When I first received Fez, I have to say I wasn’t excited, mainly because 2D puzzle platformers have never quite hit the mark for me. Braid, Cave Story and Limbo didn’t excite me the way I wanted them to. Something seemed off and while others were praising their originality I simply found them annoying. So it was with some trepidation that I began my journey into the world of Fez. Was I going to once again fail to see what the fuss was about or was this the game to convince me that there is a lot of fun to be had with this format?
I took control of Gomez a small white fellow who seemed to live in some sort tree house. As I left his home, I was greeted by a message explaining that I needed to talk to an old man at the top of the village, so I trundled, jumped, climbed and shimmied my way to the peak of the town. All standard platform mechanics so far but things were about to get interesting. The aforementioned old guy told me he had a secret to share. At this point, he handed me his Fez and the world changed forever. Soon thereafter I was introduced to the Hexahedron and the third dimension. This cubic object then proceeded to explode into 32 pieces which scattered to all corners of the land (convenient, hey?). It became clear that my task would be to gather the segments and return this gigantic artefact to its former glory.
The third dimension was an amazing mechanic and a somewhat difficult one to explain. By pressing the triggers I could rotate the world while I remained still, shifting everything in the process. Ladders lined up, jumps became makeable and ledges appeared where none had been before. This made traversing the world of Fez a joy for both my hands and my mind. It forced me to think outside of the box (pun intended) and consider the environment carefully. Deciding how to reach a piece of cube was an amazing experience and when I solved a fiendishly difficult puzzle, I felt a real sense of achievement.
These weren’t the only tests I came across. Early on I noticed strange symbols scattered in odd places, like a string of Tetris pieces connected together. I didn’t think much of this until I was further into the game and I stumbled into a room that explained what these symbols meant. I won’t spoil anything by giving away the code, but once I worked it out, a whole new world opened up, more levels became available and secrets once obscured were now clear to see. There are countless fiendish puzzles scattered throughout the game but finding and conquering them is the sole reason for playing, so I won’t ruin that for any prospective players by talking too much about them.
The world of Fez didn’t assault me with enemies to conquer. In fact, there were no enemies in the game. It also didn’t hammer me for falling to my death. Instead, it simply placed me back on the last safe surface I was standing on. This lax attitude when it came to death was essential to making the game enjoyable. If I had been punished every time I died, this would have been a controller destroying game. As it was, there were still points where I had to turn the game off and clear my head for fear of turning into a giant green monster with torn purple shorts. This made Fez a title best experienced in small doses. I gave my mind time off and in-between sessions I subconsciously worked on the difficult puzzles I had encountered.
The sound in Fez was also remarkable. Small audio clues gave me hints on how to approach certain problems and simple but charming music flowed through my speakers. The most unique feature didn’t actually make any sound at all. The controller could solve puzzles, indicate the correct direction and crack codes, all with nothing more than a simple variation in force feedback. This would have been an impressive innovation for a AAA game, let alone a small indie title such as Fez.
I reached the end of the game in about five hours, but I was far from finished. I have a lot more digging to do to unlock all the secrets the world has to offer. Whenever I thought I had seen all there was to see in this game, a wave of inspiration would hit me and I would solve another puzzle and this would open up even more to explore. Fez is without doubt a must have for any fan of brainteasers, originality or charm. To paraphrase a famous fictional doctor, “Fez is cool!”