Developed by Gateway Interactive, Spectra: 8bit Racing was released on Windows 8 and Windows Phone devices in 2014 and recently made its debut on the Xbox One. Spectra is essentially a “racing” game (and I use the term racing loosely) that plays much like an endless runner. You don’t control the speed of your vehicle by accelerating or braking. Rather, your vehicle moves at a constant speed with your only controls being your ability to move left or right as you try to dodge incoming obstacles. I say try because most of the time you’ll be crashing into these neon colored pink roadblocks which can bring you to a complete stop momentarily, or if you’re unlucky, completely toss you off of the road.
Tracks in Spectra are procedurally generated, which basically means that the tracks will change even if you play the same stage multiple times. At first this seems like a novel idea that can lead to countless hours of gameplay that doesn’t feel repetitive. However, due to the simplistic aesthetics of the game, as well as the fact that there are only one type of obstacle and pathway, every level looks exactly the same, even if the pathway is slightly different. In fact the only real difference between each track is simply the 8-bit song in the background, which is quite disappointing.
In Spectra, your main objective is to dodge these obstacles long enough for the song to end which is usually 3 or 4 minutes. Along the way you’ll collect yellow cubes (which increase your score) and use boost pads which grants you a momentary boost of speed. If you manage to reach the end of the song without falling off the track, you’ll be scored on your performance during the race. This is easier said than done, because the game is surprisingly difficult.
While the concept is simple enough, it’s rather difficult to actually make to the end of the course simply because of how easy it is to fall off the tracks. There are barely any walls along the track to keep your vehicle on the road, making it very easy to fall off the road.
The penalty for falling off is that you essentially fail the course, which means you have to start over from the beginning of the track again (there aren’t any checkpoints that bring you back to the place where you fell off in the game). Because of this, it’s pretty easy to fall off the tracks at any given moment, which has led to some very frustrating moments especially if that happens near the end of the course. It doesn’t really help either that the controls seem a bit too sensitive at times, which has led to a lot of deaths caused by accidentally bumping into a barrier.
Spectra is a rather disappointing game. The concept and aesthetics make for a promising game at first, but the lack of precise controls mixed with the unforgiving design of the gameplay leads to more frustrating moments than enjoyable ones. Hearing the same 8-bit tune (while catchy at first) can get boring fast as you spend dozens of attempts just trying to get through the random spike in difficulty throughout each the 3-4 minute tracks. Unlike the games soundtrack, Spectra just isn’t fun.