The Nintendo Switch is no stranger to puzzle games. With excellent traditional puzzlers like Puyo Puyo Tetris and Picross S (not to mention dozens of others), there’s plenty to choose from. Spatial mind games with various hazards and challenges, such as Death Squared stand out as some of the best the system has to offer. Over the last decade one of the most popular has been the Portal series, which is unfortunately not yet on the console. That’s where fill-ins like The Spectrum Retreat come in!
Welcome to the Penrose Hotel. You are Alex. When you wake up from your slumber your confusion as to where you are is only exacerbated by the bewilderment of what you are supposed to do. A sudden knock at the door jolts you to life and when you open it up there’s an android requesting your presence in the restaurant for some breakfast. It very quickly becomes clear that you seem to be the only human in the hotel. As you go through your apparent morning routine, you receive a phone call from a woman named Cooper. She then guides you through a bunch of puzzles laid before you and from here nothing makes any more sense than it did when you woke up. Her role as the narrator is meant to give you a feeling of intrigue and suspense as it quickly becomes apparent this isn’t any ordinary hotel and you aren’t any ordinary prisoner.
This is a first-person puzzle game that clearly took a lot of inspiration from Portal, but is just different enough to make it worth playing. The meat of The Spectrum Retreat is really the puzzle portions where you need to authenticate yourself to reach the roof of the hotel where Cooper is trying to get you to. As you navigate the corridors and mazes you will have to change the colors of cubes around the play area to gain access through energy barriers. The color of the cube needs to match the color of the barrier or other energy source for you to interact with it. So, for example, if you are aligned with the white color then you can pass through white energy barriers. However, if there is an energy bridge spanning an expanse and you’re the same color you’ll fall right through to your death, so you have to be careful to switch your colors up frequently.
Many of the puzzles are genuinely clever and they contribute the most fun to the game. However, the controls in the game leave a little bit to be desired. To be precise, the analog sticks are a bit too sensitive, sometimes making it difficult to select buttons on a keypad or to accurately point the cursor inside a cube to grab its color. Combine this with the short throw on the Joy-Con controllers and it’s a recipe for disaster. Thankfully the game does let you customize the sensitivity of the sticks, but when I slowed down the movement it also slowed down everything and the game moved slower than I’d have liked. I had slightly better results using a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, so that would probably be the best way to experience this game.
The rest of the game is listening to Cooper and having her tell you what you need to do to get to the next level. Smattered throughout the hotel are memories and documents that point to some sort of medical insurance nightmare they were going through. There were also insinuations about attendance for someone at school. The assumptions will be made by the player, but even this was not enough to get me to truly care about Alex and his plight. I believe that some may get engrossed in the story more than I did. But there just wasn’t a lot to get you to care about his problems. The most interesting factor for me is what got Alex into this mess and how. You’ll just have to wait until the end to find out.
If you’re interested in picking up a great puzzle game that is along the lines of Portal and features a somewhat entertaining story then The Spectrum Retreat should deliver. The puzzles are fun to solve and the gameplay, for the most part, works well. There’s not much new or exciting to push the genre forward here, but there’s nothing else quite like it on the Switch.
The Spectrum Retreat Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
The Spectrum Retreats is an interesting and fun puzzle game. The best parts of the game are the color puzzles that lock and unlock panels that will allow you to move through the levels. It’s a well thought out and challenging game that will give you an estimated 5+ hours of fun.
The Spectrum Retreat was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.