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The SPECTRUM RETREAT is based in The Penrose Five-Star Hotel and this is where you are staying, or being held prisoner?

Plus you have no idea who you are, actually where exactly you are or why you are where you are, and then there's the voice in your head.

  

Available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch

Produced by Dan Smith (Dan Smith, the winner of the Young Game Designer award at the 2016 BAFTAs)  Studios and Published by Ripstone The SPECTRUM RETREAT is a good value puzzle game for under £ten pounds.

Set in an opulent hotel that resembles the 40's noir style of Bogart and Bacall, this is an hotel run by automatons who have speakers for mouths and who you never actually 'see' move but they surely do because one moment they are there and when you turn around then turn back they are gone and are nowhere to be seen, talk about eerie. The background music is a little brighter than the situation but like all muzak gets on your nerves a bit after a while, still that's a small price to pay for a game of this magnitude.

You are led around in a somewhat linear fashion as the voice in your head, originally in your phone, tells you where to go and what to do but not how to get there, that's up to you. Also the voice, a girl called Cooper, only gives you clues, such as "find the door that is different from the others" which has you running around the hotel corridors of Level 1 checking every door - after a while I was like a mouse in a maze, I didn't know where I was or which way was up, though I did eventually find the door, only to then get another cryptic clue from Cooper.

 

My bedroom was large and adequately pointed. It was clean, the sheets looked starched and freshly laundered, I am sure that the garbage receptacle would have been just as sparkly if I had bin able to open it. There was an hotel phone of course, but there was also the aforementioned 'phone' found under my pillow. Just before finding this I went to leave my room (at this point in time I had no idea there was a phone there) and I opened my door to find a Human-Robot requesting that I went down for breakfast. The Restaurant is set for many guests and several of the tables have yet to be cleared away, but you haven't seen another living person. You are told to mind the mess on the floor - a guest apparently left in a hurry - and take your regular table, but of course you don't know which one that is, and that's how you find the mess on the floor you were told to be aware of - it looks more like the Guest exploded. Your table is ready with two Eggs Benedict and a cup of Coffee on it, a blink later and both the plate and the cup are empty.

The Hotel is perfectly clean and spotless but that's not surprising concerning there appears to be no one else in the place - no one that is human that is. There are some shining sparkling blue boxes to be found, hidden but visible (ie if you are close to one you will see the aura like light) that give small insights into what is happening, there are 9 of them to find.

It didn't take me too long to realise that I was a prisoner in the most beautiful and improbable of Prisons and as I had nothing else to go on I figured that I was in an Escape Room game of amazing proportions.

 

After a long time spent going round and around the Hotel corridors and in and out of every room available to me, I found/was given a clue; colours! Then I discovered a labyrinth of rooms and passageways that were all 'locked' by electronic fences that reached floor to ceiling and wall to wall across each entrance. These fences were each coloured and I now held an instrument (my new 'phone') that could change the colour of a fence by taking the colour from a close-by block which in turn let me through the fence, trouble is, the more I progressed the more the rooms were protected by multiple fences and of course each was a different colour than the previous one. If I tried to go through a gateway/fence with the wrong colour I was rebuffed but if the gateway was on the floor and I tried the wrong colour I would fall through the floor, sometimes to just blackness and a restart other times to a new series of passageways. At first these were fairly uncomplicated puzzles with me running around trying to work out the system but after a while the puzzles became more complex and required more than just a little thought and action.

 

So what is this game about ? As a guest at the most exclusive hotel ever - it's so exclusive I am the only guest it seams - I am a prisoner. I don't know who I am or how I got here, and that is the simple premise, I have to discover myself!

 

Once I was out of the Hotel corridors, which I have to say look every bit like every hotel corridor I have ever been in, and into the labyrinth of isometric rooms and passages the game took on a new look and a new direction. There are elements of both 'The Prisoner' and 'Groundhog Day' as I relive parts of my past, either in flashback scenes or from messages I see or hear (the blue boxes provide some clues), plus I appear to be doing the same things over and again; it is here that I am a little stuck as to what more to tell you. If I say anymore then I will be giving away things that it is best you discover for yourselves; the game is time consuming but in the best possible manner. You really do need to play it to get the most out of it but do not expect a fast-moving, action-filled adventure; it is slow and subtle, subdued but imaginative.

 

In the labyrinth I haven't met anyone, no other humans and no automatons, just the occasional word or three from Cooper in my ear, and if not in my ear then she is sending texts, short cryptic texts, to my circular space-age phone.

I am constantly reminded of the GREAT SPLENDISI: the Man Who Knows. Knows what though ? Knows who I am ? Am I indeed the Great Splendisi ? Who or whatever he is I have this weird feeling he is more involved than just being a poster on the wall or an advert on the table/desk. I suppose it is possible that I am Splendisi, but if so I don't feel so 'Great' at the moment. I love this, I am confusing myself in my own mind, all the while going through the motions of opening doors and gates and trying to find new doors and gates to unlock and free more of my memories. Splendidly designed and created, this game really does make you think, both aloud and to yourself in secret.

 

I really want to finish as I am completely hooked on this now, but the constant repetition and frustration over some of the puzzles - I like crosswords and arrow-words more than I like colour based puzzles - is making me want to give up and come back to it later, I do get disheartedned when I am stonewalled too often or I can see what I need to do but cannot find the means to do it - I know that is what makes a puzzle good but it doesn't help when my brain is having a Groundhog Day of its own inside this Groundhog's day of a game. I need to take stock of the situation then come back at it with a fresh mind (and a strong coffee) regularly. Each time I reapproach something else clicks into place and I get further into the game. Basically what I am saying is if you are at all like me, easily stymied, then don't give up on the game, just take a short break - go kill something in CoD or similar - and then come back with a fresh feeling of confidence.

 

Not a game to complete in an hour or so. Is basically linear except when it isn't. Annoyingly simple and then complex at times, complicated at other times. The game is indeed a mind-bending enigma wrapped in a conundrum surrounded by a riddle!

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015