They often say that life flashes before your eyes, well this is certainly an experience you will have with Spectra! With an 80’s retro vibe, you will be hurtling through space in an almost uncontrollable manner. Do not let the simplicity fool you, can you avoid disaster? Read on to find out!
Developer: Gateway Interactive
Reviewed on: Xbox One (Review code provided)
Spectra is an instant classic, a retro racing arcade game inspired by Chipzel’s album of the same name released back in 2013. The soundtrack is at the core of Spectra, featuring 10 electrifying, 8-bit chiptune tracks all composed using a GameBoy, and it will blow you away! These energising tracks are perfect for a night at the arcades brought to your very room.
The graphics plunge you right back into the 80’s, with vivid neon colours rushing past as the track scrolls towards you. Featuring simple lines and a glass like fragility, the Xbox One allows the arcade genre to come to life in full HD with crisp graphics whilst retaining that retro style.
Spectra has only one game mode on offer, but don’t let that deter you. It is often the simplest things that make a difference, make us happy, turning out to be a real gem and Spectra is just that! Whilst the theory remains simple the reality is more like hell. There are a total of 10 tracks where you must race your spaceship, a Gameboy propelled with rockets through procedurally generated tracks. The game listens to the music and generates the track accordingly, with the gameplay becoming increasingly difficult as you advance. The aim is to reach the end of the song without falling off the track, whilst collecting as many square blocks called Voxels as you can. Sounds simple right? Well you’d be wrong! As the track comes hurtling towards you with increasing speed, obstacles greet you in rapid succession in the form of barriers. These barriers may start off scarce but soon turn into a minefield that is virtually impossible to avoid. Not only do they slow you down but they are devastating to your point score. As you collect Voxels they build up a chain, which can be multiplied by making use of speed boost platforms, gaining air or by skimming past the barriers in a near miss manoeuvre. Annoyingly these points are not deposited straight away which means one small crash too soon and you wave bye bye to your hard earned points.
Warning: Please ensure you partake in Spectra in a spacious room, with all valuables tucked out of reach for safekeeping.
Why the warning you ask? Well you will soon find out. I would generally say I am quite a calm and collected individual, happy as can be. Spectra however seems to possess the unique power to flip that rage switch we have inside us, turning seemingly gentle people into rage driven maniacs! The atmosphere is intense and you will be sitting on the edge, you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. With sweaty palms you make your way through the track, everything is going well and you keep an eye on the timer in the corner. There is less than a minute left and you are over 90% through the track. Then it happens… CRASH! As you watch the impending doom come closer, you crash, ricocheting off one barrier into another setting off a chain reaction. You lose control, points and are sent flying off into the deep recesses of space along with your sanity. Bellows of obscenities ensue, “Oh fudge-sticks!” and items are thrown in rage. This is a frequent occurrence as once you fall off the track you must restart the track all over again! Restarting the track will allow you to play the same course again, however if you exit to the menu and then come back, the track structure will change meaning you will never play the track the same way again. Now I am a tenacious person, I don’t like to accept defeat and quit and thus I spent hours on one track trying to reach the end of the song and get over 9000 points! (An achievement that pays homage to Dragon Ball Z.) As of yet this one eludes me, but the shear sense of relief of completing a track is all I cried for before my soul shattered.
Reaching track 10 is like the Holy Pinnacle, the well earned rest after a treacherous journey. This however was just one mode. Yes, that was Normal Mode, which on completion unlocks Hardcore Mode. This however is a bit of an understatement and should be named Nightmare Mode, for those souls who dare stare Satan in the face!
Obscenities and rage aside, Spectra is one of the most thrilling gaming experiences I have had in a while. It may be a simple idea but by no means is it easy! This is one of those games where you know you should accept defeat, but that voice in your head tells you go on, just one more try. It will keep you hooked for hours at a time if your nerves can take it. Of course it will keep you coming back for more, turning you into a masochist until you beat each level, beat your personal best and reach over 9000! Whilst it may lack some features, like multi-player or leaderboards these are things that could be added at a later date, or you can make up your own competition with your friends. Why not create your own leaderboard, or allow a friend to take over control halfway through the track?* For those of you with Windows phones, Spectra can also be played on the go thanks to the cloud services. At a mere £5.99 it is worth every penny!
*Disclaimer: Next-Gen Gaming Blog will not be responsible for the loss of friendship due to this co-op suggestion.