I’ve been intrigued by Fez ever since the debut gameplay trailer came out a few years ago on Vimeo. You know, this one. Ever since that point, Fez has remained in the back of my mind even though no news may have been out at the time. The debut effort from Polytron, Fez is an interesting take on an old school 2D platformer that is also in 3D. Confused? No worries, I’ll try to clear that up in just a moment. With Fez finally out on Xbox Live, I jumped in head first. Here are some initial thoughts on this very interesting downloadable title.
You play the little white marshmallow looking guy named Gomez who lives in a blissful 2D world. All that changes when Gomez comes across a magical Fez hat that lets him shift the 2D world. Not only that, the world is in danger of collapsing in on itself due to the fragmenting of this master cube. It’s your job to clean up the mess, track down all the little pieces, and restore things to the way they were.
The big gameplay hook in Fez is the ability to turn a map as each level is actually a 3D model even though it appears flat and 2D. Stuck on a section? Press the trigger button to turn the map 90 degrees and gain a new perspective. Now, that platform that looked a mile away is technically close by. This opens up a slew of gameplay elements and puzzles. If you’ve played games like Super Paper Mario or Echochrome, you’ll feel right at home with Fez. Your main objective in each map is to collect the golden blocks scattered around.
I can’t leave out the look of the game. If you’ve been itching for an old school looking platformer…and I mean old school, then Fez has you covered. At first glance, it’s as if the game was ripped straight out of the NES era complete with 8 bit, chiptune style music. For those of us that grew up in that era, it’s fantastic. Even if you didn’t, the game still has a ton of charm and will quickly pull you in. The colors are fantastically vibrant, so much so that during a level’s transition from day to night, I was almost blinded by the radiant oranges of dusk. Did I mind? Not one bit, the colors make the pixellated look of the game pop even more.
The thing that I couldn’t shake is the hands off approach that the game seems to take with you. Yes, it gives you the basics but ultimately, once you know to collect the golden blocks, it’s basically on you at that point. You are given a helper type of thing but ultimately, I didn’t find the advice really at all helpful or insightful. I know some people will like this as it allows for experimentation but is a little hand holding that bad every now and then? Ah, to each their own I guess.
In the end, I’m really impressed by Fez. It’s gorgeous looking for being so simple and it has so much going for it that it’ll keep your interest. The lack of direction or help in some sections worries me a bit especially knowing how tricky things can get in the back half of the game. Still, 10 bucks for a fresh and unique experience that Fez is bringing to the table is more than reasonable. At the very least, check out the trial version and see for yourself.