Spectra was developed by English indie developer Gateway Interactive, being their first published game and it is published by Mastertronic Group, a British software publisher notable for publishing games such as Over 9000 Zombies, The Charnel House Trilogy, and Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker.
There sure has been a rise in retro-futuristic media products. We can name Far Cry: Blood Dragon and Kung Fury (Both the film and the game) as two of the most successful examples of this trend and more and more examples keep popping up every day. Spectra is one of the latest additions to this fashion. A retro-futuristic racing game, it was released in July 2015 for PC and Xbox One as well as for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone mobile devices.
The first thing that stroke me about Spectra was its visuals. Everything is colorful and has a bright neon glow that perfectly reminds me of ’80s arcade games. Both the player-controlled racing vessel as the tracks are beautifully and simply designed and colored with cheerful neon colors.
Spectra bears the atmosphere of simpler times in gaming history, simpler games though such games were not always necessarily as good as current games. Let’s face it fellers: limited lives along with limited continues and excruciating difficulty were a big no-no.
So, let’s take a minute to refer to the topic of excruciating difficulty in Spectra. It’s impossible to speak about it without referring first to the game’s music. The music was provided by veteran chiptune music composer Chipzel. She has also provided the vibrant soundtrack for puzzle game Super Hexagon.
Developer Gateway Interactive was so enthusiastic about Chipzel’s soundtrack (I can easily understand why since it sounds awesome) that they developed the whole game around it. The totality the game’s race tracks are procedurally generated in accordance to the melody of the song that is being played at the time being.
This feature sets Spectra apart from similar games in the genre of futuristic racing such as incarnations of the WipeOut series or the F-Zero series. This innovative feature comes with a great cost for racing games’ regulars, completely stripping the player of the ability to memorize the race track and act accordingly. So, the player will have to rely on sheer skill and reflexes to make it through the various race tracks that the game provides, turning Spectra into a very difficult racing game. Some extra difficulty is added by randomly appearing obstacles.
The game could also become more bearable if the controls weren’t so unresponsive. Most of the time the ship tilts too hard to the right or to the left resulting in going off-track and losing all progress. If the ship goes slightly off-course you have a split second to make it right or it’s game over and you have to re-start the race.
There aren’t many rewards to entice players to keep going at it, either. Each playthrough on each track you play against yourself and your previous score. The score can be buffed up by picking up some yellow blocks or by carefully rubbing the obstacles instead of crashing into them. There are some 27 achievements for the hardcore players. I would love to see some type of multiplayer implemented and also some global leaderboards in the near future.
After playing for a good while, I was left with the feeling that Spectra could have been a brilliance of a game but settled for being a decent game. At five dollars apiece, it’s a good deal for a retro-futuristic action racing game, but in your place I would not expect too much. Cheap, simple and rugged.