Owls creep me out.
Phil Fish and his Polytron Corporation have been in the news for quite a while now, and it’s not always been to talk about Fez, but the long wait is finally over. Originally announced in 2007, Polytron’s much touted, inaugural platformer is upon us and whether you end up enjoying it, or not, Fez will certainly leave an impression on you. Can Polytron save the platformer? Can platformers save gaming? Let’s find out.
Fez is the story of Gomez, a little 2D man who is suddenly shown that his world contains a third dimension and that he must collect cubes to keep the universe from collapsing. He is given a Fez, the silly hat you can see in the pictures, which gives him the ability to rotate the environments of his world. Fez borrows heavily from the platformers of old, but proceeds in a direction that is all its own.
Controlling Gomez is simple but requires some subtle strategy as he can jump much further with a run-off of a few steps, he can also grab ledges and climb walls with vines on them. This might sound simple at first but Fez’s complexities lie in way you must navigate the third dimension. Hitting either trigger on the controller will cause the world to do a quarter turn. Gomez still moves through the environments on a 2D plane but one simple rotation can drastically change the path that is open to you.
You’ll find that rotating the world may cause two pillars you’re trying to jump between to now be closer together, due to the fact that they only appear to be pillars because of your viewpoint and are actually larger platforms. Platforms that move on rails can also have their rails extended and connected to other paths by rotating the world. It isn’t just Gomez who sees the world differently when it is turned, the world behaves as if the new 2D view is now reality. It is this mechanic that makes Fez so much more than just another platformer. It is actually hard to explain, in words, but I’m trying here! When you successfully navigate through a level you’ll feel more intelligent instead of more agile or lucky.
The semi open world design of Fez manages to simultaneously make the game great, and hold it back. From a sort of central hub you’ll be opening doors by collecting X number of cubes so some backtracking is required. This backtracking is made frustrating by the confusing world map which doesn’t do a great job of showing you the many branching paths of each level in Fez, and warp gates don’t give you a good indication of where they’re taking you. Backtracking aside, Fez’s open world gives you a real sense of exploration and stops you from feeling like you’re just moving from level to level.
The clever visual style comes together with some fantastic ambient music to paint a picture of a world you won’t soon forget. It’s easy to see that a lot of love and care when into the making of Fez and for 800 Points ($10) this is a journey everyone should take.
There are no multiplayer modes in Fez.
Fez serves to remind us that games can be simple while still being fun and engrossing. Despite some cumbersome backtracking, and a few minor technical issues, Fez is an enjoyable trip that I think everyone should experience. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another five years for Polytron’s next game as there’s some real talent behind Fez.