Consisting of one puzzle-type in several iterations, "Spectrum" is a logical enough game in which each piece of the puzzle reveals more of the dramatic backstory, set in a conceptual mindscape out of time.
It isn't challenging, but I appreciate having to empathize (whether approving or not) with the game's internal viewpoint. The puzzle is a basic test of emotional association and identification, and is interesting for examining one's own responses and comparing them with those expected by the game. It was logical, coherent, thought-provoking, and bug-free, which is everything one can hope from Speed-IF. Five minutes well spent.
(As an afterthought, I understand why an atheist might see a pro-religious bent to it, and equally as well why a religious player may find the game somewhat offensive: (Spoiler - click to show)
The player character is rewarded by a deity (embodied in-game by the savior statue, which while by no means restricted to Christianity, is most closely associated with it for the likely readership) for killing someone identified by the narrator as "a good man," and this after having to associate the concept of blind submission with the aforementioned savior. To a Christian, this idea is cognitively dissonant and morally repugnant, but to someone from without, it may appear to be an affirmation of what they believe to be unfortunate truths about organized religion.)
The game is almost entirely menu-driven and the writing is just as slap-dash as it needs to be (minus the encyclopedic excerpts, of course), but is so deceptively witty and self-aware I couldn't help but enjoy myself, albeit with a wry half-smile and a raised eyebrow for the duration. I even willingly undid a direct choice advancing the plot in order to undertake an eight-step chain with an obvious "payoff" merely consisting of exhausting one repetitive dialogue option until I was left with the one I'd chosen initially. The gag is essentially identically to the "and thennn?" gag from Dude, Where's My Car?
Most of the game consists of attempting to fast-talk your way out of being brutalized by a gorilla in a business suit, and one of my favorite elements is the way suggestive menu options play out in the resulting paragraphs of exposition or dialogue. You're faced with options such as, "Yeah, a gorilla with rocket launcher hands. That *is* odd. Please tell me your story" (and in context, you can seriously expect a reasoned response), and "I should probably tell you about the plant!" which works partly because it's been woven into the story but mainly because the Speed-IF event the game was written for randomly assigned a number of fake book-jacket blurbs to an author, who then had to make a story incorporating all those elements; in this case, it was David Fletcher's comment, "The minutely detailed simulation of the plant life was remarkable, if somewhat overwhelming." True, and true.
"The man-eating, halitosic gorilla of Brazil" may not be everyone's cup of coca-water, but it made me happy and silly for 10 or 15 minutes, and I appreciate that.
(It might be easy to overlook the introductory text, but the instructions are crucial to navigating one's way to the non-death ending. Yes, you will probably be torn limb-from-limb with a certain frequency until, of course, you survive the chariot race.)
The constraints of Speed-IF force an author to identify and highlight the core elements of their story: here, Pacian has chosen theme, imagery, and characterization. The brief prologue establishes all three in only a few sentences and lines of dialogue as we see a literal blushing romance, evocative phrasing, and hints of the main characters' complementary and contrasting personalities. The first sentence alone sets the stage:
"The zeppelin lurches suddenly and I tumble forward, spilling my books on the deck. Peyton laughs sympathetically and holds out his hand."
The viewpoint character and Peyton explore this dynamic along with the eponymous tower, learning about each other even as the reader learns the history of the setting. For such a short game, there is a great deal of backstory verging on the infodump in places, but never substantially enough to drag on the reader. Only curiosity, and perhaps, a tease of things (never?) to come.
It's surprising to find much replayability or branching in Speed-IF, but even though they're naturally abbreviated there are numerous endings, all logically suggested by the end-game scenario, and several points where the fleeting conversations can be steered into different revelations and outcomes. I found this thoughtfulness, like the developed personalities and vivid descriptions, touching. While it might take 10 minutes to play the first time and 2 thereafter, "Love, Hate, and the Mysterious Ocean Tower" is a vignette I'll visualize and remember for a long time.