Games of the Year

The Spectrum Retreat

The Spectrum Retreat Screenshot 1
The Spectrum Retreat Screenshot 2
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The Spectrum Retreat Screenshot 5
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The Spectrum Retreat is a challenging, first-person puzzle game set in the near future. You awake at The Penrose hotel, a peaceful yet unsettling refuge from the outside world. As a valued guest, your existence is embedded into the corridors and guest rooms of The Penrose. Exploration of the striking art-deco hotel will begin to uncover the mysteries of both The Penrose and the uncertainties surrounding your current stay. Your desire to unearth the truth is obstructed by an array of colour coded puzzles, mind-bending physics challenges and the growing fear of exposing your true intentions.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

The Spectrum Retreat is a puzzle game, where you play as a man named Alex as he woke up in a mysterious hotel run by robots. Later he receives a call from a woman named Cooper saying that something's wrong, and it is better if he were to escape. To escape, he must find 5 door codes for special rooms on each floor, which lead to a series of test chamber-like areas, and solve them.
The main puzzle mechanic here is basically carrying colors. You will have a handheld device that absorbs the color of a glowing cube, which makes forcefields of the same color go inactive, but those of different color will activate. Later, there will be teleportation, where you can only teleport to teleporters with the same color, and gravity pads, which rotate the levels. The goal is to reach the elevator at the end of each chamber. Like you'd probably expect, these puzzles start off really easy, and become harder later on.
The probelms with the puzzle mechanic is that firstly you only have autosaves, no manual or quicksaves, and that you can easily get softlocked. Luckily, a restart puzzle option is available, but its really annoying when you make one small mistake or accidentally fall into a pit and you must replay from the beginning of the puzzle. Personally, I would love to have more exploration-based puzzles, like the ones where we search for the door codes, and less test-chamber ones since the former feels more natural and the hotel is nicely designed.
The Spectrum Retreat is a pretty okay puzzle game with an intriguing mystery story, but gameplay and puzzles feel a bit repetitive. I see many people comparing it to Portal, but the only similarity I see is the puzzle genre and usage of test-chambers. It lacks the "natural, environmental" puzzle-solving like the ones we get to see quite a lot in Portal 2. It's not really a bad and boring game, and still worth a try if you like puzzle games.

Review from Steam

Spectrum Retreat is a story-driven puzzle game. It's not as funny as Portal. The puzzles aren't as good as Portal. It's more repetitive than Portal. But it does tell an emotional, profound and somber tale. The music is likewise melancholic and sets the tone.
Puzzles do increase in difficulty as teleporters and gravity are introduced. Some are a little complex, but nothing too brain-straining.
The first hour seemed like the game would fall flat due to it's repetitive, almost Groundhog Day style story-telling, which I could only play for an hour at a time. But by the end, I was gripped by the narrative and Spectrum Retreat exceeded my expectations. Recommended.

Review from Steam

A well-polished puzzle game with a great story!
It will probably freeze a few times, particularly on certain unusual transitions.
A restart unfroze it for me.
The ending is not as ambiguous as I think the devs intended...
It makes it clear that Alex usually gets to the choice by himself. Without help, this likely results in him becoming the same person again. However, since Cooper interrupted this cycle and accelerates his potential escape, the memories don't re-surface in the same natural way. I think this means that leaving in this cycle has the highest chance of the best possible outcome. Going back in (the other endgame choice) would eventually lead to Alex choosing to leave of his own accord - exactly the same person as he entered as.

Review from Steam

I completed this game originally on Switch this year. I had to get it on PC as well because it is exceptional. I love puzzle games. More specifically, I love first person puzzle games. Even more specifically, I love sci-fi first person puzzle games. The Spectrum Retreat is up there with The Witness, The Turing Test, The Talos Principle, and Q.U.B.E. and you should totally buy it if you like any of those games. Sure, the whole untrustworthy narrator and "are you being lied to or not?" story hook is as old as dirt at this point, but this game is great regardless. The puzzle mechanics are excellent. It's amazing all the clever puzzles that the devs came up with using only color absorption and diffusion. I am biased because this game does everything I like games to do, but beyond that, it is actually a really solid first person puzzler.
Update after completing the game: This PC playthrough took me 3.8 hours, but this is the second time I've played this game in less than a year. I still love this game, but I will be more honest, now that I've completed it a second time. Honestly, I understand the criticism about there being no sprint button. When you first realize all the walking you'll be doing, you will curse the dev's decision to not include a sprint button. Eventually you get used to it and the core of the game (doing the puzzles) really does not require a sprint button at all. Now, regarding the parts where you are NOT doing puzzles. Yes, they are repetitive, but they tell an interesting and very emotional story. The repetitiveness is, however, baked into the story. You're in a simulation (this becomes clear very early on) and your guide tells you that in order to keep it all going, you have to "repeat the cycle." It's very interesting and clever, but I get why people say it's repetitive. And the final "floor" (Floor 5) is absolutely amazing. HOWEVER, you can fall to your death and have to restart the ENTIRE PUZZLE which is purposely a very long puzzle. In this playthrough I fell once and had to start over and it's just kind of lame that it's such an obnoxious penalty. Still, overall, TSR is a fantastic game.

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