A Whole New World - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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A Whole New World

Fez begins much like any other 2D platformer. The rules governing the game world are made clear to the player, who in turn learns the vocabulary quickly. One can only jump so far, green vines can be used to traverse a single wall, and falling too far will result in a respawn on the previous ledge. 

It is only when the protagonist Gomez dons the titular hat that the rules of platforming are almost completely negated. Wearing the fez, players can rotate the camera around an axis, revealing that the 2D world is not exactly 2D after all. Platforms that were previously out of reach are now connected to a nearby bridge. New doors and patrons are visible on the flip side of the village, allowing the player to access other areas of the game world. Gaining a new perspective on various situations in Fez opens up solutions to platforming and puzzles alike.

I spent as much time as I could exploring the protagonist's hometown, and every subtle nuance the new gameplay mechanic revealed. However, once I traveled beyond the confines of this small map, it was clear just how much fun there is to be had in Fez. From towering lighthouses to dank, rat-infested sewers, every environment imparted a new sense of wonder and adventure. The music itself differentiates each new branch of the map from the others, and acts as a love letter to games like Zelda and Mario. Much of the driving force behind the game comes from obtaining access to new areas, even if it means constant backtracking.

Every new area holds cubes and anti-cubes, essentially keys to unlocking unexplored dungeons and environments. While cube bits lying in plain sight offer easy access to the yellow variety, some of the most devious puzzles reward the player with anti-cubes. These dark versions of the normal ones can be obtained through several different methods. Whether it be deciphering the language of the ancients in order to read the writing on the walls, or guiding an explosion around the perimeter of a tower, changing perspective every time the fire has no place to go, the player's mind will constantly be challenged. Some of the game's most captivating puzzles are either too big or too obvious to recognize at first glance, but constant learning and exploration will often times come to fruition. However, a handful of the puzzles can be too enigmatic. I have no problem with turning to a friend for advice on the last few cubes, but some of them almost demand that you consult an online guide.

I touched lightly upon the backtracking element of the game, and this is another area where developer Polytron could have streamlined a few aspects. The world map is shown as a 3D web of interlocking worlds, and works well with the idea of perspective, as you can rotate it any which way. Unfortunately, the map does little to help with navigation seeing as how the entrances and exits to areas aren't indicated clearly. This leads to trial and error, when the player spends more time in transition than in the actual worlds themselves. The nebulous map has a solid premise, but weak execution when it comes to design. I wish that it hadn't, but the arduous process of traveling sapped a little bit of the fun out of the engaging puzzle-solving.

For all of its frustration, Fez never ceased to amaze me as I discovered new ways to tackle a puzzle. Three segments of a ladder rest on separate walls when Gomez's back is to the player, but rotate the screen 90 degrees and they become one ladder on the side of a singular wall. After deciphering a Rosetta Stone passed down by the ancients, the writing on the wall instructs the player to rotate the screen in different directions until an anti-cube appears. While there is little back-story in Fez, I had absolutely no problem ignoring that fact. The origins of the hat's powers are unclear, but the immediate possibilities are almost endless.

Fez is a game that takes a minute concept and expands it into a fully realized project. Without the different vantage points, it is just another simple 2D platformer. Add another three planes and a rotating camera, and you have one of the most engrossing mechanics in any game to date. As the journey with Gomez comes to an end, your perspective on his world will inevitably change. The most astonishing fact is that it will affect your perspective on video games in the same way.

 

 

Comments
  • Mod
    Great review! I haven't started this game yet, but I look forward to finding a few mintues to do so in the near future.