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Look up any optical illusion on the internet and picture it within an interactive 3D space. This is a quintessential example of how Fez, The somewhat recent release on the Xbox Live Arcade, operates. You play a character named Gomez who from within the first fifteen minutes is endowed with a magical Fez (I just said the name of the game!). The reason I first mentioned optical illusions is because much like the games of yore, Fez plays in a 2D environment, but operates in a 3D one. How this works exactly is that at any given time you can change your perspective to be of any four possibilities, working as if you can operate on any side of a square at any given time. It is a hard concept to try and preach on paper but it is executed perfectly and makes or some head spinning puzzles and some very cool epiphany moments in the later stages of the game that add more environmental platforming sections as well. With similar attempts made by games (the most popular probably being the Paper Mario series).

Your task is to repair the universe (naturally) by harvesting 32 cubes (each of which is made from 8 cube bits, although some come whole) throughout the world. There is a lot of backtracking within Fez which to those who used to play games in the early 2000’s or late 90’s will know that can be more then frustrating. Luckily warp devices are found throughout the world but that doesn’t necessarily make the trek any more enjoyable after the 10th time when you keep missing a piece on one section and decide to do it later. This is a small complaint though because it is possible to go through each section and complete it before the next making this problem a player one and not entirely a poor development choice.

Fez is not easy. The main portion of the game could be considered easy because of the helpful map that lets you know where you need to go, but the other half of the game (full of extras) require a higher cognitive thinking that borders hair brain insanity. This game however is a precious piece of creative ingenuity and tender care and attention. Developed by a lone pair of people operating on a time operation from a Canadian government grant (for more information I highly recommend Indie Game: the movie on steam or DVD), who, with help from multiple people, made something truly unique. The art style is a throwback as well.

Gomez and the world around him are presented in precious 8 bit-style pixel art that fits well within the theme of cubes and squares. The soundtrack as well is complementary to the experience as it is chip-tune (which for those that don’t know what this is just look up the Super Mario Bros. theme song). Fez is a rewarding experience because it challenges players to think in ways that other puzzle games (both video or not) have not done yet. Challenge aside, the fact that is a puzzle/platformer aside, Fez stands as a great experience that everyone should try once, even if you just bum a few minutes off your friend’s Xbox.