Fez is a compelling game. The combination of the art style and music, exploration mechanics, and puzzles come together to create a platformer with a much deeper appeal than most. Many hours into the game, with almost of all objectives complete, I am still encouraged to continue and solve the last secrets within the game.
Perhaps what surprised me most about the game is what the main gameplay actually turned out to be like. For any of you that have seen any gameplay footage from the game, it would seem that the complexity comes mainly from the ability to rotate to 2D world in a “2.5D” manner, and the confusion that arises from that. While the rotation is a major gameplay mechanic the game does not rest long on exploiting it by itself, and introduces many other puzzles and tricks that build upon the original mechanic. By the end of the game, rotating the world seems like a natural action, necessary, but done without thinking twice — it ends up just being how the world of Fez works.
Instead, scattered throughout the game are a vast number of puzzles of all kinds, requiring a broad range of methods in order to solve. From the first, simple manipulation puzzles to end-game, cryptic enigmas the game builds, bit by bit, upon what the player has already completed in order to craft a mystery of a proportion quite incredible for the game of its size, and one that takes a long time to solve. The world is incredibly detailed, with a well-designed code language and many small details that all contribute to the overall solution. There are many surprises, too, such as timed jumping puzzles, that continue to push the boundary even long into the game when everything seems to have been already discovered. It’s never possible to know just what is behind the next closed door.
Indeed, Fez is primarily a game of exploration, as the player wanders around to world to dig up its deepest secrets — secrets buried everywhere in the levels, written in strange script on the walls and encoded in strange drawings on pieces of paper. Even in-game stargazing is required. Adding to the appeal is the lack of an over-world, or level-switching interface — all travel is done by walking from level to level, with fast-travel portals used to jump between the game’s main hubs. Just walking from place to place can often reveal new secrets, and maybe also the solutions to those secrets. The simple joy of wandering into a new area, opening a locked door, or finding the solution to a puzzle after a long time of exploration, makes this game truly wonderful.
Underpinning the gameplay is the art and music design, which provides a fitting backdrop during the exploration of the game. Every level has a different soundtrack, with the music perfectly fitting the purpose of the level — casual, light tunes for the main hubs, and heavy pieces full of gravitas for the mystery puzzle areas, for example. It’s quite incredible. The 8-bit style, similarly, suits the game well, the lack of pixel density enhancing the mystery of the world and creating an engaging environment, full of small details despite the low resolution.
In all, I highly encourage all of you to play Fez. The game is a wonderful and original take on the classic platformer, with many hours of gameplay full of exploration and discovery, that will engage you far more than many of the more mainstream titles released this year. The game is available on Steam and GOG.com.