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The Spectrum Retreat

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 18 - 2018

Checking in?

 
On a first-person puzzle journey which began with Portal and most recently saw a visit to The Talos Principle, natural progression suggests I now check in to The Penrose hotel for Dan Smith Studios’ The Spectrum retreat. Out now on the Nintendo Switch, a luxury hotel awaits, complete with somewhat creepy android staff and an underlying mystery. As long as they leave a mint on the pillow, I’ll be happy.

 
tsr1 (Copy)

 
Players wake up in a very expensive looking hotel with a visually appealing Art Deco style. It’s an impressive looking setting that struck me when the promotional material started rolling out. What makes The Penrose stand out from other hotels, at least the hotels I know, is the android staff that are there to make the players stay as enjoyable as possible. There is something a little disturbing about these staff, with their lack of emotion. What is more disturbing, and may have something to do with why the hotel looks as nice as it does, is the complete lack of any other guests. Is there anything more unsettling than an empty hotel? The Shining, anyone?

 
Anyway, it will come as no surprise to discover that not everything is as it seems. Quite soon, a voice will tell the player that they are trapped in the hotel against their will, but the voice will offer to help them escape. The voice will quickly identify themselves as Cooper, who works for the company responsible for the players’ current predicament. Of course, that makes sense. Getting out of the hotel will take a bit of effort, but with Cooper helping, escape from this really quite pleasant experience in the hotel will become possible.

 
tsr2 (Copy)

 
Communication with Cooper takes place across the players’ phone, which will also come in handy for other things further down the line. The hotel itself is an enjoyable place to explore, with plenty of corridors that all look fairly similar and are easy to get lost in. The big mystery here is why is the player being held in this place, and this is the narrative thread that will slowly be unravelled through the course of the exploration. Whether it be revealed through items found around the hotel, such as letters that the player can interact with, or through flash backs, The Spectrum Retreat weaves an interesting story that proves to be perhaps a little deeper than expected.

 
The problem with this narrative is that it only accounts for half of the game. In their effort to escape the hotel, the player will be asked to head into Authentication Challenges, which are special puzzle rooms, more on which in a moment. The problem is that the puzzles, which take up the majority of the game, and the narrative exist pretty much as separate entities, and so any narrative build up feels somewhat deflated every time the player then enters a puzzle.

 
Fortunately, the puzzles themselves are very good. They tend to involve a maze of sorts, with the player having to find their way to the exit elevator. Of course, it is not so simply as to walk to the exit as the player will have to overcome obstacles to get there. There is a strong colour theme here, and in the early puzzles the player will be presented with a coloured barrier. To get past this barrier, the player will have to match the colour by swapping colours with a nearby coloured cube. The colour that the player is currently holding is displayed on the players phone display, which is always on screen to one side.

 
tsr3 (Copy)

 
Things progress, and the puzzles become more complex in their solutions. Perhaps there are two colours involved, with the challenge coming from making sure that they can access the correct coloured blocks in the correct order to escape. Barriers may become walls or floors through which the player will be able to pass as long as they have the right colour. More colours become involved as things get more difficult, and even teleporters come into play later in the game. There also comes a point when the colours are no longer swapped out but overridden, creating some instances when the player will have to reset a puzzle and start again from scratch, although fortunately this is something that only becomes an issue in the late game.

 
The puzzles are great, and very satisfying to solve. It’s quite a simple concept, once the player gets the hang of things, that gives the puzzles in The Spectrum Retreat a very unique feel. But again, that disconnect from the narrative side of the game does leave the puzzles kind of standing alone. Luckily, the puzzles hold up well by themselves, but they could have been so much more if properly intertwined with the story.

 
Playing on the Switch, there is very little to complain about. The visuals through both handheld and big screen mode are impressive, allowing the player to truly appreciate the Art Deco hotel and the more clinical, futuristic puzzle rooms. The central sight is a little small and can become difficult to see at times, making it difficult to select things. Aside from this, it is a great looking game, and is complimented with some really well matched sound work. It’s a nicely polished game.

 
tsr4 (Copy)

 
The Spectrum Retreat is a hotel stay like no other. Two very different halves of the same game, with one half weaving a narrative tale in a strange Art Deco hotel, and the other solving colour puzzles in some kind of futuristic lab. The only real problem is that these two halves struggle to come together. Despite this, the puzzles are enjoyable, and it is an interesting tale, so anyone looking for their next first-person puzzle adventure would do great to check this out, and playing The Spectrum Retreat on Switch is as good a place as any.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 



 

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