I’m a bit late to the party with this review, since Fez has been out a fair few years now on a multitude of different platforms. The game gained much notoriety due to its infamous developer Phil Fish who is known for his rather outspoken comments on the gaming industry, even going as far as to cancel Fez 2 due to personal criticism from numerous gaming sites. Regardless of all this though Fez stands as an amazing triumph and a sterling contribution to the industry, and if this is truly Fish’s only notable game then he should be extremely proud.
Fez doesn’t have much story to speak of and is much more focused on exploration and wonder. The player takes control of Gomez who gains possession of a fez hat that gives him the power to the shift his two dimension world in three dimensional ways. With the revelation that the world around him is slowly being swallowed by a vortex Gomez is tasked, by a floating entity called Dot, with finding special cubes that can save the world. This is pretty much it for the story, but Fez probably wouldn’t be as great a game if it was bogged down by an unnecessary plot line. It gets to the action fast and introduces the central concept early on, thus allowing the player to explore the world almost immediately without any hassle.
Fez’s graphics have a definite charm to them evoking the pixelated visual style of the SNES era. Gomez is an adorable character to control and surprisingly expressive in his movements. Each world that the player explores is extremely varied and different ranging from peaceful, breezy villages to rain soaked ruins. What makes the game’s visuals especially notable is the fact every 2D landscape is actually part of a larger 3D world that can all be fully explored. It makes, what would otherwise be a charming looking 2D platformer, a surprisingly meaty experience that has obviously had a lot of careful planning and detail meticulously added to it. Much like the graphics Fez’s music evokes the chiptune style music of the SNES days. Each accompanying piece of music is often soft and mellow, easily fitting the style of the game very well. The synthesised sound effects are just as fitting as well; Gomez’s feet plonk down on the floor with a cute squelch, Thunder claps ominously in the background of an intimidating area,and birds tweet innocently in the more calming levels.
As said before Fez is centered around a surprisingly simple concept of shifting the world around you in order to progress forward. With a tap of the L and R buttons you can turn the world by 90 degrees, essentially allowing you to explore four 2D maps per area. Its an extremely interesting idea that is fully exploited throughout the game’s roughly five hour campaign. Fez has no combat to speak of, and instead chooses to focus solely on puzzle solving and exploration; a risky move for most games but Fez definitely has the sheer amount of depth to back it up. Beyond that, the purpose of the game is to collect cubes which can either be found in full by solving puzzles, or in tiny pieces which can be formed into a full cube by collecting an allotted amount. There are also various treasure chests, secret rooms and gaming homages to be found that can keep you playing for many more hours. If the game suffers from anything at all, it would be that it can be a little vague and tough at times which will probably be a large detraction for more inexperienced game players. Players who are up for the challenge though, will find a deep and rewarding experience that heeds back to the mystery and wonder of the glory days of 2D platformers (just with a 3D twist).
Fez is a satisfyingly rewarding game that runs with its central concept to the end credits. Charming and challenging throughout; Fez will occupy you for hours and keep you coming back for more until you’ve discovered every secret it has to offer. Evoking the joy of simple exploration that is often lost in Videogames today, Fez is a game that stands tall amongst a slog of blockbuster title that struggle to innovate. It proves what a simple concept can do when explored thoroughly, and thrives because of it.