I find the fact that I’m reviewing Fez in April of 2014 quite interesting. It’s a game I’ve already played at least a dozen times on the Xbox 360 and PC. Yet, the games first release on Playstation has gotten me excited all over again. The reason for this is simple… Fez is beautiful. Not in a “Ooh shiny”, thousands of polygons kind of way, although it does sport some pretty crispy visuals. No, Fez is beautiful in a much more important way. It’s full of soul.
It’s a creative little game that doesn’t rely on many of the tropes common in the modern gaming ecosystem. Its got simple platforming mixed with devilish puzzles, sports great visuals and an awesome soundtrack. Now, while there’s nothing necessarily new about the PS4 version, those who’ve missed out on this majestic little gem will finally get to join the Fez party, once and for all. Trust me: if it’s a party you have not yet attended, RSVP immediately.
What is Fez? Well, it’s the story of a funky little fez-toting dude named Gomez, whose world gets turned upside down when he is introduced to the third dimension. You see for the most part Fez is played out like most 2D platforming games a la Mario or Sonic. That is until you hit the trigger buttons of the PS4 pad, which will rotate the world allowing you to essentially fold space and time to your will. Need to get to an inaccessible platform? Spin the world around and use the alternate perspectives to help you reach your destination
The way Fez messes with the players perception of perspective is its greatest strength. The primary goal in the game revolves around collecting shards of golden cubes scattered throughout the games relatively non-linear environments. These cubes will open doors in the games hub area allowing for further progression. There are also keys to find which will open doors to secret rooms and new areas to explore. It’s a streamlined game that doesn’t desperately try to do a ton of things at once. Instead it focuses on making sure the core gameplay is consistently enjoyable and rewarding.
Much like fellow indie darling, Braid, there is a great sense of achievement to be found in overcoming a particularly tricky puzzle. One example is a Tetris themed puzzle which will have you tear your hair out, before bathing you in the warm fuzzy feeling of victory upon completion. It’s hard to talk about Fez without mentioning it’s creator, Phil Fish. Phil was one part of the 2 Player Productions documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which shone a light on the daily lives of aspiring indie developers.
Fish is a controversial figure who is a bit like Vegimite. Some folks love the guy for the commitment he has to his work. Others donwright detest the guy, engaging in prolonged arguments with the developer over on Twitter. One such argument caused Fish to cancel development of a planned sequel to Fez. Although Phil is a divisive figure, few can deny his talent as a game designer, considering every element of Fez oozes professionalism. The audio and visuals are sharp as George Carlins wit and the game design is near perfect.
Fez is an indie darling for a reason. It is a testament to the talent of passionate developers and confirms that not all games need enemies, bosses and large exposition fuelled narratives. And explosive barrels… Not every game needs explosive barrels, OK!
It’s a simple game that wears its heart on its sleeve and flaunts more charm than an Irishman at the New York Paddys day parade. If you missed out on this indie gem in it’s previous releases, recommending it for Playstation users – who get the game on PS3, PS4 and Vita through Cross Buy – is a no brainer.
Hopefully Phil will calm down in the coming months and change his mind about that cancelled sequel… If he doesn’t, I’ll eat my fez!