FEZ Hands-On Preview


Games that oscillate between 2D and 3D perspectives are old news. Super Paper Mario? Turned there. Lost in Shadow? Flipped that. So what does Polytron and Trapdoor’s upcoming downloadable title FEZ offer that hasn’t been done before? It’s seamless.

Imagine the worst thing that can happen in a video game besides digital male nudity. Dying, right? O.K., sometimes dying is great (see Limbo, Mortal Kombat), but being able to fail and get right back on the horse makes for free-spirited fun amidst the most "Crazy Stairs" of mental conundrums, which is exactly what FEZ is.

A delightful little 8-bit white Smurf receives an interdimensional fez that bestows the power to turn his world to one of four 2D perspectives for the purpose of general platforming and adventuring. The little critter, Gomez, has to collect bits of the 3D universe to open doors and advance to the next level, where more bits will be hidden in any perspective, hut, or hovel. Gomez will encounter other white Smurf people whose dialogue reads just like the quirky text from Earthbound: short, familiar, and outrageous.


With Gomez’ stubby appendages, he waddles up and across the brightly colored, likewise 8-bit worlds splintered into platforms and ledges. Utilizing the easy to use (trigger controlled) perspective switches, Gomez can bring far off ledges within a safe hop’s reach, and then shift it around again to expose a hidden doorway, which leads to the next platform, and so on. Perhaps most importantly, the shifts can be pulled off anytime and anywhere with no consequence.

Unlike Lost in Shadow, where turning the shadow boy into a piece of the environment occurred in a jarring halt and loss of health, or in Super Paper Mario where the system could cause Mario to plummet to his death in an unforeseen chasm, FEZ simply places the character behind foreground objects or places Gomez back on the ledge from whence he leapt. No dying or frustrating mechanics makes for one incredibly playable puzzling platformer with the tone and aesthetic of Mario Bros. 2.

Perhaps my fascination with the polish of FEZ‘s dimensional shift mechanic is a little overkill and doesn’t do justice to this interesting, lovable title. The platforming is also clean and the art direction has that great retro feel without being dated. The challenge for Polytron will be using careful, thoughtful level design to best utilize the core switching mechanic while keeping it fresh, which the fairly substantial demo was able to do. Players can look forward to flipping into FEZ on Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC sometime later this year.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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