A whole New Dimension of Indie Platforming
At first glance Fez looks like your typical indie platformer. The 8bit graphics and cutesy characters are all par for the course we've visited so many times before. The interesting perspective shifting dynamics add a twist to the title, literally, that sets it apart from the rest of the crowd. Creator Phil Fish didn't stop there though - and when you really start to dig deeper into the game you realize it's in a whole another dimension of 'puzzle platformer.'
Fez is structured around a loose story involving our main protagonist Gomez and the undoing of the universe. Hailing from a world where no one can perceive beyond the second dimension, our hero comes in contact with a mysterious hexahedron. Promptly before exploding, this artifact grants Gomez the power to see the third dimension by wearing the titular Fez cap. With this newfound ability and a mission to collect all 32 pieces of the hexahedron back together before the universe ceases to exist you have your work cut out for you.
The bulk of your time will be spent collecting little golden bits that with each set of 8 turn into a single golden cube that makes up the just recently exploded hexahedron. While your default view is that of a 2D sidescroller, at any given time you can turn the world around at 90 degree increments using your shoulder buttons. Chasms originally impossible to jump at first glance, turn into tiny clearings when you spin your perspective around. While difficult to explain, you grasp the mechanics of the game almost instantly when granted the ability to rotate the world. As your only means of direction, right from the outset you find a hub area with locked away doors that require varying number of golden cubes to open. Exploration is entirely left up to the player. You can traverse the many areas of Fez at your leisure, picking up as many golden bits as possible in order to open more hidden doors at the hub. For the most part there are no upgrades or new abilities you learn along the way. Almost every puzzle you encounter can be solved right from the start, and in any order you please - although right away you'll realize that these puzzles require a little more than simple twitch reflexes and jumping prowess, and thats when the madness begins.
Fez is simple yet at the same time incredibly deep. While at first you might compare the mechanics to Metroid style games, going to areas, gaining items and unlocking previously locked away doors - I'd liken it best to a title like Dark Souls. What does a cute little pixel platformer have to do with dark brooding fantasy thats known for it's high difficulty? Well not a lot from the dark brooding standpoint, but what the games do share in common is the sense of completely hands off plot exposition. Apart from the simple rotation mechanics nothing is explained to you in Fez. You encounter strange symbols and script everywhere you go and no one ever hints at what any of it might mean. The beauty of it is that it all does have meaning. The alien language, the strange symbols, everything can be translated and the ciphers are right in the game if you have a keen mind and a sharp eye. Just like Dark Souls you have to piece evrerything together from small clues left lying around the world. A classroom chalkboard, a small poster, a wall with ancient pictograms, almost all of it is a clue for the player to figure out. Fez is like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle except you don't know what the picture is supposed to be. Just like Dark Souls you keep exploring, finding little pieces of information and putting them together forming an ever growing big picture. Be warned though that while all the puzzle do make logical sense, a lot of it only clicks together in retrospect. Some of the solutions are so incredibly esoteric it's a wonder people have managed to crack them in just a matter of days since release.
With great visuals, a wonderful soundtracks and incredibly deep narrative that will keep you occupied for hours on end Fez is the complete indie game package. Holding the title back are technical hiccups in the form of slow load times, stuttering in some areas and occasional glitches that sometimes might require a quick dashboard restart. Fortunately all of these are small blemishes on an otherwise spectacular adventure. Even if you choose not to delve deep into the rabbit hole, sitting by lamplight into late hours of the night scribbling symbols onto a notepad, trying to make sense of it all - the bare piecing back together of the hexahedron is well worth it alone - and when all is said and done a New Game + opens that gives a whole new perspective to the previous puzzles. At only 800 MSP you really can't go wrong with Fez and if you have a penchant for puzzle solving in the old tradition of Myst I'd highly recommend you give it a try.