By far the laziest game play style nowadays is “Waking up somewhere and you don''t know who you are.” It can lead to unsolving mysteries, but it's always the same: Who you are, a tragic past, escaping from somewhere. It's not the worst way to play a game, but it's everywhere, and you need some really good gameplay to get beyond that. The Spectrum Retreat sorta does that.
The story is, well you guessed your characters part, so let's just go to the setting. You're in an old, art deco hotel being served by the worst designed robots ever (Tuxedos and near Jason masks – I know they were going for creepy, but it looked more like hockey butlers everywhere). Cooper, this annoying lady, tries to help you out, and you wind up playing the same day over and over again. Basically it's like Memento meets Groundhog Day on the set of The Shining. Again, the story is weak until the time loops starts, so it's not completely bad.
Controls on the PS4 were standard for the console. I've said this many times, but it's the type of controller setup where you don't need a tutorial because you can figure it out after about two minutes of trial and error.
The graphics were not bad. The hotel is obviously computer generated, but the hotel keeps that Art Deco décor pretty consistent, and you never get tired of looking at it – beats some gritty sewer or basement like so many games do. Real fun comes during puzzles where things are lit up more than that house from Stranger Things. So overall, it can look dated at times, but most of the time it pulls it off quite well.
Gameplay, beyond the usual by-now-samey 'find out who you are'-ness is exploration and puzzles. And yeah, it actually works. Puzzles get progressively harder, using blocks of light and things. Exploration is, well, you can probably figure that one out. Point is, when it stops what the cliché thing to do is, the game excels, and really had a few thinkers in terms of puzzles in there.
The music in The Spectrum Retreat doesn't overbear, and really is serene, morose, soft, growing – it's like a background album for somebody going through their day of mystery. It works. Voice acting.....I guess works. The Butler's all speak with a calm voice they try and make creepy but really end up making sound reasonable and someone you want to grab a beer with. Other sounds – pretty standard.
Special section for the butlers here – they were the part of the game I liked least. I know they were everywhere as the 'signature' piece, but they were not scary, not unnerving and just a bit annoying. The game could have functioned better with another design or...something. It was extremely detrimental to the game.
There were some bugs. I'm sure a patch is in the works, but if you suddenly turn, things can go haywire. Puzzles get messed up, butlers disappear – it hurt me a few times in that I had to start over again. That said, there was no real lag and a lot of the small bits and pieces worked well together.
Overall The Spectrum Retreat is a leg up on the usual 'amnesia patient wakes up and solves puzzles to escape and find out who they really are' genre, which is something that is somehow now a thing. But it also plays safe, fails on basic things to do, made a lot of supposed to be scary or creepy elements (those butlers man) not that and tried to bite off a bit more than they could chew. But I'd say it's worth playing for the design and the puzzles. The puzzles are the best I've in a while in gaming, and it's worth dealing with uninteresting characters to get through.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.