The Spectrum Retreat was winning awards before ever releasing to the general public. Creator Dan Smith won the BAFTA Young Game Designers Award in 2016 for his prototype of the game, and from there it has become a full-fledged multi-level puzzle game coming to consoles this summer. Published by Ripstone Games, The Spectrum Retreat takes players through a deceptively tricky hotel where nothing is as it seems.
Gameplay in TSR is reminiscent of Portal or QUBE, as shown in Smith’s E3 demo. Players start out in a bedroom of a strange hotel, furnished in art-deco style and deserted except for its faceless workers. The workers don’t offer any explanation for your presence, and won’t let you leave. From there, players find their way through the hotel with the ultimate goal of passing through every floor and reaching the roof. Along the way, increasingly taxing color-based puzzles attempt to hinder players’ progress—and the more puzzles you solve, the further you dive into the hotel.
The puzzles shown at E3 were pretty straightforward as part of the tutorial level, but by the last one it was already apparent that the difficulty was increasing. As gameplay continues on through the levels, the hotel environment evolves as mechanics expand. For example, later puzzles (though not shown in the demo) will include teleports, gravity changes, and infinite color sources, among other obstacles.
Another interesting accept of gameplay are the way personality for the player character is worked in. From the beginning, they’re more or less anonymous; players begin the game without knowing a name, background, or appearance, but bits of information about the character are worked into the game’s levels. By the end of the demo, the player character still hadn’t discovered much about themselves, but it seemed likely at the very least that they had a family and child at one point. Memories are triggered by objects and progress, and those memories become more frequent the further players progress.
The hotel’s design is an interesting dichotomy between the aforementioned Art Deco style and a sudden switch to a futuristic sci-fi-fi design. It seemed like there were plot reasons for the strange differences in terrain, though we’ll have to wait and see in the game’s full release. It became evident in gameplay that the place was designed to display conformity, and solving the puzzles was possible by noticing each subtle hint that broke up the hotel’s consciously engineered sameness. Overall, the color-based puzzles built into TSR‘s environment seemed like an engaging new way to run a puzzle-based exploration game.
The Spectrum Retreat is expected to release later this summer for PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and the PC via Steam. In the meantime, you can check out this 11-minute gameplay video with commentary from Dan Smith and get your own peek at the first level of the game.