Xbox 360 (XBLA)
April 13th, 2012
Taking 2D platforming to the next level you think would be something like the transition from Super Mario 3 to Super Mario 64, right? Well Polytron has pulled a Back to the Future over our eyes and taken the sideroad into that weird timeline where Biff is a king. Fez enables the world to revolve around you, quite literally bringing new meaning to the phrase ďself-centeredĒ.
Imagine how cool it would be to live in a 2D world. The commute to work would be nothing but a few hops, skips, and a dozen belly dives to the right. Stairs would be non-existent as ledges would be the only thing that you could use to ascend the levels, well, and jetpacks. The only problem I can see with that scenario is the amount of people constantly walking on my roof, that might get a little irritating. This obviously is not how our world works, however, these are the struggles of the marshmallow people of.. marshmallow village.
The day has come where all that is about to change. It seems that the Hexahedron has deemed that young Gomez is destined for greatness and is willing to share a secret with him that has eluded the rest of the marshmallow people. For eons, the marshmallow people have lived their lives stuck on a 2D plane of existence, and Gomez is now able to look around the corner, giving depth to the world.
As with all fantasies of this nature, the massive power has come at a high price, and now the only one who can right this wrong is the man who was more marsh then the rest. When the Hexahedron bestowed those powers on young Gomez, he, or anyone else in the village had no idea that the power was powerful enough to shatter the mighty cube in the sky. Why should you care about the cube in the sky? Well, it so happens that it is the Hexahedron that holds the fabric of this world together and without the cube at the center, the world will collapse into itself, a fact made ever so evident by the number of black holes opening up across the lands.
Collecting all Hexahedrons cubes together and restoring stability to the lands is the ultimate goal in Gomezís agenda. But an element far more interesting presents itself when you notice the patterns everywhere.. You start to notice everything, you become instantly aware of the three encrypted sets of symbols that are used. Fez has another story, beneath the one that most people will see. Some would say that it has an anti-story. The best part is that you donít have to do it, or you can only do it, or you can do both for the epic ending.
Fez is one of those games that looks like it was aimed at the retro crowd, but it overshot it going almost too retro. The background is beautifully designed, especially seeing as how it is actually a 3D world meant to look 2D, and has a bubbly feel to it. The only thing I donít really understand is why everyone looks like a marshmallow, I mean never before have I wanted to burn down a village.. Graham crackers anyone?
The sound carries the same bubbly feel that the graphics have, so in that sense it works well. The problem I have with it is that most of the time it is too quiet to hear, I mean unless they are trying to shove a Zelda reference down our throats with the sounds of opening chests.
A few hours into Fez and you should be about done of the simple find all the cubes part of the gameplay. Sure the world rotation is a cool feature but spend a few hours at it and navigating your way over to that platform where the golden cube is held shouldnít really stress you even in the slightest. Most of the puzzles in this area practically solve themselves with a few turns one way or another, the only difficulty coming in when you miss a door or two. If this was all the game required, Iím sure the the world would be saved in no time, and almost anyone could do it.
However, there is a dark cloud amongst this silver lining. The game shows an almost separate game entirely when you discover your first ďAnti CubeĒ. Anti Cubes are just like regular cubes except they are made of antimatter and are far more rare. For every normal cube there exists and anti cube and these are generally hidden behind puzzles that would drive all sorts of people mad.
Within the game there exists an entirely separate ancient language, and without the help of the rosetta stone hidden away in one of the many levels, I doubt anyone but the best cryptographers would be able to decipher the text. In this language there is an entire alpha-numeric alphabet as well as button layouts using the pieces from tetris. This add a whole new level to the game and certainly redeems itself in this regard.
The world, aside from the map, is beautifully laid out with warp gates connecting everything the right way. There are even secret passages hidden in the levels that will take you halfway through the world. This allows for some pretty easy navigation, just donít go relying on the map to tell you where to go.
The game may be beautifully designed but if it doesnít work then the entire thing falls to pieces. Well, pieces do fall. Later in the game there seems to be some mad memory leakage, affecting every part of the gameplay, slowing it down. Even the load times have a debuff on them and you can see it the the frame rate. I honestly didnít think it was possible for a loading screens frame rate to drop but Fez has shown me the way. Of course, the late game is still playable, but just be warned, the choppiness is bad quality assurance testing, not your setup.
The replayability wonít be generated from the main story alone but your curiosity of whatís behind that final door. Of course, finding that is a challenge itself if youíre one of the few people playing without the internetís guiding hand. For the rest of us cheaters who downloaded an image of the solved language, itís merely a task of finding all the collectibles, including the ultra secret artifacts. And that is something that the game is not short on, I mean if you count all the anti-cubes as collectibles seeing as how you can finish the game without ever finding one.
After completing the game for the first time and saving all the lands, you are rewarded with only a kill screen, possibly the most retro thing about this game, but a new mode. NG+ lets you keep all the cubes that youíve collected when you start a new story, preventing you from wasting your time but it bestows upon Gomez another power that will help you solve some more of these puzzles, allowing you to open the final door.
To say that Fez is just another 2D sidescroller game is to say that the mighty BLT is just another sandwich. There is layers to each of these things, but without the very best of all the parts, youíre left fantasizing about what couldíve been. The fact that the game slows down in the end the way it does due to poor programming is on the same level with me as getting bad mayo on that BLT, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Gameplay is going to be hit and miss, with everyone. However, itís cool that you can play the game the way that you want to. If you want to play along casually only getting the golden cubes, doing the easy platforming for a few hours at a time, thatís fine. For ten dollars, Fez offers quite a bit if youíre looking to dive into the deep deep world that encompasses the almost creepy mystery of this universe, then youíd best clear your desk, youíre going to need a lot of room for all the paper youíre going to use writing down random codes and inputs. Prepare to look like a crazy person.