Posted by J. Bradshaw on Apr 12, 2012

Fez Review

Fez
Publisher: Polytron
Developer: Polytron
Platform(s): XBLA (Reviewed)
Release Date: April 13, 2012
Price: 800 Microsoft Points - Available Here

Overview
‘Gomez is a 2D creature living in a 2D world. Or is he? When the existence of a mysterious 3rd dimension is revealed to him, Gomez is sent out on a journey that will take him to the very end of time and space. Use your ability to navigate 3D structures from 4 distinct classic 2D perspectives. Explore a serene and beautiful open-ended world full of secrets, puzzles and hidden treasures. Unearth the mysteries of the past and discover the truth about reality and perception. Change your perspective and look at the world in a different way. ‘ (Xbox.com)

Fez has been highly visible in the media for the past two years. Many articles have been written about it, and it has already won many awards. Now, after many delays and pushed back release dates, Fez has finally made its way to the Xbox 360. Is it really deserving of all those awards? Should you play it? Keep reading to find out.

Story
Gomez lives in a house in a neighborhood full of nice people who consider him as their friend.  One day, he gets a letter revealing that it is a special day, and he should go meet one of his friends to find out why.  Once he meets his friend, he is warped into another dimension.  After he gets back, he finds that he was gone for a long time.  In addition, a new character has joined him in his world.

Dot is a being from another dimension.  Dot says that Gomez is special, and that something went horribly wrong when he was transported.  As a result, cubes of matter are scattered everywhere.  Unless Gomez can find them, the world will rip itself apart.  Dot then shows Gomez that he is actually living in 2 dimensions: 2D and 3D.  He can traverse the 2D space as normal, but he can also rotate his world to see the other side.  This is how he’ll be able to find the cubes that can save the world.

All in all, the story sounds simple enough.  However, Polytron has managed to make the characters so compelling that I was emotionally attached to them. Although the dialogue is written in a very simplistic style, I found myself actually caring about the story, derivative as it might be.

Gameplay
As mentioned, Gomez has just discovered that he lives in a 3-dimensional world. Thus, the gameplay is based on looking at the world in a different way. You can run, jump and climb on the 2D plane, but you can also rotate the world so that the way objects are looked at changes. For example, if Gomez is climbing across a building on a window sill and then comes to a large gap, you can rotate the world so the large gap is hidden by ledge on the other side of the building. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the gap no longer exists, and Gomez is able to climb onto the other side of the building with no trouble.

Fez is unquestionably a great puzzle game. Although this perspective shifting type of gameplay has been explored in other games like Echochrome, Fez’s interpretation of it is so much better. You’ll be going in and out of multiple worlds, and using multiple ways to solve puzzles. Most of the time, you’ll enter a door, go into another world, enter another world and repeat the process, sometimes up 8 worlds deep. Each world has multiple cubes and secrets to be found, and traversing each one requires much thought, but each one is very unique and extremely fun to explore. The game is so mesmerizing, trippy and complex that it feels more like you are drawn into a beautiful painting of time and space. Polytron did an excellent job of setting the atmosphere, and the game will really make you rely on your complex thinking skills.

Although I found Fez to be extremely unique and wonderful, I did get lost for about an hour. I wish Polytron would have seen fit to add in a few more navigational aids. Although I understand that the lack of such aids is exaclty why Fez is able to maintain its atmosphere, it does get frustrating when you are traversing multiple dimensions but have no way of knowing that a particular door takes you to a different world than the one which you wanted to go. Nevertheless, I suppose that actually navigating different dimensions would be extremely confusing, and this game definitnely makes you feel like you are doing exactly that. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, even if it does mean that I will get lost occasionally while playing the game.

As stated above, you can go up to at least 8 worlds deep. However, once you are that deep and you want to go back to a ‘home world,’ it often requires a lot of backtracking. In addition to the risk of being lost while backtracking, you also have to solve the puzzles backwards. Although the game does have warp gates, you don’t know where they lead until you actually use them, and they only work one way. In the beginning especially, you may have to do a lot of backtracking depending on how you play the game. And the warp gates increase the probability of getting lost. Nevertheless, while you’re lost or attempting to go back, you’ll undoubtedly stumble across a secret or ANOTHER world and be glad you didn’t make it back. All in all, the fear of getting lost, and indeed the actual action of getting lost, lends to the atmosphere and makes the time and space elements even more relevant.

Audio and Visuals
Every world in the game has a unique soundtrack, and each one perfectly adds to the atmosphere which Polytron created. Although they are all fairly simple musical tracks, they never got boring, and they added so much to the game.

Each world is also completely different. Bright and vibrant colors make each world stand out, and each world also has different textures and themes. There is a good reason why Fez won a lot of awards for its graphical design. It is outstanding. I highly recommend downloading the demo, if just to check out the visuals. Words don’t do them justice. Fez truly exemplifies the saying, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words.”

Overall
In conclusion, Fez is probably the most original game since Portal. Even when it shows weaknesses, those turn into strengths because, while they detract from the experience, they also add to it.  The only reason I give this game less than a 10 is for its minor flaws.  Also, I was super angry after the first 45 minutes of being lost, but that was just my personal experience.  However, you should definitely give it a try. You will not regret it. Although it is extremely complex, there is no death element, and you will enjoy experimenting with all the possibilities that this game offers.

9-5-capsules-out-of-10

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