The Spectrum Retreat by developer Dan Smith is a 1st person puzzle/exploration game set inside the Penrose Hotel. The story begins with your character, Alex, waking inside a beautiful yet bleak and unnerving hotel. The building is run by polite but somewhat disturbing robotic staff. Soon after Alex is contacted by the mysterious Cooper, who reveals you are being held involuntarily and that she might be able to help you escape confinement. As Alex further explores The Penrose Hotel and solves puzzles he begins to discover who he is and why he’s trapped inside.
The controls in The Spectrum Retreat are easy enough, “A” jumps, “ZR” is used to interact, and “ZL” is used later in the game to teleport. The game controls all right for the most part but I found the jumping was occasionally more difficult than it needed to be and I had to adjust the look sensitivity as it was a bit too touchy with the right Joy-Con’s analog stick.
The game alternates between two distinctive and different elements, exploring the hotel trying to piece together a passcode from scattered clues, and “authentication challenges” in cleverly designed challenge rooms. Both parts look and feel quite different and unfortunately, this makes the game as a whole less cohesive. Inside the challenge rooms, you must absorb and exchange color from blocks which allow you to pass through barricades of the same color. This simple concept works very well and is used with other elements to create some challenging and captivating puzzles. The puzzles in the challenge rooms start off simple but quickly become more complex and robust as each floor adds something new. Later floors add a teleport move which jets you to targets affixed to walls provided your block is the correct color and also switches that rotate the world creating some mind-bending puzzles. Completing these “authentication challenges” allows access to the higher floors as you attempt to reach the roof of The Penrose Hotel and escape.
The graphics in The Spectrum Retreat on the Nintendo Switch are a mixed bag, some scenes look good, but the shadows are extremely low resolution and can detract from the immersive experience. The graphics are quite jaggy, but it runs relatively smoothly in docked or handheld mode. I also saw quite a few jarring lighting glitches during my time with the game. The soundtrack was excellent and really fit the mood of the game. The voice acting was top notch but underutilized. I would have liked to have heard more from Cooper during the challenge rooms to help tie them into the hotel sections. The sound effects were also well done and quite fitting, I especially like the teleport sound.
Overall The Spectrum Retreat on the Nintendo Switch is a good puzzle game with an interesting if irregular story. The two disjointed parts that make up the game never truly unite into one complete experience. Unless you are dead set on playing it on the go, due to some of the graphical issues, it may be best to play this on another system. These issues don’t directly impact the gameplay, but can be quite hard to ignore. Hopefully, some of it can be fixed up a bit through future patches. If you are a fan of puzzle games you’ll likely find a good deal to like here in the 5 or 6 hours of gameplay provided, the last puzzle is especially satisfying to solve.