The Spectrum Retreat

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
The Spectrum Retreat Game Poster Image
Challenging first-person puzzler has an emotional story.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Strong themes of family, powerlessness, despair. Explores timely and polarizing topics, including the cost of health care and misuse of emerging technologies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The protagonist demonstrates intelligence and perseverance in developing nonviolent solutions to problems. 

Ease of Play

Very simple controls, but the constantly evolving color-based puzzles take time and patience to solve.

Violence
Sex
Language

Infrequent swearing, including "damn" in dialogue.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Bottles of wine and beer are scattered around the environment.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Spectrum Retreat is a downloadable first-person puzzle game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC. Players take control of an amnesiac character trapped in a strange hotel run by robots. They must solve multiple color-based puzzles in order to escape. Regained memories are accompanied by a sense of sadness and despair as a picture of an ill child and a family coping with mounting medical bills begins to take shape. But the hero exhibits an inner strength, persevering through challenging and evolving puzzles in an effort to learn the truth and escape. Beyond its grown-up themes, players encounter infrequent instances of the word "damn" in dialogue.

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What's it about?

THE SPECTRUM RETREAT begins with the player's character waking up in a posh hotel room without any memories. A team of robots staffs the resort, which -- as revealed by a woman who makes contact via a contraband phone -- is more of a high-tech virtual reality prison than a hotel. With help from this mysterious new friend, the hero hacks into the heart of the hotel only to find strange puzzles that involve swapping colors of cubes. Holding on to a color allows passage through similarly hued glowing barriers, with the goal being to reach the elevator at each level's end by moving through each color barrier. As the game progresses, the puzzles grow more complex, and even include new mechanisms such as teleportation devices. As players solve puzzles, they gradually discover the history and purpose of the hotel via text logs written by one of its designers; they also unlock personal memories that tell a sad story of a sick child and massive health care bills.

Is it any good?

Clearly inspired by games like Portal and Quantum Conundrum, this challenging, narrative-driven first-person puzzler is no walk in the park. The Spectrum Retreat's brainteasers start off simple enough, revealing solutions through trial and error even if you don't understand the principles behind them. But it doesn't take long for them to become harder and more complex, forcing players to carefully scrutinize their environment for hidden ways to get colors where they need to go. The puzzle concepts aren't entirely original, and there's perhaps too much running around to place colors in their proper position, but that doesn't keep these conundrums from being stimulating or delivering a sense of satisfaction when they're successfully solved. They're the highlight of the game.

The often emotional story has potential to be compelling, too, but its telling is awkward and oddly disconnected from the puzzles. Time spent exploring the hotel, where players have to convince the robot overlords that everything is normal and they're still in control, is a bit dull, with long intervals spent backtracking through uninteresting cookie-cutter hallways as you figure out how to access new floors. The exposition that takes place here is too sparse and too removed from the puzzles to really drive the story forward. But more engaging are the occasional bits of narrative that come while solving puzzles -- like stumbling across a random table full of medical bills, putting together pieces of the character's past. But even these moments feel weirdly stapled onto the puzzles rather than a natural and organic part of them. The ideas are engaging, but the seams connecting everything need a little more covering. There are some great puzzles and a topical story in The Spectrum Retreat; just don't expect everything to bind together neatly and efficiently.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about character strengths. Do you believe that the hero of The Spectrum Retreat reacts authentically and commendably to situations and the environment?

  • When faced with tough challenges, how do you typically respond? 

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love puzzles

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