App review by John Sooja, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2014
Antichamber

Antichamber

Brain buster makes you think in four dimensions

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0%| Fail Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
7–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Math, Science, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Solving Antichamber's puzzles proves thrilling.

Cons: Sometimes the solution is so "out there" that figuring it out devolves into tedium.

Bottom Line: The non-Euclidean puzzles are sure to blow students' minds, but the trickier puzzles will definitely frustrate some students.

In a math class, explore the history and thinking behind Euclidean geometry, and then get students to detail (as a group or individually) the ways Antichamber deviates from this model.

In a level design or game programming class, explore the ways Antichamber was constructed both at a spatial/architectural level and a coding level. How is it even possible to design a game like this? Getting students to sketch out a "map" of a custom level of Antichamber, especially after they've done similar activities for more traditional games, could be fun and get great discussion going. In a philosophy class, discuss the "point" of the game, the ending, and the "meaning." Why might breaking down physical and spatial expectations in a game world be important? What does this make players feel? How might the design of the game influence future games?

To get students really thinking in a more game-focused classroom or after-school setting, pair Antichamber with fellow indie gem Braid, which innovates puzzle design temporally just like Antichamber innovates spatially. What might a game that does both look like? Feel like?

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The greatest achievement of Antichamber, a first-person puzzle game, is how it breaks free from three-dimensional space. Its spatial puzzles force minds to think outside of the Euclidean geometry box, setting aside a whole pile of assumptions about space we take for granted. The goal -- like other similar games -- is to reach the exit, but the various levels, rooms, and passageways don't follow the ordinary rules of spatial reality and can't be navigated in the normal way. Journeying around the world and solving puzzles is like tackling the most complicated Rubik's cube ever conceived, but from within the cube. And worse, the cube has its own completely impossible spatial logic. Take this one example: Where the player is at any time can change based on his/her movement -- walking forward doesn't necessarily mean the player will progress on a straight line. In this way, each level or area to be traversed initially seems impossible, and requires counterintuitive methods that defy rational thinking.

Progressing through this Escher-esque collections of puzzles within puzzles certainly teaches perseverance. Players will undoubtedly get stuck, and must think in ways they probably never have before to progress. It's not for students who have a hard time with failure or thinking creatively and critically at the same time. But for gritty, bright students it'll be a challenging experience certain to build key skills. Since it's an experience targeted at a mainstream audience, there's a lot resting in an educator's hands to figure out how to make it work and yield results in a classroom. Students won't necessarily be hitting on material aligned to geometry or science standards, but there's potential to make connections, especially for advanced high school students.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

The rabbit hole is deep here, and hitting the bottom is thrilling. Figuring out what to do next is half the challenge, and the trial and error/accidental discovery level design rewards as it baffles.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

The exceedingly cryptic, philosophical themes and the randomness of the world's tricks distract from the ingenious level design.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

The experience is well scaffolded, but when players get stuck, the best help is outside the game: player-made resources on YouTube and the web.


Common Sense reviewer
John Sooja Classroom teacher

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