The Spectrum Retreat
(XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★ Age: 12+
We all know that feeling of waking up in a hotel room, not knowing where the hell we are, what we did last night, and why we’re there. The Spectrum Retreat is just like that, only worse, in the most entertaining way.
This narrative-driven puzzler thrusts the player into a Matrix-esque nightmare, trapped in a hotel that obliges you to follow its daily routine while you work on escaping its claustrophobic confines. Riffing on similar puzzlers such as Portal, The Turing Test and Qube, The Spectrum Retreat carefully unspools its unsettling backstory in slices before thrusting you periodically into a colour-coded block-matching maze challenge that spirals in complexity.
It manages to be both intriguing (via the disembodied phone voice helping you out) and frustrating (the block puzzles are entirely logical but a tad abstract). But never the twain meet — unlike Portal, the story doesn’t seep into the puzzle challenges, lending them a detached air that fails to advance the thoughtful narrative.
It’s worth noting, though, that all of this springs from the mind of the youthful Dan Smith, a 20-year-old who won a Bafta Young Game Designer award in 2016 for his initial version of Spectrum.