I didn’t know what to expect from Spectrum Break. As a game developed by a single developer, I was interested to see what it could bring to the table. I absolutely love single developer endeavors as we get to see the design intent in its purest form. Games like Cave Story, Braid, and Undertale show the sole developers at their peak in terms of how they stand out from the rest of the crowd. Spectrum Break also happens to be the developer’s first release, which will provide us with a glimpse at his artistic intent.
Spectrum Break is a fairly straightforward puzzle-platformer with a very relaxing mood. The game has you playing as a red man riding on what appears to be a snowboard. The goal of each of the fifty-five levels is to light up all the zero-gravity blocks. To light up a block, either the player or another block has to make contact with it. To make blocks contact with each other, one must be pushed to the other.
Since the blocks float in zero-gravity, it results in somewhat frantic playing. Standing on a colored block weighs it down, giving a lack of stable ground, but also makes it possible to catch hard-to-reach blocks indirectly with lit blocks. I quickly found the game enjoyable due to the complexities of movement along with the fast flowing synth music.
Basically, platforming in Spectrum Break is satisfying due to its responsiveness, but the ground movement is not always fluid because the player character is riding on a board on slopes. However, there are variations to the movements, as the player can jump and bounce away from blocks and increase their momentum directly downwards.
Spectrum Break excels at providing a free flowing experience with momentum playing a crucial part. I felt that the level design was hit or miss, though. Some levels made for smooth sailing, while others solved themselves or were battles of attrition. My favorite levels were the more linear, horizontally based levels as they always felt like they provided just the right amount of control. I wasn’t fond of the insanely huge levels or those with heavy focus on puzzles as they didn’t seem to play towards the game’s strengths. The huge levels often resulted in an experience where I would have a great run, but then lose due to overlooking a single block and not having any way to reach it.
A fair warning on the game’s length, as I finished it in a little less than an hour and a half. Though it wasn't an issue to me, it certainly can vary from person to person. The game’s core mechanics made for a good replay material as they seemed to promote stylish play in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of Devil May Cry. Though the level design was frustrating at times, it was never overwhelming. The feature that significantly helped in this regard was the ability to reset levels instantly.
The presentation has its ups and downs. The game’s soundtrack adds a pleasant range of synthwave music to the mix. The visuals are colorful and simplistic, though they certainly lack polish. Regardless, the developer succeeds at providing looks that stand out despite not having fancy assets. The display of vibrant colors alongside the hypnotic music often put me in a platforming trance.
Despite my small gripes with the game, I had a great time with Spectrum Break. Sure, it’s not very ambitious, but it certainly has a solid foundation. The game knows what it is and doesn’t overreach. I enjoyed my short time with Spectrum Break and I am interested in what the developer makes next. Overall, I’d recommend the game to anyone interested in playing a solid and experimental 2D platformer.