Fez had been just a few weeks from release for well over 5 years by a development team that a Middle Eastern thief could count on one hand. The man behind Fez has built quite a bit of hype for his labor of love, from an appearance in Indie Game: The Movie, to questionable comments made regarding the Japanese game industry and gamers in general - Phil Fish has created some press for himself and his creation. What I think of the man is of little concern at this point, so let me tell you about his game! Fez has you control Gomez, a cutesy StayPuft looking creature who has come of age and inherited a timeless knowledge and power from his village elder. It's all summarized like so: reality is perception. Perception is subjective. It's Gomez time!
The world of Fez is built upon trixels (aka voxels); 3D pixels that make the high tech appear low. You may remember them from such games as 3D Dot Pixel Heroes and Voxatron. It's this design choice that drives Fez's gameplay to such impressive results. Simply put, Fez is a puzzle platformer with an added layer of control. Gomez can jump, climb, and swim around his world, rather unspectacularly. The big deal occurs after you receive the almighty fez and begin controlling perspective. A flick of either the triggers or bumpers sends the entire world spinning in your chosen direction, allowing you to change your view on the world, and resultantly, what Gomez is able to see, reach, and/or access. It's a lovely mechanic that turns a run-of-the-mill platform affair into more of a thinking man's game. It isn't Deep Blue chess, but it's a fun and welcome twist regardless.
Gomez's sole function is to collect bits and form cubes, which allow him to access more of the world with the ultimate goal of returning order and stability to an environment that is rapidly dematerializing. As such, the marshmallow man never quite encounters any antagonistic personalities. Your main enemies are yourself and the temporal disturbances that appear - and become more aggressive - as you progress. These black holes kill you. Anything more than a slight fall kills you. Though death is merely an instantaneous inconvenience, as you're respawned on your last solid footing almost as soon as you perish, making for a frustration free experience the entire family can enjoy.
While there is no frustration in failure, there is quite a bit of that in navigation. As in most non-linear adventures, exploration is a key element, and there is plenty for the inquisitive gamer to find. Cubes and anti-cubes to unlock the proper ending. Seemingly pointless artifacts that act as clues to increasingly complex riddles. Even treasure maps, which capture in-game locations in a way that would make a Lego pirate ARRRR in respect. I tried my best to explore every damn piece of map when I was in the different zones, however a flaw of excellent design is the inability to capture all that has been created in one motion. Completionist that I am, I had to go back and explore for all that I missed, which is easy enough when most of these secondary areas are shown right there in your map. The map, much like the rest of the world, can be twisted an spun to your satisfaction, but no matter how I Jay-z'd (see: jiggered) the damn thing, there were certain areas that took some effort to get to. It's a little frustrating, but it's no major strike. The level design is brilliant otherwise, so I'll let the navigation slide this once. The different areas of the map have their own intricacies and unique aspects to assure that you don't see the same thing twice. If you do happen to experience déjà vu, it's probably just a glitch in the system; adjust your fez and carry on.
Disasterpeace has created a magnificent 26 track offering of chill chiptunes worthy of your exploratory adventures in the third dimension. Not startlingly, the soundtrack is as interesting as the game itself, both musically and otherwise. As a bonus, the music is available on Bandcamp and will soon be on Spotify, and comes highly recommended to those who seek to sate their taste for audible chip and get a whole day's supply of vitamins N, E, and S.
Minor bugs and nitpicks aside, Fez is a very welcome departure from the norm and a unique experience that should be played by fans of puzzle-platformers, indie buffs, and Historians alike. Deep puzzles. Rich, expansive world. Its own damn alphabet. Fez is a marvelous achievement as a game, let alone an indy game that's been in the works for the better half of a decade. Now if only Phil Fish could be a little less of a pompous dick about things.
The Score: 8 outta 10 Blasters!