Fez is an indie puzzle-platformer originally developed for the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade service, but is now available for PC. The game was developed by Polytron Corporation. It is a labor of love birthed by a small team headed by the passionate Phil Fish, some of the struggles and tribulations facing the game can be seen in the wonderful documentary Indie Game: The Movie. Trap Door helped co-publish the title with Polytron on both the Xbox 360 version and PC port. The 360 version is a critical darling and has received high praise, but the game has been maligned by some issues. Does this PC port fix some of those issues and successfully recreate the magic of Fez or does it end up having a variety of issues on its own?
Fez’s story features the elegance of older 8-bit games from the NES generation. The days when the princess was in another castle and it was not trite and contrived. When all some guy needed to save the world was the chance and opportunity to do it; oh and a sword or a fez because it is dangerous to go alone. There is a particular humor and style to the writing in Fez that hits all the buttons of nostalgia while feeling new and not simply a love letter to older games. Never resting only to be about its mainly conceit, Fez throws in ancient civilizations, cryptanalysis and other clever twists to add subtleties to the mythos and world of Fez.
Gameplay in Fez is about exploring the various worlds that create Gomez’s universe (which he learned quick is much bigger than he thought) by solving puzzles, ascending platforms and collecting cube bits, cubes, and other secret goodies. The foundation of the gameplay hinges on a very simple yet deep mechanic of shifting perspective. Gomez (thanks to his stylish fez) can manipulate the perspective of his world 90 degrees either left or right. By doing so, he can change the layout of his world and creating platforms or means of advancement that are not available to him before. This shifting will help him also solve puzzles or open up secret doorways. While it is an easy concept to get into and grasp, the mechanic becomes deeper as the puzzles become more invovled and difficult. For example, placing four cubes on glowing platforms is not simply about mimicking on symbol on any of the four perspective to the level, but shifting perspective so the cube mimic all four at once. Or to open up a pathway with a bomb, it becomes necessary to switch perspective quickly so that it reveals a pathway to a new door and another cube or world. The mechanic is brilliant and delightfully challenging and deep at times.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics in Fez are gorgeous. The world pops with so much color and a great attention to detail in the pixel art. Gomez has a very iconic look and the animations give him a ton of personality. Each world has a great look, layout and wonderful details to bring them to life. Even among worlds with seemingly similar layouts or looks, there is enough subtle differences that make them exciting to explore and look at. When shifting perspectives, the changes to the topography of worlds are visually compelling. Fez is a pretty game in every dimension. The game features an incredible soundtrack by chiptune composer Disasterpeace. There are a ton of memorable songs between the numerous worlds of Fez. Part of the joy of exploring new areas was the opportunity to hear what new musical pieces would be the backdrop. It evokes the spirit of what makes video game music great.
Fez for the Xbox 360 has had many criticisms thrown at it for crashes, bugs and glitches and the lack of patches for the game (which is a whole other complicated issue). The PC version plays smoothly for the most part, there were some issues where the game crashed a few times, but nothing more annoying than simply having to restart the game. However, when first booting up Fez on Steam and playing for about an hour, the game crashed during an auto-save and deleted all game save progress, which was frustrating. Luckily, not much was lost and it allowed for the ability to start over and explore a different path. These are minor issues though and the game runs pretty well, so do not let that issue scare anyone off from buying this great game. Fez is a marvelous game featuring satisfying gameplay, a fun story that features some added depth and fun spins on 8-bit tropes, an art style that is visually appealing and a truly great soundtrack. Fez for Windows will be available on Steam and GOG on May 1.