Spectra is another love letter to the retro generation, and quite obviously made for the hardcore perfectionist. The game does hold it's merit as a fun time, but the dedication required to perfect it may be too much for some players.
I've been trying to think of a way to best describe Spectra. Take Mario Kart, but pare it down to the Rainbow Road. Now, cut that in half, down to about two traffic lanes. Fill half the lanes with random obstacles. Oh, and Lakitu has the day off: you fall off the track, it's game over. It takes a while to get the sensitive controls down, and I personally found myself waggling back and forth a lot in trying to compensate for the errors I'd make getting too close to the track. It helps a bit when you learn you can use the shoulder buttons to drive instead of the stick, but it's still a hair raising experience.
Billing itself as a rhythm game in some aspects, Spectra comes packaged with ten thumping tracks. My big issue, though, comes with the game's procedural generation of the tracks. No matter how I tried, I couldn't really ever link my actions on the screen to the music: I eventually zoned out on the music just to try to focus on the gameplay. The ten tracks are all techno-based. While they are unique, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you the order they were unlocked in. New tracks open up at the 20% complete mark of the previous track, so you may have most of the tracks unlocked before you ever finish one in it's entirety.
Procedural generation not only makes the track feel disjointed from the music to me, but it also makes it generic. There are banks to the left, banks to the right, and a few cool lane-split spirals while the track goes up and down, but with the galaxy in the background and no color changes to ANYTHING, the only thing that ever tells you where you are on the track is the percentage ranking. I was sorely disappointed when I finally hit 100% of a track. There is no "end of level" or victory theme for mastering one of the musical scores. When my marker hit 100%, the track was still generating out in front of me, plenty of obstacles and turns to be seen. It just paused, said I completed 100%, and offered another track. While the procedural generation is portrayed as offering "unlimited playthroughs," I sadly see it as a lost opportunity to make some epic loops and dives that fit perfectly with the music. Bragging rights remain solely on your shoulders as well, with no leaderboards you'll just be screenshotting and Facebook bragging rather than seeing how you stack up against others.
Despite all it's flaws, Spectra does harken back to the glory days of gaming. It could have held it's own in an old arcade next to Pac Man and Space Invaders for it's punishing precision. The thumping music and "oh-so-close to victory" mentality will bring the perfectionist back for more. As an endless-runner style game with Flappy Bird levels of instant game-over punishment, Spectra does have an audience. It's just best you know what you're getting into before making that purchase. Spectra provides some classic twitch style retro gaming action that is a perfect fit for the precision gamer, while some of it's minor flaws may deter more traditional gamers. If Spectra's style of gameplay perfectly scratches the itch you have, though, you'll find none better to satisfy the craving. And at $7.49 on the Xbox Marketplace, the price hits a sweet spot that is definitely worth a try.
Thanks to the developers for providing a copy for review.
Final review: 2.75/5