Game Review: FEZ
It’s very refreshing to see games being released that put more emphasis on being simple and fun as suppose to having high quality graphics and forgetting the be what it is: a game. Games are meant to be fun, and a lot of console games tend to forget that. Well after five years in development, FEZ is one such game that chooses simplicity over flashy and in the end it pays off with it’s unique take on platformers by injecting puzzles galore and the ability to shift the world around you in order to explore it.
FEZ starts of as what is a very simpler platform game. Then 10 minutes later that’s when it becomes much more than that. You play as Gomez, an 8-bit sprite in a 2-D world who discovers the Hexahedron, a multi-colored cube that is keeping the world together and gives him a hat that gives him the ability to discover a third dimension in his seemingly 2-D world. Using this new ability it’s up to him to restore the Hexahedron and save the world. The premise is simple like the olden day when all you need was a one sentence premise to set you off on your adventure.
Once your quest begins that when the gameplay takes on a whole new twist and becomes more than just a simple platformer. You’re introduced to the concept of rotating the levels in order to navigate them and find items. The game utilizes Escher-like optical illusions in order to help you traverse the levels like Echochrome. You may find a platform out of reach, but rotate the level and suddenly that platform will be a lot closer than before. Can’t make a jump, rotate the level and suddenly your on the platform you couldn’t reach before. Later in the game, you have to rotate the level in order to solve the game’s many, many puzzles. This aspect of gameplay is so simple yet it also adds so much depth to the game. You’ll find yourself constantly finding new paths and puzzles everytime you revisit levels as you search for the bit of the Hexahedron as well as the games many secrets. The game also tosses in a few extra mechanics such as bombs and rotating levers that you’ll need to get through the levels. As you progress you’ll come across black holes(or in this case squares) that will force you to navigate around them in order to progress, though thankfully they disappear when you enter a room and come back. But it’s nice to have something to keep you on your toes especially since there are no enemies in the game leaving you to focus on figuring out how to make it through each level.
The level structure is great and daunting at the same time. Most of the levels are big and and quite the climb, especially since you’ll always be looking for and items you haven’t found or secrets yet to be discovered. Each level also has sub-level which range from medium size levels to very small levels and sometimes you’ll find yourself in a closed room with a secret for you to find. Completionists should beware; expect to lose many hours exploring these levels. But thankfully the game comes equipped with a map that not only shows you the levels and how many sub-levels there, but also shows you how many items are in each level and will tell you if there is a secret you have to find with in the level. It’s a great way to keep track of what you have left to find so you won’t have to constantly back track in order to make sure you found everything.
Though there are still plenty of secrets you may miss regardless. The puzzles in this game really force you to think. There are time where you will just sit there staring at what may be a puzzle trying to figure out the solution. And that is where the beauty of the game’s design comes in. The game itself is beautiful. Yes, it’s all 8-bit, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be gorgeous. The colors all fit perfectly with each level, helping to set the mood. You get bright, sunny levels, dark gloomy levels, and some levels stuck in a perpetual sunset. The game even has a day and night cycle as well. Each level design feels like a natural extension of the world and not just some random level design. As simple as each level looks, overall it feels like a fully realized world.
The design factors heavily into solving puzzles as well. This game is filled with mystery. Background images seemed to be filled with random shapes. Are the random, or are they in fact solutions to a puzzle? That is what is so great about the design. Anything could be a puzzle solution , a puzzle itself, or just a simple background. Prepare for your mind to be tested.
The music is great and fits the game like a glove. It’s very relaxing and always sets the mood for each level. The sound is great as well, making you feel nostalgic with all the 8-bit sound effects. Nothing ever feels out of place with the game. The only issues with the game is that some of the puzzle solutions can be too tough to figure out. Also traveling between levels can become very confusing at times even with the map available and more often than not you’ll find yourself backtracking through levels you weren’t trying to get to.
The gameplay is simple, the design fantastic, the puzzles challenging, and most importantly the game is fun. If you’re looking for something to give you a challenge or just looking for a fun indie game then you owe it to yourself to download this one.