FEZ is an amazing game that uses a unique camera-rotation premise to transform a 3D world into a 2D platforming challenge. The game is reminiscent of the older Zelda games, where you locate treasure chests and hearts through enjoyable but often aimless adventuring. Many of the puzzles could take hours for the average player to solve—assuming they’re not using internet walkthroughs. Luckily, most of the puzzles are optional, and make the New Game+ an experience just as fresh as the first playthrough. Overall, the game is a hallmark of indie gaming—representing both a step in design and a step in the success of the Arcade systems gracing XBOX360, PSN, and iPhones and iPads.
The game’s main fault is its poor navigation system. Granted, you have to explore through multiple third dimensions with plenty of hidden doors, so mapping becomes nearly impossible. For what they did, it suffices; But it could probably be better. If you need to get from one point to another, using the map is difficult. Another small critique of this wonderful game is that you can’t solve everything yourself. You’re required to use outside sources if you want to complete the game—and even to this day, no one’s figured out why the answer to the final puzzle is what it is. It reminds me of the days when internet forums were the only places to find walkthroughs and cheats—but beyond that nostalgia, it can break an intimate experience, especially since it’s required.
In tandem with the strange 3D concept, the world of FEZ has been lovingly tailored from every angle. You can see the work of the artist in each level, although the occasional frame rate drops can get annoying, especially in larger environments or during loading screens. Otherwise, the game has spectacular visuals, especially visible in the one-time creatures that make their appearance. There are no enemies, but the scenery can be just as imposing—I found the owl statues to be kind of creepy when I first encountered them, since they were also able to move in 3D.
The game does feature smooth controls, with jumps and hit tests having a generous radius to allow for a streamlined experience. Death rarely sets you back, and the most trouble it will ever give you is forcing you to climb down an extra 20 seconds. Combined with no combat, this allows you to focus on the platforming and—more importantly—the puzzles of the game. These puzzles harken back to the original riddles presented by its predecessors—but FEZ also adds onto them and provides a bold new take on the genre. It’s a true and innovated puzzle game, and all other elements of the game fall to the side in prominence. The excellent sound track and design keep you immersed and focused throughout the course of a game, and is one of the few OSTs that are perfectly suited for the game they appear in. It could not be better.
FEZ offers a new take on an old genre, and while it might appear clichéd compared to recent indie games, it’s definitely a new and defined experience. Since it’s nearly impossible to 100% the game in one playthrough (50% is the minimum required to beat it), it has a huge replay value. Exploring through the world is refreshing, even if you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. The game makes some interesting crashes through the fourth wall, and the New Game+ introduction is downright hilarious (and simultaneously awesome, if you 100% completed the game). If you have an XBOX 360 and the spare change to get it, I’d advise you not to miss FEZ. My score of 9.3 is very conservative and takes into account the very rare frame drops and the clunky map system—without those tiny faults, it could truly be a perfect game. It’s a landmark in the world of gaming, and won’t exit the indie game conversation for years to come.