Genre: Platforming Adventure
Console: Xbox 360 (XBLA download)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Hours Played: ~11-12 hours
Progress: Found all 64 cubes, all artifacts, and all 3 “heart cubes”
First announced in 2007, Fez was immediately surrounded by a cloud of anticipation. Several delays in the game’s release had some people believing that it would end up being vaporware even though its gameplay looked so enticing. The gaming community was very happy to welcome Fez with open arms upon its release this month, but are the charming 8-bit-style graphics and novel perspective-shifting gameplay worth the 5 year wait or did this game fall as flat as its 2D characters? Read on to see what we thought of Fez.
- Fez’s story starts out simply enough, you’re a 2D person who has occupied a 2D world but then a mysterious old man introduces you to this ethereal cube that grants you the power through a little fez hat to shift your perspective to see the world as cubic instead of squared and then promptly explodes leaving you to find its pieces and to restore space-time to an equilibrium.
- There are many layers of innuendo (of the non-sexual variety of course) in the story, though, hinted at through various locations in the game, the few characters you can talk to, and a secret language of both characters and button combinations that unlock many secrets throughout the game.
- The over-arching story as a whole is incredibly intricate and intriguing, full of religious and social symbolism. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but as you peel the layers away through your adventuring you’re bound to be impressed.
- The gameplay in the primary playthrough of the game (there are two known “New Game +” modes as well), your puzzle solving takes the form of finding ways to traverse levels and collect cubes, anti-cubes (which are harder to find), and cube pieces by switching your perspective and interacting with various switches, etc. scattered throughout the levels.
- Levels are presented on the game map as a series of cubes connected to one another that acquire a golden sheen once you’ve discovered all of the secrets in that particular area.
- The controls are very simple too, use the D-pad or control stick to move around, use the A button to jump, use the X or B buttons for various interactions, the Y button brings up the in-game inventory menu, the Back button brings up the map, and eventually clicking the right stick takes you into first person mode.
- The New Game + mode, selectable after you have found a combined total of 32 cubes and anti-cubes, acts basically as a method to acquire a new item, an invisible pair of sunglasses that give you the ability to switch to a time-paused first person mode. With this new ability, you’re able to find many of the anti-cubes that are impossible to acquire without it, primarily by finding secret input codes hidden on the ground in various levels.
- The New Game ++ mode doesn’t really offer any change to gameplay that is currently known, but if New Game + is selected once you’ve found all 64 cubes and seen the “real” ending, you get a pair of red/blue 3D glasses for your character that allows you (if you are physically wearing red/blue 3D glasses yourself) to see the game sprites pop out of the TV a bit.
- The 8-bit style graphics in this game are really beautiful. There are many levels that change-up the entire visual style of the game including a sewer area that looks like it’s from an original Game Boy and a time-challenge area that’s shaded like it’s on the Virtual Boy (shades of red).
- Changing perspective always looks gorgeous and sometimes brings surprising results with various ladders or platforms connecting at certain angles when they seem nowhere near each other from others.
- Some levels have graphical styles that are simply very hard to describe, it’s always a pleasant surprise when you stumble across a new area and it looks amazingly different from the last. The sense of discovery in this game is fantastic and immersive due in large part to the clever application of graphical design.
- Another area where this game shines is sound. The sound effects and music are very 8-bit in nature, but transcend the usual chiptune pratfalls and add superb ambiance to every area of the game.
- There are many iPod-worthy songs in the soundtrack, which is something that can be said for very few games.
- While not always memorable in a “humming it on the bus” kind of way, the songs always serve to make the mood just right for each level.
- While my complete playthrough lasted only 11-12 hours, I had quite a bit of help from GameFAQs. If one were to play this game without seeking any help online, it could take many times that long to decrypt all of the game’s mysteries (especially the alphanumeric and button-input languages).
- Even though I have all of the Achievements for the game, there are still a lot of intriguing things left in the game that can make one wonder if you’re ever truly finished it at this point. (Especially the heart cubes which are near impossible to find on one’s own, but seem to do nothing when they’re all collected.)
- The New Game + modes don’t force you to play the game all over again, but rather just supply you with extra items, so they don’t contribute as much to the longevity of your game’s enjoyment as classical start all-over New Game + modes, but I’m thankful that they don’t just discount all of your work, but instead allow you to progress even further down the proverbial rabbit hole.
- If/when you get to a room that eventually has a Black Monolith in it, this is the one room that you cannot solve on your own and you have to Google the answer. (I was lucky enough to be part of the gaming community that eventually tried almost all the possible button combinations (with a few hints) to be able to brute force the button combination solution to that room.)
This is the first downloadable game I have ever played where I said to myself half-way in, “This game should have cost more.” At only 800 Microsoft Points this game is a ridiculous steal for the amount and quality of entertainment that you can get out of it. There are precious few games in existence that even for a moment stump the entire gaming community, but Fez managed to pull everyone together to solve a button combination puzzle by brute force when there was no other way available. Whether you chalk that up to brilliant or lazy game development is up to you, but you cannot deny the amount of unique and special fun that is to be had by playing this game. If you have an Xbox 360, do yourself a big favour and enjoy Fez for a few days as you solve its mysteries and are taken away by its graphical and aural beauty.