As far as retro indie-platformers go, there’s certainly no shortage of titles to choose from in recent years. It’s become chic to “go retro” when developing an independent title, and that largely stems from cost constraints, more than likely. Polytron’s much hyped platformer, Fez has recently arrived on the Xbox Live Marketplace, five long years after its development began.
The game has been well documented. The creator is an outspoken and opinionated breed of developer that isn’t afraid to speak his mind. That same mindset was likely the driving force behind the development of Fez, which is a take it or leave it adventure, seemingly catering to no one. Fez is a polarizing title. It can feel lifeless and devoid at times, and at others, a revelation.
At its most basic, Fez is the story of Gomez, who comes to realize that the world he lives in has a bit more dimension than he’s accustomed to. Granted a special power to rotate the world on a 90 degree axis by a magical hat, the game’s core gameplay mechanic is introduced to you in short order. It’s an interesting premise, one that isn’t entirely new, but still feels somewhat refreshing considering its context. Using your new found powers you’ll set out to capture as many cubes, and cube pieces that you can, to unlock a series of doors and ultimately complete the game. If you’ve ever played with a Rubic’s Cube, you’ll get the strange sensation of Deja Vu when playing Fez, because of the constantly shifting mechanic.
If you take Fez at face value, and only look at this core mechanic, Fez seems a bit lifeless. The game has very little challenge from a controller input standpoint and hardly ever deviates from its one gameplay principle. A stark contrast to the retro platformers that Fez graciously emulates, it just doesn’t offer the same types of challenge. If you manage to finish the game without uncovering any of Fez’s deep dark secrets, you could very easily miss the game’s entire point. Digging deeper, you’ll find that the pixel art in Fez is far more than just a bunch of dots on your screen. And once you come to the realization that there’s more to Fez than meets the eye, that’s where Fez becomes something more than your average platformer.
The problem however, lies in the game’s logic. The best of what Fez has to offer is so easy to overlook that it might as well be an after thought. You’ll likely need to tap on the internet hive-mind to get the most out of Fez, which is kind of the same problem that another popular indie title, Minecraft had, with its lack of an in-game crafting guide. Add to this the myriad of problems with the release, which range from console crashes to looping death sequences, and Fez starts to paint the picture of a game that just isn’t worth the time or effort depending on your value of the former.
Fez fits the bill for popular indie titles of late. It’s got a charming look and feel, and Polytron nails it with the ambiance and likeability of the character. It makes some questionable decisions though in its execution. Depending on your tolerance for an utter lack of direction from the game, you’ll either love or hate Fez. There’s really no middle ground. Most of the puzzles come off feeling as inside jokes that you won’t likely get, and with little to no guidance from the developers of your Journey, Fez comes off feeling a bit uninspired.
- Available On: Xbox 360, PC
- Published By: Trapdoor
- Developed By: Polytron Corporation
- Genre: Puzzle Platform
- US Release Date: April 13th, 2012
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
- Quote: "Depending on your tolerance for an utter lack of direction from the game, you'll either love or hate Fez. There's really no middle ground. Most of the puzzles come off feeling as inside jokes that you won't likely get, and with little to no guidance from the developers of your Journey, Fez comes off feeling a bit uninspired."