FEZ after it’s long awaited debut has finally arrived. Some thought the highly ambitious title from Polytron would never see the light of day since it remained quietly in the shadows after it’s 2007 announcement. But like an echo from a distant cannon it arrived with little to no warning. And it was magnificent.
FEZ has you playing an adorable little 8-bit marshmallow boy named Gomez who’s instructed by what seems to be his future self, minus one eye mind you, to find all 64 Hexadrons and save the universe his people have come to love…and maybe take for granted. Honestly I have no idea what the species of FEZ are supposed to be, but they look like cute marshmallow people. During his journey to find Hexadrons, Gomez encounters puzzles, treasure chests, locked doors, and interdimensional black holes.
Besides looking and sounding fantastic, FEZ’s real draw I think for most gamers are the gameplay and puzzles. Hidden inside this cute game is a monster, a monster looking to destroy your brain and eat everything that’s left for seconds. Gomez has the unique ability to rotate the world around him, making his once 2D sidescroller into a complete 3D cube. By the press of a trigger on the controller you can access parts (and sides) of the map you couldn’t see or get to before the world was rotated. It’s ingenious, and often times necessary to solve certain puzzles. FEZ may have the appearance of just another 8-bit arcade side scroller, but with it’s beautiful landscapes, perfect bit track soundtrack, and superb level design, FEZ quickly out matches any arcade title you’ve played this year, maybe even over the past few years. Each piece of music added to the mysterious and already well designed floating “islands”. Every level is well crafted, making every vine, platform, and lever seem purposeful. In FEZ you’re constantly asking yourself if you’re just traveling or solving a bigger piece of the puzzle.
It’s not just the concept that drives FEZ, it’s the fact that the ambitious concept actually works well and is complimented by a complete world with excellent level design. Every level is connected somehow, whether it be by a door or portal, you can access most of the world at any time. Floating islands off in the distance hint as to what you can expect when you enter a nearby door. Other doors are opened by other means such as bombs, keys, or the number of cubes you’ve acquired throughout your journey. I have to reiterate how much of everything you do in FEZ feels like it was planned from the beginning by the developers.
FEZ does have some over the top puzzles. Breaking out a pen and paper isn’t abnormal, in fact, according to most forums, it’s expected. The infamous monolith puzzle (which I never came in contact with) and Tetris puzzle being the most notorious. Some, like the Clock puzzle require you to tweak your system clock if you want to get the anti-cubes in a timely manner while others have you taking pics of QR codes. But if you’re a completionist like myself, you’ll be tearing your hair out trying to solve a lot of puzzles that have little to no explanations. The easiest way to play FEZ is to just roll with it. Travel around all the maps, pick up everything you can, and continue on. Completing the game gives you a New Game+ mode and the ability to switch to a first person perspective that will allow you to solve certain unsolvable earlier puzzles.
FEZ is my pick for Xbox arcade title of the year, being only nudged out of the top spot by ThatGameCompany’s PSN title, Journey. It’s creative, unique, and deep enough to keep your brain working for days. You can see the effort, time, and love the developer Polytron put into it. 800 Microsoft Points is a steal for a game that could easily be sold for full retail. If you enjoy puzzles and cute cuddly marshmallow aliens, FEZ is a game you should be playing. I really feel every person should at least download the demo and get a taste of it’s sweet puzzle goodness.