Maybe it’s fitting that a platformer where you constantly rotate the world leaves you dizzy. But even if its riddles are extremely challenging, Fez is a game worth playing and an experience worth having.
If you’ve followed the indie scene for the past few years, Fez will definitely ring a bell. But while people tend to associate Fez with the ability of rotating the world 90 degrees at a time, this title shouldn’t be mistaken for a vapid puzzle platformer in which you solve simplistic puzzles. Fez is a game full of mysteries, some of which might never be revealed, and that’s a huge part of what makes it so absorbing.
In Fez, you take on the role of Gomez, the two-dimensional protagonist of this adventure. Soon after leaving his village, Gomez encounters an ancient device known as the Hexahedron which gives him a magical hat that grants him access to a third dimension. But why would Gomez need to rotate the world? The Hexahedron controls the balance of the universe, but this floating artifact has been fragmented. So in order to restore it, you need to look for all the hidden pieces in this three-dimensional world. Overall, there are 32 cubes scattered around the environments, but if you want to watch the game’s true ending, you need to collect the 32 regular cubes and the 32 anti-cubes.
Although Fez gives the impression of being a traditional platformer, there’s more to this game than it meets the eye. Contrary to what the first minutes of gameplay lead you to believe, Fez is unlike any platformer you’ve ever played. If you expect Fez to be a puzzler similar to Crush, where you rotate the perspective to make your way around labyrinthine levels, you’ll be sorely disappointed. In fact, most of the puzzles that involve rotating the world are simplistic: you reach the edge of a floating platform and in order to jump to a faraway platform, you need to rotate the world. Granted, there are levels in which other elements come into play (such as rotating mechanisms or water,) but if you want to play Fez, don’t do it because you expect a one-trick pony. Play it because you want to be immersed in an enigmatic world where everything around you is a piece of a bigger puzzle.
Additionally, Fez is all about exploration. There’s no combat, no enemies and there’s no penalty for dying (should you perish, Gomez appears on the last platform he stepped on.) But Fez is composed of small little details and when those small elements combine, they form one of the most brilliant puzzles in recent memory. Eventually, you’ll realize that everything around you is there for a reason.
The game doesn’t explain anything to the player, so to solve these puzzles, either you pay attention to everything around you or you start visiting forums. But while younger players might think that a game that forces them to go to message boards to find the solution to riddles is awkward level design, older players will be transported to another era. An era when there was no internet and the only way to solve puzzles was by taking down notes and carefully analyzing those notes. These little details are what make Fez such a fantastic platformer. At first, you move from one area to the next, collecting cube fragments, but little by little, the pieces that shape the environments start forming recognizable patterns. And these elements are part of one of the most mind-bending brainteasers you can come across in a game.
Unveiling all the basic collectible items should take a couple of hours, but I strongly advise you to continue playing after finding the 32 regular cubes. Once you collect at least 32 cubes, you have access to a new game plus and if you want to watch the true ending, you need to collect all 64 cubes that are hidden in this world.
Although Fez simulates crashes, the game has some crashes of its own and it’s a shame to know that bugs and glitches are a common occurrence even after installing the latest patch. The first time I launched the game, the screen went black and even though there were sound effects playing in the background, I couldn’t see anything. Later on, the game appeared to be working fine, but a glitch prevented me from climbing stairs. Most of the times, closing the game and launching it again solves all the technical issues, but this isn’t the most convenient solution, especially since the PC version of the game received a patch soon after its release. Should something serious happen, the auto-saving feature prevents you from losing a significant amount of progress, but technical issues still mar the experience.
Another problem is that the map is really hard to navigate. There are warp gates that transport you to previously visited levels, but some of the secondary levels are so far from these warp gates that’s easy to get lost. In other words, the map has been designed in such an overly convoluted way that identifying where you are and where you need to go next is harder than it should.
Bugs and technical issues aside, Fez is an absorbing and memorable title that will keep you coming back for more. Maybe it’s fitting that a platformer where you constantly rotate the world leaves you dizzy. But even if its riddles are extremely challenging, Fez is a game worth playing and an experience worth having.