First-person puzzle games with vague Portal inspirations are common enough, but The Spectrum Retreat looks to be an especially polished and stylish take on the sub-genre. Thematically, it’s about escaping from a creepy sci-fi hotel staffed by faceless robots with the aid of a mysterious benefactor on the phone. Mechanically, it’s about stealing and using colours, and it’s out today. Below, a rather sinister launch trailer.
Your main puzzle-solving power in The Spectrum Retreat is absorbing and expelling colour. Within the puzzle-chambers of the game are big brightly coloured blocks. You can draw colour out of any of them within sight, and splat it onto white blocks elsewhere in order to make barriers and bridges passable or solid, although you can only hold one colour at a time. It’s the kind of puzzle that sounds simple on paper but is exactly what I get tripped up by, overlooking some obvious puzzle-piece or line of sight that everyone else picks up on.
The Spectrum Retreat has some history. Starting life as a free prototype game called Spectrum, its sole developer – Dan Smith – won a BAFTA Young Game Designer’s award for his work on it back in 2016. He was only 18 at the time, and in just two more years has transformed it into something almost indistinguishable from a big-budget studio production. I’ve said it before, but the stuff that lone or otherwise small indie developers can achieve now is amazing compared to just a decade ago.
The Spectrum Retreat is out now on Steam for £10/13€/$13.