Review: Fez (Xbox Live Arcade)
When Phil Fish isn't busy insulting the Japanese, he's involved in making some top quality games. Fez is a 2D platformer that places you in the pudgy white body of Gomez, who upon his awakening is summoned to Professor Oak's laboratory to.... No. Wait, wrong game. Actually, Gomez is blessed with the gift of the almighty Fez, which allows him to view the Universe beyond the two dimensions that his fellow dough-boys are confined to. By pressing the trigger buttons (or the shoulder buttons) you're able to rotate the world. Now if you can imagine that each stage is contained within a cube, Gomez can shift to each face of the cube allowing him to see the content of the world he is in from varying perspectives. This essentially is the crux of Fez because in order to solve the puzzles in the game you will have to utilize the world shifting mechanic.
To navigate the world of Fez each stage will have multiple doors that can be explored. This brings up he first problem of Fez, the overworld map is quite frankly ineffective. You can rotate the map much like you can rotate the game world. However, given the layout, it is difficult navigating the map. It would have been much better if they laid the map out in 2D as opposed to 3D. Fez has a great aesthetic look to it that is reminiscent of old school 16-bit in inspiration. The visuals are smooth, and the colors vibrant and each stage different from the previous. Many different themes are represented in the multiple stages of Fez from forests, to graveyards to the just utterly bizarre. The guys at Polytron really put a ton of attention to detail in not only the design and the visuals, but also the soundtrack of the game. Fez sports a funky Synth soundtrack that is subtle but hits its mark, and is just as varied as the environments you find yourself in.
Fez is deceptively more complex and intricate than you'd imagine. Rotation of the game world is executed wonderfully in Fez as you encounter puzzles of increasing difficulty. Every puzzle tasks you to use your brain for once, a welcomed change from the drool inducing monotony of shooting randomly generated terrorist #2735. Sometimes you'll be lining up, moving platforms, shifting lad masses, or expertly manipulating detonations. All of this is to accomplish your goal of collecting yellow cube shards that build up into one whole cube. To beat the game you'll only need a portion of the cubes, but you will not want to stop there after the conclusion of the game. You'll want to collect all of the cubes as well as anti-cubes and a number of treasure maps and collectibles. This is where Fez excels.
Hearkening back to the days of pre-internet gaming, there are a bevy of hidden secrets in this game. Even more astonishing, there are secrets that just beg for decryption and the internet community has answered the call. It seems that every day following the releases of Fez, new things have been uncovered. Like a collection of archaeologists, all of the Fez nerds compiled a list of every hidden nugget discovered. It is this that makes the introduction of Fez such a seminal moment in gaming, at least in terms of the past few years. It really means something when a title can make gamers forget the hate-mongering and the trolling to work together towards a common cause.
This game has a ton of longevity as actually beating the game is only a small percentage of what is contained in Fez. You'll spend most of your time discovering new secrets, thinking about what is hidden in the world, or scouring the internet for help... or for pictures of Scarlett Johansson. This is a game that, while it has nothing new mechanic wise, it utilizes its gameplay in a way that hasn't been seen before. It is something that should not be missed.
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