Game review: ‘Fez’ offers players a new perspective in a 3-D world
Gomez wakes up one day in his 2-D world and travels to meet one of his elders on the top of a floating island his small village resides on.
AT A GLANCE
Release date: April 13, 2012
Available platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Price: 800 Microsoft points ($9.98)
AT A GLANCE
If you like ‘Fez’
• Braid (Xbox 360, Windows, Mac, PS3)
• The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (Xbox 360, Windows)
• Echochrome (PSP, PS3)
• VVVVVV (Windows, Mac, Nintendo 3DS, Linux)
Compiled by: Chase Cook
The day seems like any other day until Gomez reaches the top of the island. After speaking with his elder, a strange 3-D cube manifests itself above Gomez. The cube speaks to Gomez in a strange language and bestows upon him a quaint fez hat.
Once the hat rests neatly on the back of Gomez’s head, his world is changed forever.
Polytron’s “Fez” is a retro-styled, 2-D puzzle platformer set in a 3-D world. Players are given the ability to shift the perspective of the 3-D world from four different sides, but they can only interact with objects in 2-D.
As Gomez explores the world searching for cube bits, cubes and anti-cubes players must use the ability to shift the perspective to solve puzzles and gather goodies to open doors and discover more secrets about Gomez’s world. There are 32 cubes and anti-cubes to collect, as well as a myriad of other puzzles that help explain Gomez’s world.
It’s difficult to describe how “Fez” works, but here it goes: That platform is too far away? Press the left trigger, and as the world spins, the platform may be a bit closer to the intended goal because the platform is being viewed from a different angle. That wall is too long and Gomez needs to get to the other side? Press the right trigger and you quickly will discover that it’s really thin and easy to pass through. Another quick trigger press and Gomez is able to pass through the wall like he is teleporting.
There are other things Gomez can do, such as pick up bombs or move blocks, but the crux of the gameplay revolves around shifting perspectives. Once you get the hang of things, it will take about five to six hours to collect the 32 cubes needed to finish the game.
Once you’ve completed the game one time, you are given access to a new game, which lets you finish collecting the 64 cubes with a new trick.
While Fez’s gameplay is difficult to explain, the brilliance of the puzzles isn’t. Polytron went all out in using the relationship between 2-D and 3-D worlds with a heavy dose of M.C. Escher-esque illusion to craft small, clever puzzles that make you feel incredibly smart.
But they also spent a lot of time and energy — the game has been in development since 2007, but it hit a few snags before its April 13 release — to craft some of the most challenging, mind-bending puzzles. Once you get the hang of maneuvering through the 3-D world, “Fez” will ask you to solve the game’s own alphabet and number system to discover clues and solve even more challenging puzzles.
There is a particular puzzle with a tuning fork that will have you scratching your head, but once you feel it out and solve it, it’s a Tiger Woods fist-pumping moment.
And that last bit, the Tiger Woods fist-pumping moment, is really what “Fez” is all about. The game is littered with more cleverness and intuitiveness than any puzzle game in recent memory. Each gathered cube and anti-cube is a victory. Not only because it furthers you toward the goal of 32 cubes to finish the game, it’s because almost every cube is a trophy. And these aren’t your thanks-for-participating-and-riding-the bench-all-season trophies. You have to earn these bad boys. Some of them might even get you a high-five in line at Crossroads Restaurant if your fellow student knows what the hell your 2-D and 3-D babbling is all about.
That’s why “Fez” is one of the best games to be released in 2012. One could go on about how it’s retro-like graphics are charming and vibrant and filled with references to “The Legend of Zelda” and “Tetris” and “Riven: The Sequel to Myst.” Or how the soundtrack by Disasterpeace is one of the best indie game soundtracks since Tomáš Dvorák’s “Machinarium” soundtrack. Both of these elements enhance the game’s appeal, but they aren’t what a player should focus on during his or her experience.
“Fez” shows us that deep down, at an atom-like level, we are all Tetris pieces trying to fit together in a larger machine. Sometimes things slide perfectly into place and we don’t have to worry about anything. Other times we crash and collide into one another. At that moment, maybe we are trapped in the second dimension like Gomez. Moving along two axises because it’s easy to only worry about left and right and up and down.
That type of world is simple and comfortable. We become complacent.
But, if we take a moment and shift our perspective, we might get a glimpse of something new or wondrous on the other side. Perhaps it’s the cube we have been looking for to open that locked door. Perhaps it’s just a new way of looking at things.
Either way, we win.
Chase Cook is a journalism senior and the managing editor for The Daily.