Over four years in the making on a development cycle that almost saw the game scrapped completely on more than one occasion, Fez is finally out and it has every potential to become a classic. Putting a clever twist on the classic 2D platformer formula, Fez shifts its world into entirely new perspectives by giving you the ability to rotate the screen left or right 90 degrees allowing you to jump, climb, and reach areas that otherwise might not be available from any other point of view. It’s a mind trip that plays itself out in consistently clever and new ways.
Fez’s goal is to collect 30 gold cubes and 30 anti-matter cubes. While the gold cubes in the game are usually found in pretty standard places, the anti-matter cubes require solving a convoluted series of puzzles whose solutions are not readily apparent. Obtaining the anti-matter cubes requires more thought and intuition than most current games will ever ask of a player, and it’s this old school frame of design that will most likely turn a lot of people off from ever playing it. As much as I loved this, getting 100% required me to look at a guide religiously on more than one occasion. There were times when the puzzles were too difficult and convoluted (I’ve seen multiple accounts of people filling entire notebooks with clues to figure them out), but it’s still nice to see a challenge of this level in games again.
There are only a couple ways to die in Fez, and there are no “real” enemies to fight. Some of the platforming is tricky, but I never ran into anything that was too difficult. The soundtrack is never distracting and its calming ambiance is the perfect stimulant to spend hours pouring over the same areas over again and again looking for that last secret. This is a game that’s completely committed to exploration and discovery.
Fez has a lot of elements that shouldn’t work, but do. It will only appeal to a very select group of people, but a game like this isn’t looking for wide appeal. It’s a game with a retro aesthetic that simultaneously manages to redefine what games can be. You should definitely play it.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Developer: Polytron Corporation
Platform: XBLA, PC, MAC, PS3, PS4
Reviewed on: XBLA
(You can see the development of this game in the documentary, “Indie Game: The Movie“)