Developer(s) – Polytron Corporation
Publisher(s) – Trapdoor & Microsoft Studios
Director(s) – Marie-Christine Bourdua & Dominic Allair
Designer – Phil Fish
Released in 2012 after a five-year development cycle, which attracted an unusual amount of public exposure, as well as controversy stemming from the game’s lead designer Phil Fish, Fez remains one of the most prominent examples of innovation amongst the indie gaming scene, and was met with an overwhelmingly positive response upon release, becoming one of only 13 games in the year following its release to receive a Metacritic aggregate score of over 90. Even though I did find to be a fairly enjoyable game, it did have issues that I feel need addressing.
Graphics – 9/10
One aspect, I have hardly any issues with however, is the game’s visuals. There is an exceptional amount of variety in each different location throughout this title, and a great deal of imagination had clearly been put into it. Locations vary from forests to sewers to factories to lighthouses to hotels, even. In addition, there are also locations based on video gaming itself, causing a good few cracks in the fourth wall, which I found to be particularly interesting.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
The objective of the game is to collect cubes and cube pieces (8 of which make an entire cube) to advance to each different location. There is a total of 64 cubes to collect, but the challenge of finding everything lies within the player’s ability to leave no stone unturned, which is made even harder by the fact that this game is presented through both a 2D and 3D perspective simultaneously. Plays have the ability to rotate the scenery to uncover hidden items and even different locations. It’s an extremely enjoyable experience, but in my opinion, severely marred down by the fact that there are many overly convoluted puzzles that must be solved in order to find certain types of cubes; the anti-cubes. The infamous obsidian block puzzle is definitely the most prominent example of which, since it was only solved after members of the Fez community got together and started pressing random buttons, and the solution was eventually stumbled upon.
Controls – 10/10
The game also has a perfectly good control scheme, since the 2D side scrolling formula had long since been perfected, and switching perspectives is seamless. It’s amazing how some of the most innovative ideas can also be some of the most simplistic in design. The map system can be somewhat difficult to follow at first, but that would largely be splitting hairs.
Lifespan – 5/10
To complete the game to 100% can take experienced players around 2 hours, but for players going through the game for the first time, it can take around 5 hours at most, which especially for an open world game is still quite below par. Part of the problem is that there is only the few objectives to undertake throughout the game of collecting cubes and cube bits, and unlike most conventional games, doesn’t feature stable elements such as enemies to fight or a great deal of side quests.
Storyline – 5/10
There isn’t a great deal in the way of story either. It follows a character named Gomez, who one day stumbles upon a magic fez, which allows him to change perspectives in order to collect the cubes and restore the universe. Apart from that, not much else is elaborated upon. The game does break the fourth wall at the beginning by glitching out as soon as the chaos begins to ensue, and the game must then be started back up at that point, but after this, it becomes a case of simply finding the various references to games such as Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda.
Originality – 8/10
Whilst it may be one of the simplest looking games of the modern day, Fez is also one of the more creative. Two different concepts from two different genres of gaming were brought together to make something rather unique, and since been a source of inspiration behind games such as Monument Valley and Secrets of Raetikon. Whilst the conduct of its designer may have left a feeling of bitterness towards this game by the industry as a whole, it also left a strong impression on it too.
In all, Fez, despite what faults I personally found with it, is by no means a bad game, and is easy enough to cope with given the aid of a strategy guide to go along with it. However, I, along with the entire industry can only imagine what Fez 2 would have been like if it had have been developed as originally planned.