Review: ‘Fez’ for PC
Released in April 2012 for consoles and a year later on PC, Fez has a dramatic creation story attached to it. Polytron Corporation head Phil Fish was featured in Indie Game: The Movie to depict the struggles of an indie developer throughout the creation of their title. In the film, Fish struggles with deadline issues, ownership disagreements, and public relations failure. While there have been many opinions made at Fish’s expense, it’s almost inarguable that the game attached to his name is indeed something to behold.
Living comfortably in his simple two-dimensional world, Gomez finds something in his square mailbox (Not cubed! Those don’t exist!) It’s a letter from the old man of the village, telling him he has something for him. After some platforming and talking to villagers – all of which remind you of how two-dimensional everything is – Gomez makes it to the elderly fellow. Upon meeting with him, he says that today is a special day; that it’s “Gomez Time”! Gomez is immediately transported to a giant cube that grants him and the player – through the use of the titular hat – the ability to see in three dimensions, something no one else can do. Naturally, the cube breaks and you must gather the parts so that Gomez’s world doesn’t get ripped apart trying to decide whether it’s two- or three-dimensional.
Defining Fez as a 3D platformer is inaccurate. A closer description would be to call it a 3D platformer within the limitations of a 2D platformer. This sounds confusing, and is exactly why it should be played. Think of the game world as a cube. You have the ability to move this cube on its four cardinal sides, but your character moves across it on a two-dimensional plane. Need to get on a ledge that is too high to jump to? Rotate the world and look for a platform that is approachable on the other side. There are no traditional enemies in the game, just platforming puzzles and other secret tidbits left there for 100 percent completionists. For example, there is a QR code etched into a cave wall that links to a keystroke prompt.
Indie games tend to strike a certain emotional note that many big publishers’ games don’t. Similar to Bastion and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, these kinds of games tell their own story but seem to be deliberately relatable to real life problems in a very vague sense. Fez, for example, makes a point in the beginning to have NPCs heavy-handedly talk about how two-dimensional their life is. It implies simplicity and safety in repetition. When Gomez acquires the fez and sees the world in three dimensions, only he seems to notice at first. As he progresses, the world starts to literally tear itself apart, as if a deeper world inherently brings more problems along with it. The meaning of all this can be taken in many different ways, but that’s the point. Everyone plays the same game but relates to the story in different ways.
While admittedly this review is thanks to the latest Humble Indie Bundle, Fez is usually $9.99 on Steam. With a reflective story, interesting mechanics, a vibrant and colorful world with a nice soundtrack to top it off, Fez is definitely worth the price. While not my favorite indie game of all time (good luck pushing Bastion off of that pedestal), Fez is a type of game I’d like to see more of. With an average of six hours’ worth of gameplay – with much more for the completionist in you – Fez can entertain the philosopher in you for much longer than the game itself. At a $10 price point though, it’s not a bad bargain.
With a mix of Mr. Fish’s temper and the unwashed masses of the Internet, Polytron has stated there will be no Fez 2. Whether or not this was Phil just blowing off steam is unknown, but it’s a disappointment to be sure. That being said, Fez is a wonderfully done, feel-good indie title that its industry is known for. It’s a game that literally anyone can enjoy. Gomez has fun exploring a previously unknown world full of new colors and shapes. Nuzzling itself next to other heavy hitters of the genre, Fez feels right at home and altogether different at the same time.
(Image ©2012 Polytron Corporation)