Review

Spectra Review

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Spectra is a retro, arcade-style, solo racer that pits the player against a procedurally generated, floating track. 10 levels, each set to a different track by composer, Chipzel, are all esthetically similar but increase in difficulty.

The developers, Gateway Interactive, designed the game around Chipzel’s tunes. You might remember her work from 2012’s Super Hexagon. Chipzel, AKA Niamh Houston is a London based composer who utilizes a hacked gameboy in her up-beat chiptunes.

There’s not a lot of substance in Spectra. Other than the appropriate 8bit soundtrack, which also gets old after your 4th or 5th trial of any particular track, there’s nothing that sets one trial apart from the previous. The later courses are more difficult.

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The stylish retro graphics, coupled with the game’s sci-fi influence, electrify the neon setting for you to clumsily blaze through. The tangerine hover ship is a stunning spectacle when it’s cruising past translucent polygon obstacles and momentarily drifting off the edges of the track, but it steers more like an old school rear-engine Porsche than a tron-inspired race craft. The player steers the hovering racer left or right to hit speed boosts, avoid obstacles, and pick-up points.

I found Spectra to be tedious yawn-fest despite the procedurally-generated courses. The craft’s poor control turns much of the game into a finger-fumbling farce, and when you do tune the sensitivity just right, and get the hang of the craft’s eagerness to drift like an old “widowmaker” 911, you’re now left to repeatedly cruise down what seems like the same ol’ stretch of digital highway.

I think the obstacles generate on the track according to some compu-wizardry that takes its orders from Chipzel’s songs. Regardless, their placement feels unintuitive and uncomplimentary to the race craft’s movement. Even when you manage to survive on the track for the full 3-and-a-half minutes, there’s not much satisfaction to Spectra’s ultimate climax of a simple achievement screen pop-up.

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Spectra is an arcade game at heart, but it suffers from the same problem as any arcade game that utilizes procedurally-generated levels, which is that the leader board, which should drive competition (if even only with yourself), doesn’t represent a true comparison of anything. Each attempt delivers a unique track, but in such circumstances the competitive value of the leader board is diminished.

Spectra is available on PC and XboxOne with cross-play compatibility for Windows Phone.

Reviewed on PC. Review copy provided by publisher.

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