Fez – Video Game Review
By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom
I completely forgot that Fez even existed since it had such a long development time of roughly five years. I also remember being sold on the game when I saw a short preview video that showcased the game’s basic mechanics. Occasionally, the game would pop in my mind and I would wonder just when the hell would it be released. I even feared that it would be cancelled or become vaporware. Obviously, that isn’t that case seeing how you’re reading this review, but as usual with any game, big studio, (or in this case), independently developed, the tried but true question to always ask is if the wait was worth it.
My answer would have to be absolutely. I’m the type of person who loves games that are rich with atmosphere; the more mysterious the better, and Fez certainly delivers on that front. The game could have carried itself just fine using typical old school styled graphics with basic platforming, but thankfully it carries a unique spin to liven up the gameplay.
I guess you could take the last part of what I just said literally as Fez mixes in the puzzle with the platform by letting the player rotate perspectives in 90 degree increments, allowing four ways to view the game’s world. The catch is that while the world is 3D, each perspective treats the game as if it was 2D. For example, if a pathway or floating block seems out of reach, rotating the world usually saves the day. There is something insanely satisfying by partaking in simply turning the world. It would be like if you were to step into a painting of an optical illusion and were allowed to play around until you could work out how the forced perspectives were created.
Using this technique, it is up to you to control Gomez, the main character, to find the shattered pieces of the Hexahedron scattered throughout a seamless world. While you do need a certain amount of cubes (and/or anti-cubes) to access certain areas, you are basically allowed to explore the world in any order you want. Some cubes can be found by collecting eight cube bits at a time, while others only require you to reach a certain area of a section of the map. Anti-cubes and other puzzles require you to decode hints with subtle visual cues. I haven’t had to bust out a pen and paper for a video game in years.
While you could easily look up a solution online, that defeats the purpose of Fez, especially because the feeling of reward you get for solving a puzzle feels so damn good. You aren’t offered a helping hand in this adventure. Hell, you aren’t even offered a helping finger! Though, I do have to admit that some of the puzzles are a little too obscure for their own good. I don’t want to ruin anything for readers who haven’t played the game yet, but if you do crack and look up a solution, you’ll still be left scratching your head only because you’ll wonder just how you were supposed to work some solutions out with context barley bigger than a grain of sand.
Going back to talking about the game’s atmosphere for a bit, Fez features a chillingly-excellent-chiptune soundtrack by Disasterpeace. To be honest, I got just as lost in the music as I did the game itself. This is one of the few soundtracks I have heard that features mainly ambient music that is surprisingly listenable outside the game. If anything, it offered a different experience in itself, whether you are familiar with Fez or not. While I am known occasionally for gushing about video game music as it is, I mean it when I say this soundtrack is already one of my favorites. On off chance that you are reading this Disasterpeace (otherwise known as Rich Vreeland), my hat — er fez — goes off to you.
Anyway, while I realize that Fez was created with a laid back, relaxed state of mind to it, some players might be disappointed in the lack of obstacles (other than puzzle based ones) and enemies. If someone were to bring that up to me as an example of why they couldn’t get into the game, I would disagree, but I would also understand were they are coming from. The only other real fault is the price every puzzle based game like this pays: once you solve everything, subsequent playthroughs won’t be nearly as much fun as your first.
All in all, Fez is en experience worth diving into, even if I don’t have as much fun next time I venture through it. This is one of those games where all the elements came perfectly together to create a beautiful, memorable adventure that ranks up there with the best games. Also, it turns out to justify its lengthy development time! If you have an Xbox 360 (as that looks to be the only place you can get it currently), download this game right now!
Front page image and screenshots from giantbomb.com.