The lights are on
Fez is one of the most definitive examples of ways that simplistic ideas can evolve into grandiose and complex journeys throughout the imagination. Throughout the course of the entire platformer, you'll spend most of your time rotating and shifting your view to reach new places and solve puzzles. Yet these moments will bring about some of the most fascinating and revelatory gaming experiences you've ever had, and it all begins with a little kid named Gomez.
You begin in a two-dimensional world, in Gomez's hometown, and then later find yourself thrust into a daring and alien new reality after Gomez acquires a magical hat that allows him to see the world in three dimensions. So begins the typical quest to save the universe by collecting items, this case in the form of cubes. If you think this is a clone of the old classics, you're very mistaken. Fez is in a league of its own.
Don't let the minimalistic retro art style fool you; each set piece has its own sense of character and easily sells the same level of wonder Gomez must be experiencing in a world that has suddenly breached all previously known possibilities. There are also plenty of special areas paying homage to classic games, from entrancing Mario-themed sewers to even the Legend of Zelda. Each of these references enriches the game and are a marvel to discover; Fez seems like a love letter paying tribute to them.
Visually, some levels are especially striking, implementing bold colors that create a fascinating visual aesthetic, whether it's a gigantic mass of ruins or secret dungeons; even immense floating islands with waterfalls and futuristic monoliths filled with steampunkish architecture. Spooky levels with lightning constantly striking as rain plummets nonstop are just one example of the vivid atmosphere Fez can evoke, and each is ingeniously designed, building a level of excitement I haven't experienced in a long time. Fez introduces players to a world that seems limitless in imagination. This doesn't even include the score, rife with myriad different styles that also embellish each world, from ambient music to energetic and quirky pieces that capture the energy of the more challenging levels featured in the game.
However, the kid-friendly atmosphere is also deceptive; this game is certainly welcoming, but it's also equally one fraught with challenges. Each world you visit becomes an unending odyssey through the mind, filled with puzzles that have solutions that seem impossible to find; until you change your viewpoint. Single platforms will reveal a floating staircase players can climb. Doors to dungeon worlds will appear when the world is shifted a certain way. Even seemingly impossible distances to travel will reveal platforms through the most inconspicuous objects as players shift their view of the engrossing world. You can literally shift the odds in your favor with levers that allow you to manipulate the environment around you by aligning ladders or uncovering hidden passages with doorways that allow you to reach rooms with those coveted cube shards or treasure chests filled with maps you'll need to find secrets.
Impossible areas to climb will soon be tackled with solutions that will always give the player a sense of accomplishment - and shame, in some cases, given how obvious they'll become once they've been mastered. In this sense, Fez is a thinking man's game without the steep learning curve, which serves to add to its addictiveness, especially with all the hidden items players can discover by solving the myriad riddles each world brings. Timed events will sometimes unlock, demanding a strong understanding of each level's nuances, while others will require you to use bombs to destroy certain areas in order to reach new regions. This provides players with a surprisingly deep gameplay experience that in essence will recall the ingenuity of Portal at its finest moments. However, games as complicated as Fez naturally come with their own blemishes.
Framerate problems and occasional loading issues are its primary flaws. In addition to this, players will occasionally find themselves lost and traveling repeatedly to previous realms to solve problems once thought unfeasible. This can create more tedium than enjoyment with an equally confusing world map. More than a few puzzles are incredibly hard to master, and finding those anti-cubes can be a royal pain, but it eventually pays off in the end, as every new success dawns upon you. Soon, spotting otherwise difficult solutions to tough puzzles will become a cinch as players train their minds to constantly change the ways they perceive the many worlds of Fez, an idea it hammers into the player's mind with surprising grace and subtlety.
Concluding, Fez is both a celebration of the mind's creativity and the power of videogaming in general. Fez, like those rare few games we all cherish, gives us true depth and dimension in an age where "3D" often holds little more value or significance than a game's graphical quality. Lastly, Fez, by inviting and simultaneously forcing the player to change the way they perceive the worlds around them, introduces them to a place that will captivate more than they'd imagined possible.
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