The lights are on
Playing FEZ is as near as I believe I will ever get to
reliving my first ever experience with a video game. That first experience is
akin to a great epiphany. You never want this new feeling of wonder, awe, and
imagination to ever leave you; you have to keep playing just one more level.
FEZ brings the same sort of curious magic into an otherwise familiar world of
2D platforming and environmental puzzle-solving.
Much of FEZ's strength is derived from its masterful setup:
You're introduced to a colorful, imaginative, retro-style environment boasting
intuitive controls as well as tried-and-true platforming elements. And then it
blows your mind. Gomez—the player character who can only occupy two dimensional
space—is bestowed with the titular fez, granting him the power to change his 2D
perspective on this 3D world. So many of the platforming elements we take for
granted are suddenly fresh again, and an insatiable hunger for discovering each
new twist on age-old ideas drives you throughout the main game.
Scouring every region of the map for secrets and puzzles is
blissful and, despite very perplexing puzzles hidden in plain sight, never
frustrating. FEZ manages to present challenging brain-teasers alongside simple
and engaging spatial-thinking exercises without violating the sanctity of its
smooth, accessible gameplay.
The best way I can describe FEZ to you is that it's both 2D
and 3D. While the environment itself consists of three dimensions, Gomez can
only exist in 2D, where depth has no meaning. Depending upon which of four
perspectives you view the world from, Gomez can reach areas that would not be
possible in 3D. Two separate patches of vines on a cliff face can become one if you rotate your perspective until the cliff face appears as a single line.
It's this simple, yet effective
mechanic that makes FEZ such an intriguing and stimulating adventure.
FEZ's bare-bones story is a nice fit for the classic feel of
its 16-bit aesthetics, emulating Mario's timeless 'save the princess' quest.
Gomez's own quest is to restore order to the land by collecting pieces of the
shattered Hexahedron. Gathering these radiant, golden cubes everywhere as you
explore creates a rewarding and almost seamless progression. The only area in
which I felt FEZ's world was lacking was inhabitants. The initial village at
the game's opening was charming, and I rather enjoyed learning the local name
for cubes. It probably goes without saying that I looked forward to meeting
whomever or whatever may have resided in the regions beyond. My heart sank when
I realized this was a rare occurrence.
Completionists will have a great time with the post-game.
Outside collecting lost Hexahedron cubes, there is a wealth of cleverly hidden
collectibles and devilish puzzles to be found. That there are even more secrets
than cubes concealed throughout FEZ's world map, and the fact that most of them
go straight over your head, is a very impressive achievement.
You can't help but enjoy yourself when playing
FEZ. It speaks to the innocent and inquisitive nature of our younger selves.
Around every corner is a delightful new take on platforming and puzzle elements
you thought were a dry well by now; it proves that classic formulas can still
be new and exciting. FEZ is an experience that reminds us why we love games.