Fez was first shown at the 2008 Independent Games Festival. It was nominated for two awards and won the award for "Excellence in Visual Art". Following the awards, Phil Fish, the mastermind behind Fez created "Polytron Corporation" as a banner under which he would develop and release the game.
In Indie Game: The Movie, Fish talked about his five year struggle with trying to maintain Polytron Corporation by himself after his lead sound designer Jason DeGroot left. When showing the game at PAX Prime 2011, Fish risked a lawsuit with his former business partner due to unsettled royalty disputes. During development, Fez was completely remade three times due to lack of funding. The game was given an (ironic) release date of Friday the 13th of 2012. At the Indie Game: The Movie premiere, Fish stated that he currently has no plans to bring Fez to any other platform, but will consider doing so if the game sells well.
A PC version of Fez was released on May 1 (Steam page). Like the XBLA version, it's listed as developed by Polytron and published by Trapdoor.
Gomez receives a letter, from a mysterious man with an eyepatch, telling him to meet him at the top of his town, when he arrives a mysterious object appears in the sky; a cube. Gomez suddenly gains the ability to rotate the 2D world in which he lives, and must collect cubes and their counterpart, anti-cubes.
As a puzzle-platformer, Fez gameplay is primarily map traversal, discovery, and item collection. Gomez can innately walk, jump, climb, ledge grab, drop through ledges, push, pick up, and throw items. During the opening sequence he gains the ability to rotate the perceived 2D world in 90 degree increments, around the vertical (Y) axis of the screen. This reveals that the environment is fully 3D in nature. Despite the ability to traverse multiple planes, Gomez can only move and interact with the 2D plane relative to the player, and will always migrate to the foreground layer when possible. For example, he cannot enter a doorway from the side, or when a background passage is obscured by a foreground object – even if Gomez is standing between them. He appears shadowed when in the background layer, and a silhouette when completely obscured behind the environment. (If you listen carefully, the music also becomes muffled.)
Gomez has no health meter, and upon death (by fall or otherwise) he will immediately respawn on the last stable platform he stood on. He also retains momentum relative to the world while it is rotated: jumping to the right and then rotating 180 degrees will continue the momentum to the left, but rotating 90 degrees will stop all forward motion.
There are 64 cubes to collect in total - 32 Gold Cubes and 32 Blue Anti-Cubes. As well as being able to find cubes throughout the world, cube bits can be collected throughout the game and once 8 cube bits are found they create 1 cube. Anti-cubes are generally more difficult to obtain, requiring puzzle solving rather than standard platforming. Some puzzles involve deciphering glyphs and following their instructions. Others are rhythm puzzles, where the controller vibrates and a rotational direction correlates to the sound the controller makes while it vibrates.
Once the ending kill screen is reached, you can then start a New Game + after the credits and gain the ability to view the world from a first person perspective. Certain puzzles require use of the first person view in order to complete them. New Game + also unlocks the ability to fly (to activate press up four times and then hold A). Once the game is completed a second time, a stereoscopic 3D option is unlocked.
The world of Fez consists of several areas which appear normal, but may contain physics-defying characteristics even beyond Gomez's abilities. For example, some maps scroll infinitely up and down in an endless loop. Others have an infinite cycle of passages or use doors to teleport to far away islands.
The world map is an intricate and complex 3D tree of branching locations. Every level and room in the game is a separate "area", represented as a hexagonal cell. When an area is explored, the map cell indicates what items and secrets remain to be discovered. When all secrets within a single area are discovered, the thumbnail and border of that map cell acquires a gold sheen.
There are several hub areas within Fez, and cubic warp gates link them together once discovered and activated. Smaller square warp gates transport Gomez back to the start of an area, and save the player an excessive amount of backtracking. Simpler, shortcut doors also open up specific routes between areas once the entrance is discovered and unlocked.
- Falling – Gomez can fall approximately 8 blocks before the drop will automatically kill him, unless he lands in water. This measurement counts from his starting position, and does not take jump height into account.
- Crushing – Certain platforms move vertically, and if they collide while Gomez is between them he will respawn on the last stable platform.
- Black Holes – Rips in space areas may appear in the environment. They suck Gomez in if he comes into contact with them.
- Regenerating Blocks – Bombs are required to remove certain blocks, but if the entire chain is not destroyed they will regenerate and knock Gomez off the platform.
- Totems – In certain areas, there may be powerful totems which prevent Gomez from freely rotating the screen. These totems must be interacted with and backtracked to, in order to access all sides of an area.
- Water – Gomez is a buoyant swimmer and can jump out of water with no loss of height. Hazardous water will kill him instantly.
There are four artifacts hidden around the world in Fez. With the exception of the skull, these artifacts contain glyphs and are used to help decipher the language and numbers.
- Writing Cube
- Counting Cube
Fez contains a hidden language, numerical system, and code. Each is conveyed through glyphs found throughout the game.
The alphabet is most easily deciphered by entering a room where a red fox is jumping over a dog which is laying on the ground. Next to them are glyphs which correspond to the popular saying: the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. This sentence provides enough letters to construct the alphabet.
Numbers in Fez can be expressed several ways. Numbers correlate to the open spaces in each square (if you're looking at the white, negative space). One equals an open space on the top of the square. Two equals an open space on the right of the square. Three equals and open space at the bottom of the square. Four equals an open space the the left side of the square. If you look at the chart on the right, you'll see that the number three can also be represent with an open space on the top and on the right; or, in other words, 1 + 2 = 3.
There are glyphs composed of tetrominos which represent controller inputs. These glyphs are usually written vertically from top to bottom, and they are usually connected to each other. When the corresponding buttons are pressed, a secret is revealed. Pro-tip: The center point of the T-blocks indicate their direction.
During Fez's development circa 2009, music was composed by Canadian resident artist "6955", Jason DeGroot. These demo tracks were released on Polytron's website. (Page has since been removed as of the OST release.)
The game's official soundtrack was composed and performed by the San Francisco resident artist "Disasterpeace", Rich Vreeland. The digital album may be ordered via Bandcamp, and was released on April 20th, 2012.
The track "Continuum", which appears in the final cinematic sequence, consists of an arrangement by Vreeland of Frederic Chopin's Piano Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E minor.
Tracks used in media preview videos
Soundtrack Alternate Reality Game
On April 20th a GameFAQs thread was created discussing spectrographic analysis of the soundtrack's files. As also seen in Valve's March 2010 update to Portal, hidden in the data of Fez audio tracks are visual images such as thematic photographs and QR codes. Apparently these changes were made to the final soundtrack releases and not the initial pre-order set prior to release.