Every once in awhile a game comes along that’s simple in concept but isn’t as easy as it looks and quickly becomes one of those games you love to hate… yet can’t tear yourself away from it. Our Spectra review takes a look at a not so easy simple arcade racing game from indie developer Gateway Interactive.
The concept of Spectra is extremely simple. Featuring 10 levels, you must guide your ship around obstacles and score points by collecting cubes, rubbing up against bumpers, and increasing your score multiplier without crashing or falling off the track. Each level features a different song (more on that later) and is procedurally generated meaning you get a different experience each time you load up a track.
The songs vary in length, and the goal is to survive the track until the song ends. Fall off the track and you’ll have to restart the track – or choose a different one. Each level tracks a high score and distance progress, pass the level and you’ll score three stars. Get far enough for a one star score and you’ll unlock the next level, which is a good thing as it allows you at least some soundtrack variety while you try over and over to pass each of the levels. Once you unlock all 10 levels and get at least one star on the last level, you’ll unlock hard mode which is even more frustrating than normal mode.
Steering your spacecraft consists of simply moving left or right. There’s no manual speed up or brake controls. Collecting cubes within a specific time limit will increase your score quickly, rubbing against obstacles will score you a “Nice” bonus, while using a speed ramp will not only boost your speed temporarily but give you a score multiplier. String enough ramps together to get a big score multiplier – but one crash and you’ll not only lose your multiplier but also your current score streak. After awhile you’ll get the hang of when to intentionally skip picking up a cube to add your current score streak to your level score. Fall off the track and it’s game over. Interestingly enough though, you also get “air” bonuses by briefly flying off the track and back on before it’s too late.
Spectra is a simple enough game, and yes it can get frustrating but it is strangely addictive and it keeps you coming back, even if only for 15 minutes here or there.
One of the things that is oddly missing from the game is leaderboards. You can track your stats, but unfortunately you can’t easily see how you stack up against your friends. It’s not the end of the world, but leaderboards definitely drive competition and would only add to the replayability factor for a game like Spectra.
Gateway Interactive introduces Spectra as a retro-style arcade racing game and it definitely lives up to that. The graphics are definitely simple and retro-inspired and fits nicely with the sound and soundtrack used in the game.
The soundtrack is where Spectra really shines. The music was composed by Chipzel (Super Hexagon, Size Does Matter, Interstellaria), and each level features a different original track. While the tracks vary from the faster, bass-pumping genre to the more trance like flow, each chiptune styled track has its own appeal and really helps to immerse you into the speed and franticness of the game. If I had one complaint about the soundtrack is that there are only ten songs – I would definitely like to see a few more tracks added for more variety. Have a listen to one of the included tracks below.
The sounds of the game itself fit nicely with the soundtrack, simple but effective sound cues let you know how high your current score streak is so you don’t have to look at your score to decide whether or not to skip that next cube to bank your score.
Spectra is a fun little game that is definitely worth picking up and playing – especially considering it costs less than $10. It is best consumed in small doses to avoid throwing your controller at your TV but at the same time it’s strangely addicting as you try to maneuver your ship through the various levels.