Saturday, September 15

Review: The Spectrum Retreat [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s something I love about games with a sci-fi kind of base to them, especially when they manage to do a fair job of keeping you on the hook and delivering a few surprises. Though it has a bit of a humble beginning and feels like it could fall into familiar territory The Spectrum Retreat managed to go with an outcome that I didn’t quite expect, making it a bit more noteworthy than ordinary. If you’re looking for something that manages to tie together some intrigue and quite a number of clever 3D puzzles it does a surprisingly good job.


You begin by waking in a somewhat modern-looking hotel room and are pretty quickly greeted by one of the staff, an almost mannequin-like robot who politely helps you start your day. If you look around and pay attention to some oddities you’ll begin to question what’s around you, and your suspicions will be confirmed once you get into contact with someone who calls herself Cooper, someone whose on “the outside” and is trying to help liberate you from this virtual space you’re in.With regards to this aspect of the game what makes it interesting is trying to answer the question of “Why?”, something that there are small clues to be found little by little to help you discover… just understand that this is something that will be revealed slowly and at a purposeful pace so there’s not much point in exhaustively trying to search, when the game is ready to reveal things to you there won’t tend to be a lot of effort in finding them.


The other part of the game, and the one you’ll likely spend more time in, is tied to a series of increasingly-complex puzzles you’ll need to solve/navigate in order to break through various levels of security to move you towards freedom. Unfortunately, as helpful as Cooper is to guide you through getting to these sequences once you’re in them you’ll be on your own. Early on feeling a bit easy while the game is introducing you to key concepts, once you get rolling these can get quite challenging even though their overall design is pretty simple. Your job is to manipulate colored blocks, which you’ll simply being exchanging colors with, to help you move through what are essentially gates. As you progress these won’t just act as walls but as floors as well, which you’ll sometimes want to be solid to move over them or open so you can move through. You can change colors with the blocks as long as you have an unobstructed line of sight with them so the trick is usually to set the stage with blocks all colored correctly so when you’ve moving through a sequence of gates you can continue to exchange the right colors at each step through holes in the walls. These can be quite clever and aren’t quite like any puzzle game I’ve played on Switch.


Putting these two halves together The Spectrum Retreat is a surprising treat, with both elements of the gameplay motivating me to get further so I could understand or solve more. While I wish there were more room for discovery in the hotel sequences I suppose the deliberate and slow doling out of clues keeps the revelations around what’s happening at a specific pace. I will say that some of the backtracking through the hotel got tedious when there wasn’t anything of value to do along the way, but it usually didn’t waste too much time. Right through the game’s conclusion I was pretty satisfied with the experience and would love to see more titles with this pairing of gameplay styles in the future.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Clever puzzles with a simple but effective design
  • The story, which could have been boilerplate, did a better-than-expected job of being interesting
  • Very good vocal work all around

Cons:
  • A bit too much pointless walking around to get to your objectives while in the hotel mode with limited things to discover along the way
  • Some later puzzles will likely require you to restart them by their nature if you make mistakes, something that could waste your time a bit until you realize that
  • A low likelihood you’d play through it more than once