In this day and age of gaming, developing a game for five or more years is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable unless you’re company’s name is “Square Enix”. Polytron may have inadvertently broken this rule of gaming development with their XBLA title FEZ, but if they can continue to release gems like this, they’ll be allowed to become exceptions to the rule!
Polytron clearly have a love for 2D platformers and mind-bending puzzles. FEZ captures both of these traits wonderfully and will have you scouring each nook and cranny with its unique gameplay.
The game starts with our little marshmallow-equse hero, Gizmo, waking up and greeting his neighbors after receiving a piece of mail from an older gentleman up on high. After meeting up with him, he learns that it’s time for his adventure as a hexahedron suddenly appears before him. He’s instantly transported away only to see it gloriously explodes before his eyes. Gizmo is now tasked with finding every cube bit and re-piecing it all back together before the world crumbles apart. To assist him in this journey, he’s given a tiny little fez that grants him the ability to move the world around him completely.
If you were to ask me how Fez plays, think the PSP/PSN title Echochrome meets Mario. The world literally revolves around you and you have control of that revolving mechanic.
FEZ’s philosophy is “Reality is perception, perception is subjective” and truer words were never spoken by the world’s inhabitants. Can’t climb a ladder? Simply rotate the world so it’s now possible; can’t reach that ledge on the other side of the screen? A few clicks of the right trigger will solve that, no problem.
You’ll stumble across a few puzzles that require more thinking than simply finding scattered cube bits, and upon their solving, you’ll be stricken with the utmost satisfaction. Seriously, some of the puzzles are absolutely astounding!
FEZ is not a cakewalk; you will get frustrated, you will need to walk away from some puzzles, but it’s all at your own pace how the game unfolds. Every door/warp/etc leads to a new area begging for exploration.
Each world is distinct and lush with color and a variety of ways for you to see it all. If you see another land in the distance, you can get there; it’s just a matter of finding the door. It can be overwhelming if you’re a collector and you want to 100% one world before moving onto the next, so be prepared. It’s not as bad as your typical “Metroidvania” games where you must return later with a new power, but it’s similar at times.
Accompanying FEZ’s various locales is a great soundtrack from Disasterpeace. A classic, subtle chiptune sound resonates through every level and adds just enough to the setting without being overbearing or distracting. It’s enough of a throwback to games of old while being consistent with modern sound.
The ambient bird chirps and animal sounds found throughout also give a great sense of life among the platforming.
FEZ is crisp, clean and generally runs pretty smooth. I had quite a few of loading and sound issues during my 6 hours playthrough, but none were distracting enough to break the game. I have been reading other players complaining of system crashes and complete meltdowns, but there seems to be minimal amounts of that happening.
The 99% of time FEZ ran perfectly for me, I was in awe; the title just bleeds with beauty and the canvas is constantly splashed in a splendid color scheme screen after screen.
My biggest gripe with FEZ is its ending. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Mass Effect 3 bad (is that now cliché to still that bring up), but it’s more of a “WTF just happened” moment. Bear in mind, I mistakenly entered the final room with the bare minimum of 32 collectible cubes, so it’s safe to assume I got a “bad” ending, but what I saw would give Hunter S. Thompson a bad trip! Bad ending and all, I’m more than happy to return to FEZ and ensure I find all 64 cubes and restore the world, and I’ll have a blast doing so.
Polytron have created a title here that will live on for years as being something special. While the world shifting dynamic isn’t as ground breaking now as it was when first shown over five years ago, Fez still offers more than enough to keep gamers coming back. I urge any 2D or puzzler fan to pick up FEZ and then do your best to put it back down!
(Editor’s Note: Indie Game: The Movie shows how Phil Fish created Fez. Check out our review here.)