Nostalgia will be the first thought that pushes forward during your initial acquaintance with Fez. This is due in large part to the 8-bit art style. As you begin your journey in Fez, you quickly become accustomed with the swapping perspective mechanic. Solving puzzles in Fez requires you to rotate the screen to gain a new perspective of the 2D field. This tool essentially makes playing a 2D game 3D. Using the rotating mechanic feels fluid and intuitive. As the game progresses the use of this tool becomes increasingly more complicated, which leads into some interesting puzzle designs
The puzzles can be painstakingly cryptic, to the point where Zelda on the NES looks laughable. Bombing a random wall to find a dungeon seems feeble in comparison to cracking the tome, an artifact, in Fez. Although, the puzzles are formidable, subtle hints and clues are scattered across the world of Fez. The answers are out there; they just require an incredible attention to detail and a lot of thought. In theory, you could solve all of the puzzles without any help, but that is unlikely. The complicated detail of these puzzles has never been seen before. The challenge of solving Fez’s puzzles is worth the purchase alone. However, the intense brain-busting puzzles will scare off many gamers.
The majority of your time with Fez will be spent solving puzzles. With that being said, the puzzles will consistently amaze you in their variety. Fez kicks conventional puzzle solving wisdom to the curb and offers up new techniques. Mentioning a puzzle would almost certainly spoil the most satisfying part of the game— completing a puzzle on your own. Know this: the riddles in fez will have you racking your brain for solutions in unconventional ways. Despite the incredible difficulty in many of the puzzles, only half of the cubes have to be collected to finish the game. By doing this, Phil Fish has kept the game more accessible to casual gamers. Hardcore gamers will have to think outside the box in ways they have never done before.
Collecting all of the anti cubes and other hidden items is a whole other beast. To find everything you will have to decipher the alphabet, crack the numerical code, and learn to interpret the Tetris blocks. Completing all of these tasks is a tall order, but the experience feels almost incomplete without collecting all of the cubes. To truly understand Fez you have to at least take a stab at these incredibly intricate and complex puzzles. Phil Fish has masterfully crafted some of the best puzzles you will ever see in a video game. In his accomplishment, Fish clearly pays tribute to the games he sought guidance from.
Upon opening your first chest, a tune plays that sounds eerily similar to Zelda’s chest opening song. Furthermore, an entire code within the game uses Tetris blocks to solve puzzles. Other 8-bit classic references are there as well. Newer gamers may miss the association to older games, but that will have no effect on your time with Fez. No reward is available for noticing; it’s just there to let you know where Phil Fish drew his mystical inspiration.
The enchanting mystique of Fez builds off of more than the perplexing puzzles; an oddly vacant world contributes as well. Outside of the town, you will not encounter another soul. Isolation is a common theme throughout your travels. Discovering the origins of the language and numerical system in Fez will further contribute to your feeling of isolation and abandonment. Discovery may be the strongest facet of Fez. Stumbling across a hidden path or an anti-cube makes for some of the most satisfying experiences to be had in gaming.
The music runs synonymous with the overall experience of Fez. The tracks pop on at various points in areas to build upon your emotions. The first song you will hear in the village upon starting Fez is appropriately named "Home." This track places a sense of safety as you explore the village for clues about the world. As you progress towards the warp area, a tune kicks on and with it comes a strong feeling of exploration. Moments such as these make the music incredibly memorable.
Despite all of Fez’s brilliant moments the game does suffer from a few notable issues. One of the first issues you may take note of is the drop in frame rate when passing through different levels. The game tends to chug a little and more noticeably over long playing periods. Fez also has a rare tendency to freeze up. Luckily, Fez auto saves upon entering every new room. Also, don’t be surprised to find yourself glitching out of rooms and falling to your death repeatedly. All of these problems are minor in comparison to the ambitious scope of Fez.
Fez’s unique take on the 2D platformer genre opens up new possibilities. The rotating mechanic brings a fresh and original experience that XBLA has become famous for offering. The intense puzzle design may make some gamers shy away, but this is an experience that cannot be missed. Playing something as magical as Fez comes around once a generation. Don’t make the mistake of passing up on this gem.