New Game Review

Review – The Spectrum Retreat (PC)

Welcome to the Spectrum Retreat, where "The Shining" meets "Portal".

Luxury hotels offer all sorts of amenities: high thread count linens, decadent dining, luxurious spas, refreshing pools, creepy robot servants, and fantastic shows. Ok, so maybe not every hotel has creepy robot servants. Those are just one of the unsettling features you’ll encounter during The Spectrum Retreat developed by Dan Smith Studios. Set in the posh Penrose Hotel, you’ll find that the lavish surroundings harbor a darker secret trying to remain buried beneath the Art Deco styled furnishings. Welcome to The Spectrum Retreat, where your sanity is the price of luxury.

The Spectrum Retreat opens with you being woken up by a courtesy call at your door. Once you answer it you’ll be greeted by a nondescript robot servant reminding you that it’s time to get up for the day. Upon investigating the Penrose Hotel you’ll find that you’re the only actual person within it and the rest is filled with various mechanical helpers who only have a sentence or two of programmed dialogue and who you never actually see move. The whole setup is extremely unnerving, but it only gets weirder from there.

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The most disturbing wake up call ever.

After a while you’ll have someone ring you on the phone who claims to be from “the outside” and says she knows that you’re in danger and being held against your will. The only way to uncover the truth and escape is to gain access to the other levels of the hotel. In order to do so, you must solve a series of puzzles that will unlock the other floors. This might seem like a bizarre request, but then again you’re walking around in an empty hotel with a bunch of strange stationary robots, so maybe playing along isn’t the craziest option.

The puzzles in The Spectrum Retreat are fairly reminiscent of Portal, although instead of creating holes to pass through, you’re strategically switching colors on blocks to open up corresponding gates in order to progress to the next level. These puzzles are laid out very well and proceed to get more and more challenging at a nice pace. Later puzzles also include certain physics challenges that further increase the difficulty.

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A most puzzling series of rooms.

Visually, The Spectrum Retreat is a bit inconsistent. The parts where you’re exploring the hotel are a lot more polished than the puzzles. If you get too close to certain objects, they lose their readability and look overly simplistic. From afar, most of the hotel looks pretty clean and classy. The puzzles are very bold and simplistic and look like something you might have seen in a PC game 20 years ago. Luckily, they’re well done so you can forgive the primitive look of them. The Spectrum Retreat also utilizes a lot of purposeful glitches which I haven’t seen used well in a game since Doki Doki Literature Club. It really adds to the unsettling nature of the mystery surrounding the Penrose Hotel and your personal story trying to break through.

There’s not a whole lot of sound to boast of in The Spectrum Retreat, but that adds to the isolated feeling of being trapped in a hotel by yourself. The small amounts of voice acting from the hotel staff and the woman trying to help you are done well. The background music during the puzzle sections is intense and urgent, but without being overbearing. Overall, I feel that Dan Smith Studios made the right decision when it came to The Spectrum Retreat, where less is more.

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Right this way… to your nightmares.

The Spectrum Retreat is an unsettling narrative driven first-person puzzler that will draw you in and keep you guessing until the very end. The puzzles are fun to figure out and get tougher at a nice gradual pace. The hotel exploration is anywhere from creepy to downright disturbing as you start to uncover the truth behind your stay at the Penrose Hotel. If your a fan of puzzlers and subtle pyschological horror games, then you’ll enjoy your time with The spectrum Retreat.

Graphics: 7.0

Clean and upscale looking hotel as long as you don’t look into the smaller details too closely. Rudimentary puzzle design seem like something from the early Windows days.

Gameplay: 8.0

First person walking sim during hotel exploration with a clever puzzle system that gets appropriately more difficult as you continue.

Sound: 8.0

Very little sound around the hotel other than the well done robot voices, which adds to the feeling of being all alone. Intense music plays during the puzzles that provides a sense of urgency without being annoying.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Clever well designed puzzles and a thoroughly unnerving experience as you explore the Penrose Hotel while your personal life tries to breach through in unexpected ways.

Final Verdict: 8.0

The Spectrum Retreat is available now on Steam, Xbox One, and PS4.

A copy of The Spectrum Retreat was provided by the publisher.

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As an avid gamer from childhood, I've come to love and appreciate games from all genres and I work hard finding time to play all of them between work and my two children. Some of my favorite games are: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Dragon Age: Origins, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Bioshock, Street Fighter 2 and Super Mario Land 2.

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