Fez Review (XBLA)

One thing that seems to be a constant battle for game developers is to keep games original and fresh. At least in the sense that the idea and gameplay are new, or that it’s another take on an old idea. Some try to add complexity and detail with stunning graphics and an intricate storyline, or in the case of this game, they do the opposite. For instance, this game from Trapdoor and Polytron called Fez, doesn’t have very detailed graphics like some games and the storyline is simple and easy to understand. However it is precisely these reasons, along with some clever puzzles, and wonderful interpretation of the surroundings that could make this game a classic.

It all starts with one of the best prologues that I have seen in awhile. I won’t spoil the fun for those who haven’t played it yet, but it will make you think. Your character starts in a 2D world, living in a tower like structure floating in the sky with others of his kind. All seems ok until a beam of light takes him away and tells him (with the help of a mysterious shining cube) that the world he lives in is breaking up and the only way he can save it is to find fragmented pieces of cubes that are scattered around his world. In fact this shining cube reminded me of a 80’s US television show called Automan who had a companion called Cursor that looked just like it; OK that shows my age!

It’s at this point that you are given a ‘Fez’ to wear – this hat has the power to change your 2D world into a 3D one. Now this will take some explaining, but essentially by using your LB LT/RB RT shoulder buttons you can rotate your environment on its vertical axis. This means that you can now walk all around the tower and explore everything. I really liked this idea, and it was made all the better when you realise that to everyone and everything else, the world is still 2D. This means that you can access areas that would otherwise be out of reach. This knowledge and ability plays a big part in the puzzles which mainly involve ways to get to pieces of the broken cubes.

You move around by going through doors which lead you other structures, both airbourne and floating in the sea. The transition between the two is very atmospheric as you see the next area appear out of the mist and travel towards you. There are also gates that are opened every time you complete a cube, which take you to the next level.

The graphics are presented in a retro-pixelated style, but this in no way detracts from the gameplay. In fact, the simple design is beautifully created and there are subtle details that are so well designed as to almost appear incidental. There is great use of light and shade and the textures, while looking basic, achieve the desired effect beautifully.

The soundtrack for Fez has a haunting electronic style that matces the game well and helps to add to the atmosphere, although you will be so engrossed in the game that you probably won’t be thinking about it.

Overall Fez is a very clever and well thought out game which will happily occupy many hours for most people, I’m sure. The simple but beautifully designed graphics, slow haunting music and cleverly devised puzzles are a joy and proves that there are still good ideas out there. Fez may have taken a number of years to get to this point, but it was worth the wait.

Fez can be downloaded from the Xbox LIVE arcade now.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

About the Author

I'm based in the UK and I have been writing about games for quite a while now. I like most types of game which helps, but I especially love management games.