The Spec­trum Re­treat

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS -

(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.

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