Having watched the documentary, Indie Game: The Movie, seen the reviews and watched enough trailers, I knew quite a bit about the indie game, Fez. It wasn’t until a few days ago, however, that I made the decision to purchase the game on Steam; being on sale made it quite a lot easier. The PC port was initially released on 1st May 2013, after having been officially released on Xbox 360 on 13th April 2012. While there has been great praise for the lovable indie game, there has also been quite a large amount of criticism. What’s all the fuss about?
Fez is listed under the puzzle/platform game category, which doesn’t really do it much justice. The game was developed and published by Polytron Corporation, founded by developer Phil Fish, and was announced was back in July 2007. After a number of setbacks, legal disputes, and funding crises, Fez finally made its non-beta appearance, five years in the making.
The plot is almost as minimalist as the game inherently feels. The game revolves (quite literally) around a character named Gomez, who encounters a mythical relic known as the Hexahedron. The Hexahedron bestows a magical fez upon Gomez, which gives him the ability to experience the third dimension. This, however, leads to a fracture in the Hexahedron that causes glitches in his world. After being reset, a hypercube named Dot (a guide, but not quite) explains that Gomez has to find the missing fragments of the Hexahedron from around the world to restore the balance.
The 8-bit graphics style won’t stretch your rig’s capabilities, but is more pleasing on the eye than one would expect. The style may not be unique these days, with a number of other games offering similar results, but you wouldn’t want it any other way. Moreover, the graphics adds to the nostalgia of years gone by for gamers from the Nintendo TV Game age. Gomez is a simple 2D sprite in a 2D world, which can be rotated in 3D (90 degrees) to experience different angles and revealing different doors, secrets and tools to assist in your attempt to scale the terrain.
There are occasions when the graphics does let you down, only due to the fact that the game was ported from an original 1280×720px resolution on the Xbox 360. So running on a resolution higher than this tends to have a few glitches that aren’t intentional.
The gameplay is ultimately what makes this game so appealing. As stated previously, you’re able to rotate the environment 90 degrees, which allows you to traverse the world. Manipulating the perspective to something that looks traversable allows you to solve puzzles, jump on objects that are out of reach in the current perspective, and find new doors and treasures. Sometimes your timing is called to the fore, and isn’t simply a matter of walking or jumping onto another object. The map itself is centred on one point of origin, from where you can jump to the different locations following a specific path. While this may seem easy enough, working it out takes a bit of effort and thought, as a miscalculation can often lead you to an entire level entirely.
As a result of the collapse of the Hexahedron, Gomez sets out to collect the missing 32 cubes, which also unlocks different levels within his world. Over and above these cubes, there are an additional 32 anti-cubes, which aren’t as easy to stumble upon, and are hidden from view. To reveal each of the anti-cubes, you are often left solving a puzzle, or following a “simple” Tetris code (based on the Nintendo TV Game version) to unlock it. While Dot tends to be around where there is a potential anti-cube available, the response is more sarcastic and comical (often forgetful) than of any assistance to you. Figuring out where each of the warp gates leads you is an entirely different matter.
At the end of it all, there is no “one” way to complete the game, it’s often a matter of trial and error, or experimentation (or luck). For the true fans, there is even a mathematical-based, Fezian language to learn that gives you an insight into some of the other random characters encountered along the way. Let’s not forget the ‘talking’ owls: ”owls creep me out.”
The simplest way to explain the game is that “I loved every minute of it.” Forget all the “graphics improvements” the industry uses to spew out tons of games in a franchise; it’s not really required when you have a good story, and even better concept of the environment and gameplay. The quality and amount of thought that went into almost every aspect of the game is quite inspiring, something that its minimalist approach tends to hide from those who haven’t experienced it themselves.
You won’t find yourself pulling out any of the hairs on your head in an attempt to find every detail and hidden treasure within the game, as simply playing through the levels is more than sufficient to get by. That being said, delving deeper (behind things at face value) brings about its own rewards, and will keep you captivated for quite some time. 18 months after its launch, this lovable indie game is still worth every second you spend playing it.