Published by: Microsoft Studios
Genre: Action, Platformer
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Play it if: You want something fun, charming and challenging
Skip it if: You can’t get past the old school style
Fez is one of those rare games that defies logic. It’s fun, charming and challenging and it’s a testament to just what can be accomplished by a determined developer. There may be some that don’t “get” what Fez is doing, but they’re missing out on some truly unique level designs, and one of the best reasons to be connected to Xbox Live to date.
Fez tells the tale of Gomez, a simple white…thing..who lives in a 2D world. Those around him hate cubes – -in fact, they don’t even believe they exist. When Gomez comes into possession of a magical Fez hat that can literally spin the world, everything changes and Fez begins proper. The goal is to use your new world spinning ability to collect pieces of cubes that open up new portals and doorways. The key here is that Gomez still behaves as a simple 2D sprite, and you’ll have to adapt to the changing terrain to open up new paths as you play through. It’s a cool and unique mechanic that may take you some getting used to, but it’s damn rewarding to figure out a puzzle with.
The key to what makes Fez so special is how wonderful it feels just to explore and try out new options. What may seem like an impossible jump from one angle may be a mere short hop from another. There were also plenty of times when I entered a room that I thought was empty, only to find that a simple switch of perspective showed that the room had exactly what I was looking for. Where Fez really starts to shine is when the developers take the perspective flipping mechanic into wild and unexpected new directions that will keep you thinking throughout your journey.
Though getting all of the game’s cubes may seem daunting, the game is so addicting that it literally cruises by, and the game’s main quest can be completed in a mere matter of hours. Beyond that, there’s plenty to do once you’ve completed the main game, including finding rare artifacts and “negative cubes.” Be forewarned though, the game starts off simple, but some of the later puzzles are incredibly tricky and will challenge you more than you might think.
Fez is not perfect though, with the main complaint being just how finicky the controls can be. As you’d expect, you’ll control Gomez with either the left stick or the directional pad, but the problem is that the majority of contextual actions are also controlled in the same way. I can’t tell you the amount of times I tried to move forward, only to go into a door I had just been in because the game read my input as up instead of forwards. Fez’s jumping is also a bit overzealous and there are times when you’ll overshoot your ledge and fall into the infinite abyss. Luckily, the game is very forgiving and if you do mess up or miss your intended target, you’ll respawn on the nearest stable point.
Yes, Fez retro style may look an awful like a lot of games that came out recently, but the key is that the developers didn’t rely on it to give the game its identity. Fez is charming, and unique, but it could do so without the retro NES inspired style. Truth be told though, Fez looks absolutely brilliant throughout the entire experience. Environments are constantly enthralling and fun to explore, and the 3D effects play well with the 2D style.
The Blast Factor: You’re going to fall in with Fez. Accept it and enjoy it. Polytron has created one of the most charming, interesting and unique platformers in recent memory. It’s been well worth the wait, as the adventure taken by Gomez is one that will task your every step, but it will never feel like it’s over bearing. If you’re looking for something different, you absolutely can not miss Fez.