A World Worth Exploring: A FEZ Review
At first glance, FEZ might appear as just another indie-platformer with a unique twist on the traditional platformer and a great artstyle. While this (oversimplified) description might have been fine for most a few years ago, Braid, Limbo, and other small-time platformers have already done this sort of thing before, so then why is FEZ so damn good? Well, it does it through a myriad of methods, which all combine to create an experience that everybody should partake of.
You play as Gomez, a smallish man who is told to meet the eye-patched elder of his quaint two-dimensional village. As you are probably guessing, this sets off a chain of events in which you are tasked with reassembling the Hexahedron that supposedly holds together the universe by collecting 32 cubes in various ways. This task would probably seem quite daunting for our silent protagonist, but luckily for him (and us), he receives a mystical fez hat to accomplish this assignment. This titular accessory allows little Gomez to blend 2D and 3D, which basically makes everyone in his little village go completely bonkers considering the fact that there was a hidden dimension. To describe the the gameplay implications of this melding of 2D and 3D, I will have to paint a mental image, so... bear with me. Imagine each 2D view as a side of a cube, and when you pull the triggers to switch sides, you see the same thing, but from the other perspective. It is a very difficult thing to explain, but essentially, it allows you to solve a puzzle or reach a given point by changing perspective; thus allowing you to reach the platforms in a different way or to get a new perspective on a puzzle. Also, I never found this mechanic to be overbearing or too demanding either, at long as you want to complete the main path alone, that is.
Now, to complete the more difficult objectives, you might have to take some notes, especially for traversing from world to world or area to area. The map in this game is a bit too convoluted to assess effectively, and it can become too common to find yourself going back and forth between two areas because the map led you astray. However cumbersome the map may be, you travel to many different locales that are all worth exploring. Now, what makes this interesting (as well as what makes it noteworthy) is that everywhere you go, you learn a bit more about this highly esoteric world that you are tasked with repairing. In the platforms you jump on, there may be symbols. In the starry night sky, there may be symbols, generally Tetris shapes. Within the rooms, abandoned homes, or the other landmarks you explore, you are almost guaranteed to find something worth noting. When you combine this highly cryptic lore with a masterful art style and sound design that can make you feel everything it wants you to, these create a highly pervasive feeling of adventure and a mystery that only you can solve.
Like Braid or Limbo before it, the art style of FEZ not only is a joy to look at, it also sets the mood at all times, along with the music. When you first enter the rainy, dark, and moody area, your journey suddenly changes into a dark mystery that beckons you to figure out. Then make the jarring change to a lighter area, where the grass is green, the sky is blue, and your journey transforms into a relaxing play session. Unfortunately, not everything in the game is accomplished as grandly as I'm sure Phil Fish wish it was. From my own personal experience, there were plenty of framerate hitches between areas and a bug that prevented me from exploring one small area of the game entirely.
I can not say enough good about the sound design and the art style; simply put, without the masterful execution of the two, FEZ would be just another prototypical indie-platformer with a neat spin on the basic formula. Instead, FEZ creates an unforgettable experience through its amalgamation of fantastic art and sound design, a unique and worthwhile spin on the standard platformer, and a highly hermetic fiction and world to explore. If you don't buy this game, you might be a bad person.