September 23, 2013 2:45 PM | Paul Hack
At first glance, Astro Assembly's Multilytheus looks a lot like Antichamber, and it does tinker with some of the same ideas, but this is a completely different game with its own mechanics and visual aesthetic. Multilytheus is an abstract, first-person puzzle game about exploration and perception. It involves making connections between things that are spatially distant. Playing it often feels like walking through an optical illusion, or accessing a strange dimension in between the folds of reality. It's best played at a slow pace so you can fully explore the space around you, and then question what your eyes are telling you.
The environment of Multilytheus is a huge maze that's been meticulously assembled inside a single long shaft. This gigantic corridor has been filled with intricate arrays of platforms and tunnels, and then decorated as if by an army of abstract expressionist painters. There's some platforming and some switch throwing, but most of your energy will go into figuring out "how the heck do I get there?"
To access new areas, you'll need to do things like raise and lower rods that correspond to obstacles in the maze. Essentially, you'll be doing something in one place, trying to affect something somewhere else. It can be tough to keep in your mind the layout of one room while you do something in another room to change the layout of the first one. Learning to navigate the place can also be a challenge, and the odd architecture, clashing wall textures, and trompe l'oeils make it even more difficult. I could almost feel my brain stretching trying to encompass and process it all.
There's a good deal of trial and error as you grapple with understanding how X affects Y, and a lot of going back and forth from one location to another to check your efforts and then make an adjustment before checking again. Even figuring out what it is you're affecting, and how, can be a puzzle in itself. You really earn your progress in this game, and solving a puzzle feels very rewarding.
There is also a musical component to the game, a jazzy rhythm that is affected by your actions. You can learn things by paying attention to the sounds that you and the environment produce.
The developers write that their game is influenced by Terry Cavanagh's At a Distance, Michael Brough's Corrypt, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and some of Paul Klee's cubist paintings (as well as by Metroid Prime, Half-Life, Doom, and Super Mario 64). Like most of these works, every puzzle in Multilytheus is an exercise in looking at something from a different perspective (sometimes quite literally).
I have not yet conquered this fascinating mindbender of a game, but I'm having a good time trying. It's just that sometimes it makes my brain hurt. Multilytheus is available now on Desura or via the Humble Store widget on the game's homepage for $4.99.