Imagine living in a 2D world. Simply having right and left to immediately worry about must lead to a carefree existence. Gomez, the cute protagonist of Fez certainly feels this way until he has a fateful encounter with the Hexahedron. Upon bestowing him with the magical Fez, Gomez’ world becomes askew as dimensions are shattered, figuratively and literally, with his simple world becoming a 3D dystopia. Its colourful looks are sure to draw some attention, but underneath its simple and vibrant style, is a game that has some best uses for secrets in recent years.
The best way to describe Fez is that it is utterly delectable. There is no denying that the visual style that is being used here is catering towards a retro/indie crowd, but there is a universal charm that is present here too. Everything, from whenever Gomez meets his untimely end to his elated joy upon finding a complete cube, is so adorable that to say otherwise would be a cardinal sin. The music also adds greatly to the enchanting allure, with its mix of soothing melodies and 8-bit atmosphere. Even when the game enters more mysterious territories such as a ruined city or a graveyard populated by owl statues, the feel of the game never strays from one inspired by curiosity.
Most games would start by providing you with an in-depth tutorial that teaches you everything at once. Tutorials are then followed up with prompts that merely dumb down the gameplay. If you have uttered the words “Yeah, I get it” at a game within the last year, then Fez will be a delightful breath of fresh air. While it does tell you the controls, Fez instead opts to teach you how to play, using clever level design. If something looks brand new, you will be eased in to the concepts behind the obstacle before it hurls everything else at you all at once. Things are further made easier with death a mild inconvenience rather than a source of immense frustration – as you will just re-spawn where you were last safe. You’d be forgiven for thinking however, that this is a cake-walk of a game.
Look deeper inside Gomez’ magic hat and you will see that Fez is incredibly devious in its design. At first you will probably find seeking out the yellow blocks that eventually make the big Yellow cubes a mild challenge, but then the unthinkable happens. For each cube in the world, there exists an “Anti-Cube”, together with other artefacts and treasure maps. The clues to solving them are occasionally a little too intricate and obscure for the average man to decipher, but there is nothing quite like the realisations you will possibly reach. Isolated rooms provide instances of major riddles that use the environment, controller or a previously deciphered riddle, making each location special in its own way by using mysterious undertones.
The only problem lies with the structure, or more precisely the world map. Given that it has a Metroid style layout, Fez manages to be an open world to which exploration is key. But the world map is so difficult to interpret that it is far more likely that you will choose to become your own cartographer. It becomes especially difficult to figure out where you are supposed to go at any given time. Thankfully, each room clearly states its completion status with a comprehensible legend that starkly contrasts the map itself. So while I personally found myself hopelessly lost, I at least knew whether or not the current room held any secrets.
I do find myself compelled to return to its captivating world full of intrigue and discovery. Its many mysteries can’t be solved within the space of a few evenings. If you have the time to invest into studying the ancient languages, investigating just what that telescope means and how various spinning machines work, then Fez is a great outlet. More often than not, there is chance of being completely stumped due to the way that the game uses logic; but given that the game is as cute as a button and doesn’t treat you like a moron, it is an easy detail to overlook. Fez therefore is the game for those who want the fabric of reality to be shattered beyond recognition. For everyone else though, there is always the latest first person shooter.