That’s right: this is my first video review. I’ll include the writen review too for those who’d rather read it. However, if you wouldn’t mind watching the video and telling me what you think, i’d appreciate it.
By William Shelton
Release Date: May 1st, 2013
Systems: PC(Reviewed), PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360
Developer: Polytron Corp/Phil Fish
Metacrtic Score: 91
Before I begin this review I’d like to give a great big “Thank you” to Lorin Grieve, Iain Hopwood and Laura Kate for graciously gifting me this copy of FEZ. Together these three run the bi-weekly “Year of Steam” Podcast where they review games in their steam backlog. If you like my work I highly recommend checking out the podcast as it’s very similar and these three are simply fantastic people. You can find them on Itunes or @YearofSteamPod on twitter.
If nothing else Fez is one of the most relaxing games i’ve ever played. There is no combat, death only sets you back a few seconds and the puzzles, while challenging, are meant to be played at your own pace. All together this creates one of the most serene experiences I’ve played through in a long time. While I might not have mainlined the game like I did Dark Souls, Shovel Knight or Fallout, Fez’s calming atmosphere kept me coming back, especially after stressful days.
The story, for what it’s worth, is that a mysterious cube has shattered in your two dimensional world, granting you a Fez with the power to control the third dimension. As such it is now your job to collect all the peaces of the cube and bring 2D order back to the world. Once established the story takes a back seat, allowing the player to jump right into the puzzle solving. However, there is one…let’s call it a “visual gag” near the beginning that freaked me the hell out and I still can’t tell you exactly what the point of it was.
Game play wise Fez works like most other 2D platforms: you use the directional buttons to move and spacebar to jump. What makes Fez stand out however, is your ability to control the environment. By using the “A” and “D” keys you can turn the world to the side, giving you access to new areas and platforms. Not only that, but the perspective shift also allows for previously disconnected elements of the world to take on new forms that can help you progress. For example, two disconnected ladders might become a unified whole once you look at them from a different angle. While the logic of this breaks down when you apply…any thought to the idea, it still remains an interesting (and more importantly, “fun”) mechanic that is put to good use throughout the game.
Unfortunately there is one major flaw that holds the game back: navigation. While the in game map does show you what areas you’ve been to and how many paths there are connected to your current location, it doesn’t show you how to access most of them. Often this made heading back to a previous area a chore as I’d have no idea if I was going back the way I came, backtracking to an already cleared puzzle room or heading off to a new area all together. While my annoyance is tempered somewhat by the consent amusement each new area provides, i still can’t over look how frustrating it is finding my way back to the starting area after only a few hours. Even with the fast travel system navigation remains the games biggest blemish as you can only warp to and from certain locations.
The music mostly serves to establish atmosphere, but there is a certain beauty too it. Much like Akira Yamaoka’s work on the Silent Hill games, I wouldn’t listen to the games soundtrack on its own but I can’t imagination playing the game while listening to anything else either. I tried playing the game while listening to one of my podcasts or youtube play lists, but it just wasn’t the same. To be fair though, Death Angel and Kreator were probably not what Phil Fish had in mind when designing the game.
All in all, I really enjoyed Fez. I may not play It as regularly as other games, but knowing this is in my steam library and that can keep going back to it makes me very happy. If you haven’t played this yet I absolutely think you should give it a look.
And remember, if you like this review you can find the rest of my work over at Poor Mans Geek (dot) wordpress (dot) com.