http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-04-12-fez-reviewYou don't need to go hunting for meaning in Fez. Chat to the villagers at the very start of the game and one wise old coot says, "Reality is perception. Perception is subjective." If there's a theme to the perspective-shift puzzles of Polytron's "2D platformer in a 3D world," then there it is. Philosophy so dispensed with, we can all just get on with soaking up the mystery and wonder of this fabulous adventure game.
In Fez, you play Gomez, a blob-headed sprite living in a peaceful, two-dimensional pixel village. One morning, he witnesses a strange event in which a monolithic golden cube disintegrates into hundreds of fragments, threatening the fabric of his reality so much that it glitches, crashes and resets (with a nice impression of an old DOS boot screen). At the same time, a magical red hat - the fez of the title - grants Gomez knowledge of his world's greatest and oldest secret: there are actually three dimensions.
Now - as well as running, jumping and climbing as he seeks the cube fragments that made up the golden "hexahedron" - Gomez can rotate his world through 90 degrees before it snaps back into a flat plane. The perspective shift reveals hidden areas and realigns platforms; a yawning gap becomes an easy jump, a thin sliver becomes a wide gangway, and impassable distances are squashed into nothingness. It's a combination of the wraparound platforming of cult '80s game Nebulus with the Escher-like spatial non-sequiturs of Echochrome, and it's a wonderful conjuring trick.
It could have been the basis for a tough brain-teaser like Braid - but the first and most enduring of Fez's many wonderful surprises is how natural, intuitive and fun the perspective-shift is to play with. The game's exploration of the idea is unforced and playful throughout, and it never stops you at a mental roadblock.
Fez's creator, artist and designer Phil Fish, doesn't have the obsessive intellectual rigour of Braid's Jon Blow, or the same interest in messing with our minds. Nor is he particularly into other typical indie concerns such as allegory, reinvention, subversion or old-school reaction-test gaming. Fish clearly worships the Nintendo of his boyhood, and has dedicated himself to unearthing the sense of surprise and secret wonder you felt playing a Metroid, Zelda or Super Mario for the first time. And he's got closer than you ever thought possible.
The simple joy of exploration is at the very heart of the appeal of video games. In Fez, it's absolutely unfettered.
It's as if Shigeru Miyamoto had made his 2001: A Space Odyssey: a peaceable game of exploration, collection and riddling shot through with a trippy, 1970s flavour of surrealism. You'll unlock doors to forgotten cities. You'll discover warp routes and hidden worlds, and reach for a pad and pen to unscramble one of several secret languages scrawled on the walls (one is composed entirely of Tetris shapes).
Most of all, you'll marvel at the twists and branches of an unravelling world map as you go deeper, higher, further still - losing yourself down one of Fez's dozens of rabbit holes that always last a few steps longer than you expected, or take you somewhere you didn't think you'd be. A floating bell tower, perhaps, or a treetop observatory, or a seedy, abandoned tenement outlined against a sky that flickers like a neon sign.
Fall to your death, and you rematerialise straight away on the last safe platform. Fez has no interest in hindering your exploration of its magical locations.
The simple joy of exploration is at the very heart of the appeal of video games. In Fez - which features no combat or enemies, and only the mildest kind of platforming peril - it's absolutely unfettered.
A great deal of this is down to Fish's art, which is as evocative as it is painstakingly crafted. Every chunk of stone is weathered slightly differently to the next, every pixel (actually rendered as a full cube in 3D) placed by hand. But credit's also due to programmer Renaud Bédard, who has tackled what must be one of the most unusual technical challenges of this gaming generation, and composer Rich Vreeland (AKA Disasterpeace) whose otherworldly synth score is lush, spooky and electrifying.
Structurally, Fez is simple and traditional. You need to collect cubes and cube fragments to unlock new areas. 32 cubes get you to the exit and the game's boggling psychedelic wig-out of a climax; this will take you maybe half a dozen hours.
After that, you get the option to start a New Game + with all your cubes and collectables, and it will take at least as long again to gather 32 more cubes and fully complete the game. Many of these will be "anti-cubes", which are the reward for solving the tougher challenges, puzzles and frequently fourth-wall-breaking riddles. (New Game + also grants a hilarious and astonishing extra that lets you peek behind the curtain and see Fez in a whole new light.)
Like last year's Super Mario 3D Land, Fez arguably gets even better after it ends. Because the structure is very loose - the stages unlocked in the first half are curious offshoots rather than branches of the main tree - your route through the game will be organic and impulse-driven, and you'll be left with plenty still to explore in the second half.
So many damn good games on Xbox, and so little time
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Thread: XBLA: Fez Discussions
XBLA: Fez Discussions
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Seems like a buy most defiantly
Get your FEZ on folks:
Price: 800 Microsoft Points
Gomez is a 2D creature living in a 2D world. Or is he? When the existence of a mysterious 3rd dimension is revealed to him, Gomez is sent out on a journey that will take him to the very end of time and space. Use your ability to navigate 3D structures from 4 distinct classic 2D perspectives. Explore a serene and beautiful open-ended world full of secrets, puzzles and hidden treasures. Unearth the mysteries of the past and discover the truth about reality and perception. Change your perspective and look at the world in a different way.
Added to my queue! I can't wait to check it out.
Joystiq Fez Review: HATS OFF
Whenever a game is hyped to stratospheric proportions, many times over a course of years, it enters a volatile realm of public reception.
When a game has won numerous awards before its launch, is one half of an industry documentary, and is developed by an outspoken, opinionated man, it resides in a universe of its own and players are relegated to describe it in one of two ways: with blazing praise or incendiary criticism.
Fez is on fire, and it burns with a brilliant, red-hot, yellow-tasseled flame.
Phil Fish of developer Polytron is an apparent perfectionist. If Fez's five-year development cycle wasn't enough of an indication, he says as much in Indie Game: The Movie, a documentary that captures the emotional aspect of independent game creation. Fish worries about the tiniest frame-rate issues and pixel glitches, redesigning the entire game three times over and obsessing over miniscule details like a madman.
I'd guess Fish isn't entirely satisfied with the final version of Fez. It runs into issues as much as any other Xbox Live Arcade title, especially an independent one, and that probably irks like crazy. I didn't experience any game-breaking mechanics problems or lag, but there was one moment a puzzle broke down completely and I had to restart the level.
Two other worlds had noticeable, predictable stuttering, mostly when jumping, but nothing so violent that it threw me off course. As these issues were quickly rectified, all I could take away was, "Man, I bet Phil Fish is pissed about that one."
In the public eye, it may be impossible to separate Fez from its outspoken, indie-famous developer. When actually playing Fez, however, what stands out is its involving gameplay and gorgeous design, making it impossible to separate it from its programmer, Renaud Bedard.
Bedard is a bit of a genius. He programmed Fez in what he calls "trixels," a 3D model similar to voxels but with more complicated properties, allowing them to appear as 2D, 8-bit "triles" while retaining their 3D properties. Players control the shift between 2D and 3D with the trigger buttons, each time stopping on a plane that appears to be an HD remake of any 1980s platformer.
The illusion is so effective that a few times I briefly forgot about the 3D shift option and attempted to play it as a strict platformer (a feat that is not possible, it should be noted). The 3D view change is seamlessly built into the worlds that Gomez, the little 2D dude with the fez hat, is tasked with exploring, and it is thrilling to watch the towers and floating islands transform with each new view.
Similar to the platformers of yore, Fez is difficult. Gomez is on a quest to recover the lost bits of an all-mighty cube, and most of them are easily obtained by exploring each new world fully. The worlds offer more than bits of cube, though – many of them have "secrets," physics puzzles and logic riddles offered without words or description, left up to the player's inference and, I've come to suspect, dumb luck.
One puzzle begins with a gigantic bell at the top of an island. Gomez can push the bell in all four directions, and that's all the information players get. I'm pretty sure I figured this one out in a few seconds, but I'm also pretty sure it was a complete accident. I've heard from other early players that this one is particularly puzzling.
Fez has players track down artifacts, treasure maps, anti-cubes and even a few QR codes, most of which served little to no purpose in my first playthrough. I have two of four artifacts and no matter how many times I pull them out and examine their ridges, I have no idea how to equip or use them.
And that owl – damn that owl.
The map itself is pretty – a constellation of trixelized stars against an inky astrological backdrop – but successfully traveling from world to world can be difficult at times. There is no "take me here" button, no magic teleportation to many of the smaller areas, forcing players to find the correct doors and warp stations, and to re-do a few worlds before reaching their true destinations. That said, every time I replayed a world, I discovered something new, something that could help my journey or was simply fascinating. The experience deepened Fez's mystery and my own hunger to reveal the secrets on every island.
I finished the game, technically, and there is still plenty more to discover, leaving the ending slightly hollow, though still deeply satisfying. I look forward to spending a few more nights unraveling the minutiae of each world, perhaps with help from friends. For you completionists out there: enjoy.
I haven't smiled as much while playing a game since my first multiplayer run of LittleBigPlanet, and even then I was only smiling because I was terrible and enjoyed frustrating my friends as they ran gracefully through the levels. Fez is comparable to Braid or Limbo in terms of recent indie platformers, but it is infinitely more heartwarming than Braid and less terrifying than Limbo.
Fez is joyful. Gomez is more expressive than a marshmallow-puff character has any right to be, and his adorability carries throughout the entire adventure. Every time he collected enough bits for a cube and he jumped up in glee, mouth wide, I mimicked him from my couch (complete with sound effects). Every time. There's a lot to be said for a game that can make a grown woman squeal with glee dozens of times in a playthrough (especially a game that doesn't star Hello Kitty).
In short, the long wait for Fez is entirely worth it. Play it, and I dare you not to smile.
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I saw a video of this yesterday, looks so good, only 800 points too? sweet!
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