Platform: Xbox live Arcade
Fez is not a platformer. That’s a weird thing to come out and say at the head of a review for a game which looks-at least superficially-as though it’s going to be about 4 hours’ worth of 2D-3D perspective changing platforming. I guess for at least for the first 15 minutes you’d be forgiven for thinking as much. But well, you’d be seriously far from the truth. So what is Fez, then? Well, it’s a puzzle game which requires not just you, but you and the entire internet to help work out the mysteries of the world, and that is simultaneously uniquely brilliant and maddeningly insane. Let me tell you why I think Fez is worth your time.
Gomez has a pretty sick village
When the game opens you’re going to notice 3 things. Firstly, you’ll notice the music which hits you at the game’s title screen. It’s chip-tune; colourful and brash, and you could probably just sit there for 10 minutes and listen to it and feel like you were involved in the game in some weird way. Fez really does have a way of dragging you in to its weird fiction, and that brings us on to the second thing you’ll notice when the game starts: the art style. Fez is beautiful. Just like the music, its 16 bit style is totally refreshing, and at a decent resolution looks so elegant. The audio and visual style tie together to create a palpable world that you want to explore and discover, and that’s the third thing you’ll notice: the world itself.
You start out the game in Gomez’s bedroom. Gomez is just a young guy, living his life in his cute 2D pixel-art village. You go out to meet an old man at the top of the village and he gives you a fez, which grants you the magical power/ability to see the 3D world. As soon as you rotate to 3D (using the left and right shoulder buttons) you belong to the game. There’s no way that you’re going to stop playing now. You want to go back through your village and explore everything you’ve just seen in 2D from a 3D perspective. And that’s totally fine, except your adventure is about to begin.
Say hi to Gomez!
Now you know what Fez looks and sounds like, I should really explain what it’s about. On the surface, Fez is about collecting stuff. Namely, you collect cube bits. Collect 8 cube bits and you get the cube. Simples. Eventually you figure out that you need 32 cubes to “complete” the game, and you can easily collect those by platforming your way through each of the game’s strange areas. Once you leave your lovely little village, Fez opens out into an open world in which there are any number of paths to take through the world which allow you to visit areas in any order you like. There are light houses, bell towers, grave yards, mushrooms, wood huts, temples and more to explore, and you’ll have a fine enough time getting through these areas collecting cube bits to get you through the final door. At the end of each path way there’s a warp gate that takes you back to a more central location in the world, meaning you don’t have to back-track much to get to where you want to go.
Even so, sometimes when you’ve missed a cube bit in one area mid path in between the warp gate and the central area it takes you back to, it can be a little irritating having to spend time getting back to that particular room to collect it. Thankfully, the game’s map-accessible at any point by simply pressing the back button-provides you with a little cube bit symbol next to the area if there are still cube bits left to discover, which is a neat flourish, me thinks.
Fez is a surprisingly large game.
Now, all of that collection stuff is just the carrot on a stick to get you through the game’s world to force you to start noticing things. every area, right from the off, is littered with weird symbols that don’t appear to mean anything. Strange tetris shapes litter the environment. Sometimes the sky is filled with tetris piece-shaped clouds, for example. The bell-tower I mentioned earlier, has an odd pattern on each of its four sides when you rotate. What do they all mean? I can tell you now, that within half an hour of playing Fez, you’re going to start to feel as though something is wrong. You’re not getting it. That feeling of unrest will grow and grow as you progress through the world of Fez, particularly when you begin to realize that there aren’t just 32 cubes. There are actually 64, and the other 32 you can only get from solving Fez’s incredibly difficult puzzles, which are intrinsically linked to these odd symbols. These anti-cubes, provide you with the reason to go back in to Fez after you “finish” your initial play through on 32 cubes. You’ll be desperate to solve the puzzles; to crack the code, as it were…
What do all of those weird symbols mean? Hmmmm…
The internet, my friends, is a powerful thing. It can solve even the most difficult LOST-related puzzles, and crack codes that you alone could not. It’s fair to say that if you don’t go on the internet and have a scout around the message boards, that you won’t be able to collect all 64 of those cubes. Believe me. And that’s what is so awesome about Fez. Despite being a single player game which up front seems like a pretty conventional platformer, it’s actually a community-driven puzzle game with an incredibly deep mythology and rule-set. When you start to figure this stuff out, you’re going to feel incredibly satisfied, and looking on the internet doesn’t make you feel bad! Indeed, it kinda makes you feel part of something unique and exciting, and that’s why you should play Fez.