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Spectra 8-bit Racing Review

Old school style racing fun.


Preparations for this week’s Insomnia event reminded me that I never got around to talking about some of the games on display at last year’s winter event, as the madness that is Christmas quickly took over as soon as we got back, and news of the upcoming Xbox One release of one of the games and their attendance again at this weekends made this a good time to do so.

Spectra is a fairly simple concept, with you simply having to navigate your way through the length of a track. Each track is procedurally generated, and features a number of obstacles and points pickups, with the goal of finishing each level with the highest score possible.


The controls couldn’t be simpler, with you moving the craft (which is modelled on a Gameboy with added rocket boosters) left and right. The earlier levels are typically simpler single lane tracks, with less obstacles, but as you progress the tracks begin to become more branching, with higher numbers of obstacles in the way. There are also boosters on the track which give you a double score multiplier, but also make you move much faster which makes it more difficult to dodge anything in the way or stick to the track.

Hitting multiple obstacles in a row or too fast give a good chance of sending you flying off the track, but there’s no damage on your craft so as long as you’re able to recover in time you may be able to continue going, once you’ve flown off the track though your run is ended and have to start the level again to try to complete it. On some of the later and more difficult tracks I had quite a few tries on each that ended from a simple mistake, and it’s very much one of those ‘oh, I’ll just have one more try’ games that you end up retying over and over again.


It’s pretty addictive, and even once you’ve completed all the tracks 100% you can always retry the stages with the goal of getting higher scores, though sadly there isn’t an online leaderboard to compare your scores against others.

The music is provided by chip tune musician Chipzel, who makes songs using the sound chip of the original Gameboy handheld. The ten tracks in the game each have their own song, and are all pretty catchy tunes. I’ve not really listened to that much in the way of real chip tunes (many games with retro sounding music tend to use more modern instruments or emulate the sound) and it’s quite impressive how much the Gameboy was capable of doing in the right hands.


Visually, it’s quite pretty with a retro 80’s style look to the graphics despite them being 3D objects, though it would have been nice if there was a change in colour palette between levels as all have the same purple colour scheme. I’m reminded a lot of older games from the NES era where the developers would typically use the same resources for the level and just make them a different colour, and doing so here I think would have made each level stand out a little more.

As it’s a Windows 8 game it supports touch controls if you have a touchscreen but also natively supports an Xbox 360 controller, which certainly feels like the most natural way to play.

All in all, it’s a fun little game and certainly worth a couple of hours of your time and I’d recommend giving it a try as it’s available for a mere couple of pounds.

Spectra is available now on the Windows Store on Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and is out soon for Xbox One