Fez Review

I enter a new area and the view is pleasant, so I wait awhile underneath a lighthouse. The pixelated sea bobs and above me the sky tessellates into white. A few 8-bit chords strike up in the audio and immediately I recognize it: a subtle, musical allusion to Ocarina of Time. I wait awhile more and listen to those chords and musical chimes. Am I imagining it? The tribute is subtle, but I’m sure it’s there. While I wait, Gomez, my Fez-wearing avatar, falls asleep on the ground, the sky turns to crimson, and stars gradually emerge, complete with traced constellations of Tetris blocks. The entire scene is beautiful, but is this only because I happen to recognize the song as a part of my childhood? How much of what we see if defined by the perspective from which we view it?

Beginning the game, you could be forgiven for thinking Fez a relic. Gomez feels like a weighty character to pilot. He jumps with a sound reminiscent of Super Mario, grabs onto ledges, and heaves himself up walls of vine with a similar sensation. Perhaps Fez is a platform game.

Then Gomez is bestowed with the titular Fez, and our outlook on the game changes. A squeeze of the trigger sends the perspective of the land twisting by ninety degrees. Fez is a two-dimensional game in a three-dimensional world. The three-dimensional landscape can be viewed from every angle, but once the perspective is changed, the world, for all practical purposes, becomes flat. Hovering islands that are an impossible distance away can be brought next to one another. Tricks of perspective can be used so that two pieces of disconnected ladders, attached to separate pieces of land, can be combined into one. Every environment is an astounding, interlocking puzzle. When Gomez slips from a platform and falls no penalty is incurred. He just reappears on the last piece of land he was on. Perhaps Fez isn’t a platform game after all.

I set off on my journey to find golden cubes and their smaller shards, twisting the land about whenever a jump seems too far away, or when I run out of vine to climb. Fairly soon it becomes clear that there isn’t much to the puzzles in the game, though. Occasionally there’s an equation involving the addition of box to switch, or wall to bomb, but Fez isn’t a puzzle game. Switching perspective becomes a means for discovery. Fez seems happy to draw aesthetic and tonal inspirations from past greats, but its perspective-shifting mechanic reimagines the joy of exploration.

In pursuit of golden cubes I go down a rabbit hole of new environments. Hubs full of doors lead to a criss-crossing warren of pixelated places. The acquisition of cubes, shards, and treasure chests is my main objective, but the process of getting there is, I find, the delight. From where I’m standing, Fez is a reminder of the worlds I explored as a child, and my pleasure comes from reliving those joys.

Challenge isn’t a thing in the game. There are no hostile enemies and the puzzles and pondering are mostly kept light. Finding out how to traverse each environment takes up the majority of my time. Some may begrudge the lack of outright challenge, but in my view the fun of exploring and enjoying the 8-bit stylings far outweigh such a concern.  A map keeps track of my travels as I ferret through each area, and I can tell when every cube, every key, and every secret has been hunted. A sprawling network of interlinked hexagons, the map can be slightly unwieldy to use, and though a network of warp-gates exist, back-tracking can occasionally become tedious.

Fez is, from my perspective, a game primarily about exploration. Or is it a game about puzzles? As I explore I see angular hieroglyphs etched onto the walls. Occasionally my progress will halt in front of a sealed door near a stone column suffused with strange etchings. The doughy-headed people of Fez’s world have their own language, and many of the secrets in the game require you to decode that language. I have a page of my notebook dedicated to angular scrawlings as I attempted to break its code. Everything to discover the language and unlock its rewards is in the game, but it takes an exceptional amount of ingenuity. It’s subtle, but it’s there as an ultimate reward for those who are perceptive enough. It’s a testament to how I feel about Fez’s world that I’ve memorized a scrap of its writing.

Is Fez a puzzle game? Is it a platform game? Is it a nostalgia trip? Does the absence of reactive challenge mean it’s even a game at all? I guess that all depends on your perspective. Fez isn’t the first game to use perspective as its central mechanic, but a pleasant fusion of this and its retro aesthetic makes it unique. Wandering through its sprawling world is relaxing. Switching perspective and looking at how the world has changed is intriguing, and discovering its secrets is satisfying. Not everyone will appreciate Fez’s emphasis on exploration and whimsy, but that depends on your own, individual perspective. minecraft pickaxe


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Author: Aled Morgan View all posts by
Aled has served with distinction as a UNSC Spartan, become a Pokemon master, and saved the kingdom/world/galaxy more times than he can remember. Mixing a passion for gaming with a passion for writing since he was a child, Aled will play anything and everything he can get his hands on. When he isn’t trawling through virtual worlds or pawing at a keyboard to make words happen, he plays Ultimate Frisbee.

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