Spectra Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Spectra Review


Spectra is the epitome of simplicity. It’s a procedurally generated racing game with the sole mechanic of dodging set obstacles on an endless stretch of track. There is no rhyme or reason to why a little red spaceship is racing on an obstacle course in space, but apparently space has been taken over by electronic music.


Breaking through obstacles has an amazing effect.

The Chiptune artist, Chipzel collaborated with the developer to create ten tracks for Spectra – each it’s own separate racetrack. All of the tracks are between three and four minutes in length, coming together to create a rather bite-sized collection of songs. Besides those ten tracks, there is no additional content in Spectra, which makes the game crippling lacking in content.

In my first playthrough I was able to progress through all ten songs and earn a decent rating on each track in less than an hour. Thankfully, the game sets the bar for progression very low so there is little preventing someone who isn’t very good at the gameplay from hearing all of the music.

The only hinderance to progression results from falling off the sides of the track, which forces you to restart the song from the beginning. Running into obstacles on the track will push the ship a little to the side as the obstacle explodes in an admittedly cool effect. Occasionally, this will cause the ship to fly off the side of the track and there isn’t much that can be done to recover after being pushed to the side after an explosion. Relatively short song lengths mean that the restart penalty isn’t too harsh, in practice, but managing the ship’s placement on the track is more annoying than fun or strategic.

Most of the strategy of maintaining the ship’s balance can be attributed to correctly anticipating and adjusting the speed boost pads that are randomly placed on each track. A boost pad will greatly increase the craft’s speed, providing a nearly uncontrollable amount of boost. However, the increase in speed is functionally useless because each level has a fixed length. Moving faster through the level is unimportant as there is no time to beat or set – no leaderboard to post a track time. Avoiding the speed boost markers is a more advisable option because the increase in speed can often send the ship careening off into the darkness.

It’s ultimately not too hard to quickly navigate through the track after the pads’ insane boost of speed. Spectra is not attempting to be a difficult game but rather a very simplistic and ultimately repetitive accompaniment to the short soundtrack. In most titles, the soundtrack is the accompaniment to the gameplay, but in this case the roles are reversed as the gameplay is severely lacking accessory to the soundtrack.


Collecting each cube increments your score by a tiny amount.

Spectra reveals the depths of its gameplay within the first five minutes – nothing about the gameplay evolves or changes throughout the course of playing any of the songs. Shiny yellow cubes sit along the tracks, collecting the cubes adds to a score tally for a track. A rating of zero to three stars is given at the end of a level, depending on score. However, I found that collecting the ratings were far more dependent on the track completion percentage than the number of cubes that I had picked up.

Completing certain percentage milestones such as 20% and 60% while picking up at least a decent number of cubes before falling off of a track always resulted in one or two stars respectively. Finishing a track without falling is an automatic three stars and a well-deserved in-game achievement. Unfortunately, the lack of leaderboards is not made up for in inspiration for the achievement milestones. Most achievements are simply awarded for completing tracks on either difficulty level or achieving a certain combo or track score.

As a result, flying through each level and picking up cubes feels uninspired because I know that none of the cubes really factor into my progression. Additionally, with no multiplayer or possibility to interact with any friends, Spectra drives a very hard bargain as a game that is primarily focused on racing through a space obstacle course. Hitting an obstacles resets the score multiplier and subtracts points but even after running into an obscene number of obstacles, my score was seemingly affected very little.

Gameplay aside, electronic music has invaded space in the world of Spectra and it’s actually not too bad. Of course, there are a few caveats first. I definitely would not recommend music of this type to anyone who is not already somewhat familiar with electronic music, especially the indie electronic music scene. The soundtrack will not sway anyone who isn’t already a fan of the genre into appreciating what Spectra has to offer.

Overall, the music is a decently solid mashup of electronic music that all varies around the same theme – the tenth track is the odd one out from the rest of the soundtrack. All of the tracks fall victim to repetitiveness that that often plagues electronic music, however, the negative result here is doubly evident as playing through a collection of ten similar soundings sounds on ten very similar levels makes everything feels like a mundane chore.

The potential audience for Spectra is very limited. Anyone who does not like electronic music will immediately be turned off. Chipzel’s music is featured heavily – from the start screen, the game bombards you with heavy electronic beats. The gameplay accompanying the music is lacking in any evolution or progression and is, at most, an inoffensive accessory to the presentation of the music. Electronic music is at the forefront of this package, and if you are not okay with that, you may wish to move on.