, it’s hard to say. It may well be tied to the gun. Yes. There is confirmation of a gun but, like the Portal gun, it is a gun that is not a gun. A gun that does more interesting things than killing people. No confirmation on what exactly it will do yet but let’s rule out portals themselves and fluffification. You would be well advised to expect matter manipulation of a sort.

It feels like Antichamber, in its previous incarnation, was forever the bridesmaid at indie game conventions. Now it looks ready to walk down the non-Euclidean aisle itself. The overwhelming feeling, as already stated, is that of a tutorial for exploring a new world, the rules of which must be learned through experience and experimentation. This is nowhere more evident than in the signs that the player finds, ostensibly to help work out the latest puzzle. But these signs are always placed after the puzzle in question, their lesson feeding forward into the next challenge. Fingers crossed for a release date announcement soon.

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