E3 2018: Hands on with The Spectrum Retreat

Platform: PC/PS4/XB1/Switch
Developer: Dan Smith Studios
Release Date: 13th July 2018

If there was ever a hidden away gem at E3 then The Spectrum Retreat was certainly it. Around the corner and demoed in a hotel room it was like being back at CES rather than E3 but it was certainly worth the trek.

Spectrum Retreat is an indie game developed for the most part by one person, Dam Smith. The 20 year old (yes I said 20) won a BAFTA for The Spectrum Retreat’s game design in 2016 to then be picked up by publisher Ripstone Games to help him complete the project and bring it to pretty much every platform known to man.

A puzzler akin to Portal you play a hotel guest who’s awoken in the stunningly rendered, Art Deco styled, Penrose Hotel. As you explore the hotel you begin to get the feeling that something isn’t quite right and rather than a guest perhaps you’re more a hostage to it’s accommodation.

With the help of a friend you gain access to the hotel’s maintenance system, which is controlled by a series of coloured coded systems that you’ll need to master to learn the truth behind the Penrose and ultimately escape.

The puzzles involve large coloured cubes that, using a tool you acquire at the beginning of the game, can be changed & matched to open doors and access mechanics to progress through the levels.

Like any good puzzler the levels are relatively simple at first. You start off learning how to suck the colour from a block and match it to another so that a lock that opens for example. It doesn’t stay that easy for long though, the game has a fairly hefty exponential incline in difficulty and had me scratching my head a few times before being prompted by Dan to click here or do this so we could at least finish the demo.

I was really impressed by the game and not just because of how insanely gorgeous the game looks but just how into the puzzles and the mystery behind the hotel I was after just twenty minutes. I wanted to play more, which definitely isn’t always the case and the fact that it’s now been announced for the Switch too means I’m even more likely to play it.