Fez - Review
8 / 10
Fez is a game that strives to achieve a simple goal of providing the player with pure fun. Fez reminds us that this was the reason that video games were created in the first place.
There’s no driving story in Fez, but there doesn't need to be. You will be told during one of the first conversations in the game, ‘It’s Adventure Time!’ and quite simply, thats all the direction you will get in Fez and its all the direction you will need.
Your task is simple. Collect 8 bits of a cube to create a cube, or collect an entire cube as a whole. Use said cubes to open doors that lead to new levels. These new levels allow you to collect more cubes, be it regular yellow cubes, or the more difficult to obtain, blue anti-cubes. Fez doesn’t have a deep, engrossing story, but it has an interestingly mysterious world and the dialogue makes the game piece together quite perfectly. You aren’t playing Fez to take in an exciting, engaging story, you’re playing Fez to simply enjoy a game.
As you travel along you will be followed closely by a cube-like character named Dot. This character acts as your helpful companion, although Dot is not very helpful at all. Dot will poke he’s non-existent head out during certain moments and say things such as, ‘It’s a Treasure Map! But you can figure out how to use it yourself!’ This is a recurring theme throughout the game, that brings back memories of classic NES games such as The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Fez never holds your hand as you search for cubes with Gomez. It only nudges you slightly in the right direction, forcing you to stop and think. It’s a game that most certainly requires your full attention.
9.5 / 10
Fez is essentially a 2D platformer, built upon a simple mechanic that brings the game into a 3D environment. The world appears flat, and you can jump from ledge to ledge, but by turning the world 90 degrees, ledges that appear to be on the same plain as you on one side, are revealed to be further away or closer when seen from a different perspective. This is what Fez is all about. Depth is usually shown by the level of shading, although depth doesn't matter when playing in the 2D environment, it matters when you spin the world and the 2D plain changes dramatically. You will need to spin the world often, revealing new ways to move forward, while you collect cube-bits and solve puzzles.
Fez’s most important mechanic in motion.
While Fez is predominately a platformer, there are also many unique puzzles to solve along the way. Not many puzzles are similar to each other and these puzzles are always presented in a way that remains interesting, but sometimes frustratingly obscure. Fez does have some difficulty in its puzzle solutions, mostly because the solution is rather vague at times, but Fez never punishes its players for not being able to solve them. You can simply move on and continue exploring the wonderful world of Fez. In order to finish the game, you need only to collect 32 of the available 64 cubes in the game (there are a total of 32 regular cubes and 32 anti-cubes, and any combination of 32 will do), but you can of course continue your search for every cube in the game.
Its important to note though that a puzzle will not often reveal the method in which it is solved, you have to actively work at it and think outside the box. Far outside the box. These puzzles often require you to think not only about the current area the puzzle is located, but also other areas you have visited before (and areas you haven’t visited yet). It’s not like every game out there, and its clear that a lot of love and attention was put into every aspect of its design. Fez is always striving to impress you, just like that friend who always has a neat trick or two up their sleeve. The solutions to many puzzles are scattered all around the world of Fez and you may find yourself stuck at a puzzle, only to travel to another area and notice the solution (or more fittingly, a slight hint) on a wall. Fez does this often, giving you very minor clues, that result in a rewarding experience when you finally do solve each puzzle. Very rarely however, a solution will solve by chance, when you just so happen to push the right buttons by coincidence.
Fez constantly proves that the combination between old and new video games matter. That simple gameplay can lead to a great game when done correctly and that indie games can provide players with as much enjoyment as retail release games.
8.5 / 10
Upon first look of Fez its clear that its visuals look stunning. It’s a pixel presented game, brought into the future and every aspect of its visuals scream colourful, vibrant and retro. One of the greatest things about Fez’s style is its extensive use of colour. Fez doesn’t rely on a single or simple colour palette, it takes full advantage of all the bright and beautiful colours in the world and applies them to different areas perfectly, something that video games should do more actively.
One of the uniquely great things about Fez is that you never feel rushed while playing and being able to take in the surroundings of each and every levels environments is just as enjoyable as the game itself. The backgrounds are just as colourful and vibrant as the actual levels and they do a splendid job at helping to define the atmosphere for each level. As time passes, the games environments will proceed from night to day, changing the overall appearance of each and every area, although not affecting the gameplay in any major way.
‘Just look how vibrant this game is!’
Each area offers something new, be it a new mechanic, item, puzzle, or just simply a new way to move around the stage. This is part of what makes moving forward into new areas so much fun.
The world map can be accessed at any time and it tells the player when they have fully exhausted all the cube bits, cubes, puzzles, secrets or secret doors in any available location. This is extremely helpful, as it stops you from searching every stage blindly, looking for things you may have missed. The world map though is rather convoluted and a tad difficult to fully understand at first glance. This is where one of the major downsides to Fez becomes noticeable. There is no way to quick-travel to a specific area you need/want to go to. Traveling to certain areas for a second time (which you will do almost constantly) can be slightly tedious and there's a little too much backtracking. It all feels rather unnecessary and it would be great if you could simply choose which area you want to go to on the world map and be magically transported there, but alas, this is not how it works. There are however, certain places where there are warp gates that transport you from one major area to another, as well as doors that act as shortcuts to other areas, but to utilise these, you have to travel to them, which kind of defeats the purpose of a quick travel mechanism.
The map in Fez is a little difficult to understand at first glance.
Fez has a few minor glitches here and there, as well as some frame-rate issues. It’s slightly disappointing to see, considering it’s five-year development cycle, but no game is without its flaws, and this is one of the very few flaws in Fez.
9 / 10
The soundtrack to Fez is a fine mix between classic 8-bit music and a feeling of tranquility and melancholy, all rolled up into one brilliant video game score. There are some simply fantastic tunes in Fez and you will take note of each and every track as you are playing. The majority of the music in Fez is a little more on the simple side and it never asks for too much attention from the player. This is what makes it such a perfect soundtrack for Fez though. The soundtrack is very mellow and it helps in creating the overall style of this well imagined game. It would have been great to see a few more upbeat tracks in the game, but all-in-all, the music deserves a lot of praise.
The soundtrack to Fez was created by Disasterpeace.
Why you should buy this game.
- A truly innovative and stylistically retro XBLA game.
- Very reasonable price (800 Microsoft points, roughly $13 AUD).
- Finding the correct puzzle solutions are challenging at times, but highly rewarding.
Why you shouldn’t buy this game.
- Currently only available through the XBLA Marketplace.
- If putting time and effort into finding obscure puzzle solutions isn’t your thing.
- If bright and colourful games don’t interest you.
Overall - 8.5 / 10
The overall score is NOT an average.
Fez is currently available for Xbox 360 through the XBLA Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points.
Written by Michael Villalon for ‘The VG Island’.