Spectra is a bright, colorful nostalgia-driven game that fully embraces its genre and the music spectacularly well.

By Artemis, Posted 14 Jul 2015

The name Chipzel has earned quite a bit of fame on the internet nowadays. Ever since the successful release of Super Hexagon, a tough-as-nails puzzle/rhythm game, her retro style chiptune music has been synonymous with difficult games. Now a game has been built around her music once again: Spectra, developed by Gateway Interactive and published by Mastertronic. It wasn't maybe by Chipzel herself, but it showcases her album in its entirety. It's a rhythm/endless runner sort of racing game where you race to the end of the song, while collecting gold blocks and trying to avoid obstacles. The game covers the entirety of Chipzel's album with the players having to survive procedurally generated stages in order to get to the end of the song.

Designed around each song, each track has a unique look and tone to them despite being procedurally generated. The track Only Human goes a lot slower than the other tracks and has less sudden drops and turns than a faster track like Forged in the Stars. There are little touches in each level's design that does show that each area is indeed different, despite not appearing so at first. This works in the games favor, because after playing the game for a few minutes and going through each track, the tracks could start to bleed together in a macabre painting of bleeps and bloops if the soundtrack was too uniform the tracks are set up in such a way that it never gets to that point, unless you try the same stage over and over again.

Spectra gameplay

If the player decides to do that, then it might be a time to take a break because this isn't the sort of game anyone should play without taking breaks because the difficulty can get trying at times. Playing Spectra all in one sitting is a bad idea because it can ruin the immense amount of fun this game can be for a player. Sure, you want to get those achievements and to show everyone how great you are at this game, but not stopping is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make and will ruin the game's feel. This isn't a flaw in the slightest, it's just a game that's designed to be played in quick bursts rather than long 4 hourlong gaming session. It is a game with Chipzel's music after all, which means you may see your little space ship jettisoning off the track more often than you'd like thanks to certain difficulty spikes.

With its retro-style graphics and minimalistic approach, Spectra has a simple yet classic style of graphics. It's easy to look at and it is never too bright or too dark, you can see your obstacles clearly, as well as the things you're going to be picking up. This game is easy to just pick up and play without much advice on what to do. It gives it a universal appeal more so that Super Hexagon had, which plays in this game's favor due to its simpler and less difficult gameplay. The only issue with the game is that occasionally rlies on deaths that aren't necessarily your fault. The issue with the procedurally generated levels is that there are times that it sets you up in a situation where you are more than likely going to take a hit. There aren't many, 0.9 % according to the Steam achievement, that have successfully made it through a track without hitting an obstacle once.

Spectra Gameplay

The players' struggle for perfection might also be hampered by the sometimes unfair obstacle placement which, while it is avoidable, requires a sort of hair-trigger reaction time that not even the most seasoned Counter Strike players have. It's when your ship is going downward on a track and then in suddenly tilts up, and it's very likely that there will be a block in the way causing you to lose a certain number of points. This can be increasingly frustrating when you've built up a lot of points up until this section and you end up losing them all to a randomly placed block. That's the issue with procedurally generated levels: you're never quite sure on what you'll get and there will be times that it does seem that the game is stacking the deck against you. While it does test your mettle, it can be frustrating and cause quite a few outbursts of profanities.

There's also this sense that the space ship you're controlling floats around on the track, like your little pilot is floating about Laissez-faire while you're desperately trying to turn away from the oncoming blocks. Sure, you don't die from them, but you do lose points which are something you'll want to avoid. The only way to fail a track is to fall off, and with those procedurally generated obstacles that becomes a very real concern when at times one false move and your ship can be hit from multiple sides until it's just pushed off the track. Now, this is your own error and you should keep a very close eye out on things.

Spectra Gameplay

The boosters in the game can also equal a pretty quick death because, while they do multiply your score and benefit you, they are also very likely to launch your little ship into a block. The placement, since it's random, is all over the place and more often than not you'll find the boosts leading to your death rather than a fun flying time. Sometimes it can be avoided, but sometimes it can't which takes away the player's sense of being the one in control of the ship, and that goes against everything racing games have taught is which is “boosts lead to good things,” when in this game, it might as well be “boosts might help us, but more than likely lead to our deaths.” It gets to the point where if you want to finish the track it's more beneficial to just avoid the boosts as much as you can unless you know for a fact you'll be able to survive their loving throws into the oblivion of the track.

Spectra is a bright, colorful nostalgia-driven game that fully embraces its genre and the music spectacularly well. It does have its flaws, such as seemingly unfair difficulty and some times where the player may be driven to yell at the screen, but it doesn't detract too much from the games overall quality. If you like Chipzel and you want to play another fun, yet difficult game that has her music, give Spectra a try.

Angelina Bonilla, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information



Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
Publisher(s): Mastertronic
Developer(s): Gateway Interactive
Genres: Rhythm
Themes: Endless Runner
Release Date: 2015-07-10

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