Fez Review

Fez Review

Fez made quite a splash when it debuted in 2007, receiving widespread praise and awards at the Independent Games Festival 2008. Its signature concept of manipulating a three-dimensional cubic world by shifting between its four flat sides was immediately eye-catching, and more importantly, caused imaginations to run wild with the inventive possibilities it promised. Since then - a lifetime ago by the standards of today's ever-changing game-space - the feeling of unease was undeniable as time rolled on without any word on Fez, as hope held out that creator Phil Fish's vision would see the light of day.

With that in mind, I'm pleased, and a little relieved, to say that the long wait has been worthwhile. Fez delivers on many of its promises, presenting a world which plays clear homage to the classic bit adventures that came before it, while still feeling very modern in design - there's a timeless quality to it.

Meticulously crafted at every turn, the true nature of Fez's ambition only becomes clear after many hours of play, making its extended, rocky development come as no surprise. Fez quietly disguises itself as a playful platformer, with one clever gameplay hook and a handful of puzzles tossed in for good measure. Eventually, it's obvious you've been deceived, that behind the welcoming retro-inspired aesthetic lies an extremely cerebral, shockingly deliberate puzzler at its core. This realization makes Fez unique in so many ways, going far beyond its perspective-shifting antics and showing an incredible attention to detail. While there are missteps along the way - clumsy navigation, excessive backtracking and obtuse objectives - Fez's numerous victories far outweigh them.

From the outset, players awake to a world in transition. Gomez, the game's sprite-like protagonist, finds his cheerful, flat village rocked by the chaotic arrival of cubes and the third dimension. It's up to him to uncover the source of this change, as time and space are gradually ripped apart in the process. After that initial setup, like any good old-school game, Fez's story trappings quickly get out of the way in favour of exploration and progression. This leaves the world's little NPCs to add context, with clever winks and nods to gaming tropes and conventions.

As mentioned above, one of the first things players will notice about Fez is the perspective-changing way levels are navigated. It's a world fully realized in 3D, but you'll only ever interact with the four 2D sides of its cubic surfaces. This all happens in realtime, giving players the freedom to change perspectives at will, and by doing so, revealing new pathways, items and secrets. It's a unique, expertly-designed and well-executed approach to platforming, one which makes even routine jumps interesting and frequently leads to mind-bending challenges.

All of this traversal occurs within the context of an open world that actively encourages exploration. Aside from explaining the mechanics of progression (collecting scattered magical cube fragments), Fez leaves almost everything else up to interpretation, from which path to take to what information is relevant. Exploring the colourful, detailed and varied environments is a treat thanks to the dynamic day/night cycles, wildlife and context-specific events which alter stages as you progress. Fez's conscious decision to have essentially no penalty for death or fail-state also encourages experimentation. There are no enemies and falling simply resets to your last stable position, allowing for a great deal of risk-taking in the name of discovery.


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