When I first saw footage of Fez, I said, “This is going to be the Braid of 2009.” When it wasn’t released a year later, I said, “It’ll be the Braid of 2010.” Yet another year later I said, “Uhh…” So is Fez the Braid of 2012? Pretty much. Fez is a hippocampus-shaking adventure through two and a half dimensions – a Rubick’s Cube molded into a platformer. But it’s not without its problems.
Amazing graphics and sound, very fun gameplay
Completionist’s nightmare, frustrating navigation
Fez’s main play mechanic is letting the player rotate the screen 90 degrees with the press of a button. By rotating the camera, the game’s protagonist, Gomez, can transcend space a handful of pixels at a time and move to otherwise off-limits areas. Fez is all about navigating a 3D space using only two dimensions at a time. You could make the argument that this mechanic has been used before. But it’s never been used as successfully as it is in Fez.
The first thing anyone will notice about Fez is its visual style. While Gomez, his pals, the local wildlife, and backgrounds seem to be sprite- or vector-based, all other objects are cubist 3D models. However, due to the way the camera locks into a head-on perspective, the illusion of a 2D world is created. It’s absolutely striking and doesn’t wear off. Perfectly complementing this low-res look is the game’s soundtrack. Like Braid, the music is not only relevant but also very well done.
The goal of the game is to collect as many cubes (or “devil squares”) as possible. These are hidden throughout the levels, some much harder to find than others. While most puzzles depend on the player’s navigating Gomez through the level in clever ways, there are other puzzles where the player has to decipher certain codes and messages and either input those into the controller or rearrange glyph-engraved boxes. Because of the game’s cryptic alphabet, this can be an overwhelming task.
Speaking of overwhelming, Fez is a pretty huge game. Normally this is a good thing. But Fez’s levels are mapped out in a confusing manner. Once you’re hunting for the last ten or so cubes, you’ll be running around all the levels. This is an absolute pain in the ass, even with warp gates at your disposal. This is the game’s weakest point. I don’t get headaches often, but navigating Fez is not a walk in the park.
But really, that’s probably Fez’s only weak point. The game is cute, funny, and addicting. The worlds and characters are well-designed, the self-referential humor (such as glitches appearing in the game, the game appearing to reboot, and the monochrome levels) is tasteful, and you’ll often find yourself searching for “just one more cube.”
While they’re not exactly comparable, I think Fez will get a lot of comparisons to Braid. There are a lot of Braid haters out there, but I think it’s pretty close to a perfect game. Fez isn’t as close, but it’s still very fun, memorable, and most of all, original.