The premise of The Spectrum Retreat is one that I’ve been seeing more frequently of late: technology becomes too advanced for our own good and ends up performing its job a little too effectively. The game is set in the Penrose Hotel, which is a technological marvel that syncs with its patron in order to fulfill their basic needs and provide a world-class experience. You take the reigns of an engineer who worked on the Spectrum Retreat and who remembers nothing of life before being caught up in an endless daily cycle. As you play, you’ll puzzle out the how and the why of your presence in the Penrose Hotel–as well as figure out who you are.
The game is played in first person and is narratively driven, which does an adequate job of making you want to know what’s actually going on here and whether or not the voice in your head is someone you can trust. This may or may not be enough to keep you swapping your way through its colour-based puzzles. Aforementioned puzzles require you to cross from point A to point B. To do so, you’ll need to interact with cube switches that allow you to bypass gates. You have the ability to pick up and place colours, which in turn will allow you to pass through areas you previously couldn’t. The puzzles start off simply, but as more colours are introduced you’ll find yourself stopping and scratching your head.
Unfortunately, the segments between puzzles leave much to be desired. The Penrose Hotel is large… and empty–the kind of empty that only highlights the restricted budget of an indie studio. The hallways you’ll walk through look exactly the same and the rooms you can explore (the ones that aren’t locked or otherwise blocked off because they don’t actually have contents) don’t have anything with which you can interact. Sure, you can look around and occasionally discover one of thirteen collectables which consist of easy to spot glowing cubes that fill in some story details via journal entries. The only other characters are the robots that stand stock-still within the Penrose Hotel, lacking any sort of idle animation, and they’ll utter pre-recorded messages if you come into earshot.
The presentation also leaves something to be desired. The background music doesn’t stand out, serving as white noise while you attempt to solve puzzles. There’s some screen tearing and pixelation while panning the camera which is strange given the Switch’s graphical capabilities. As such, this feels like an older game rather than something recent. The focus of the game is the puzzles, which are a little nicer to look at thanks to the bright colours, but the rest of it should as well. For those with colour blindness or are otherwise chromatically challenged, there are a few options that will make the game more accessible.
Depending on your skill level, The Spectrum Retreat will take you 3-5 hours to complete. The bulk of your time will be spent running a gauntlet of puzzles in order to access a new area and progress the story.
The amount of enjoyment you get out of The Spectrum Retreat is highly reliant on your willingness to perform repetitive tasks and your drive to “reveal the truth” that the game holds at its conclusion. Due to the plodding nature of the moments where you’re puzzling out the truth, it’s difficult to feel engaged in what should be a tense situation where you try to act naturally in order to fool super advanced artificial intelligence. With a coat of polish, the game has potential to be great. As is, it’s an adequate challenging puzzle game with some story tacked on.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Spectrum Retreat Review
User Review( votes)
Swap colours to puzzle out the how and the why of your presence in the Penrose Hotel–as well as figure out who you are.
- Challenging puzzles.
- Strong dialogue is voice acted.
- Pacing needs work. The puzzles go by quickly, but the moments between where you wander an empty hotel drag on.
- You can’t interact with the world except for very specific objects, rendering exploration useless.
- Some screen tearing and pixelation doesn’t make for a polished presentation.