Fez, the acclaimed indie excursion – which formerly premiered on the likes of PC and Xbox 360 – has finally gotten its belated release on Sony systems, and it’s about time, too. At the forefront of the indie platforming resurgence since its protracted development begun way back in 2007, the Polytron Corporation-developed dimension-shifter hits PlayStation 4 in all its formative glory, sprouting a stunning 1080p transfer with a full, seamless 60fps. Its intricate level design and beautiful art direction are both married to the innovative gameplay at the heart of the adventure – an adventure that can have you taken aback by its simplicity, beauty and depth.
The crux of the gameplay hinges on little Gomez’s ability to shift between the four 2D views of the newly-formed 3D landscape by using the little red fez that has been placed atop of his head at the beginning of the game. Cycling through these viewpoints becomes intrinsic to the puzzle-centric nature of proceedings as it gives way to new paths, doorways and highlights previously concealed areas. Gomez’s freshly-pronounced 3D surroundings are ripping at the seams and as a result the little swashbuckler must collect a bundle of cube and cube fragments in order to save the universe he holds dear. These cubes are at the peak of areas, in crevices, hidden in cryptic wall structures and even buried behind QR codes.
The almost transcendent aura of the art style complements the segmented simplicity of the platforming incredibly; marry that with the near masterful score throughout each of the curious little areas and Fez seemingly succeeds in scaling the heights it so publicly aimed to reach. At its core, the game manages to convey itself as a remarkably contemplative adventure – a fragile, innocent journey of exploration and wonder. Gomez – with his shining, red fez perched atop his crown – can’t survive great heights, nor is he the type of muscle-bound hero who could stave off countless advancing enemies. Instead, Gomez is the type of protagonist that appeals to that childish sense of imagination and unbending resolve that’s embedded in every person; that inherent, incessant desire for adventure that seems to get lost in the hustle and bustle of adult life. After all, it’s no coincidence that Fez harkens back to the 8-bit era with nods to the likes of Tetris and The Legend of Zelda – a considered reflection of its creator’s experiences and presumably the demographic of those it’s hoped are playing.
Fez’s vibrant world is unmistakably mesmeric in its 8-bit-like conception, with a plethora of zany little characters and animals dotted about its warp-based confines. There isn’t any enemy-based obstacles, mind; the myriad of challenges present in each area usually rely on the 3D rotation mechanic alone. Death isn’t a permanent fixture either, as instant respawns negate the need for any real forethought – you can test the waters with leaps of faith without the constant worry that you’ll need to restart the game from an earlier point. Fundamentally, Fez is a game of consideration and discovery, and as such it readily encourages the gamer to formulate ideas and ways in which an obstacle can be overcome. Aside from the dimension-shifting aspect of the gameplay, Fez delves to a further depth by presenting a curious language of its own, one that doesn’t become abundantly clear from the outset. Its number-based system and interpretable alphabet can be found in nearly ever corner of the world and leads the way to many secret rooms and stages, which inevitably hold maps, keys, cube fragments and their rarer, anti-cube ilk should you gain access to them. While it is an intriguing system for discovery, it can prove quite frustrating to decipher, even for the most ardent of gamers. The sheer amount of installations to deduce in each of the larger areas can be a little daunting as a result, especially without any prompts or hints forthcoming.
The branch-out map that links everything together (accessible with a jab of the touchpad) can seem a little finicky initially, too. And it does little to waver the effort expended having to traverse from one side of the space-like plain to the other. The intricacies of the scheme do reveal themselves in time, but it just seems a little hit-and-miss at first. Also, for the most part, players are very much left to their own devices in this weird and wonderful world – it’s something that a lot may embrace and find liberating, whilst others may decry the lack of a cohesive direction. Despite its simplicity, Fez’s gameplay never feels monotonous or one-dimensional (apologies for that one), the variety of puzzles and the way in which you can approach them shifts before any tasks become too laborious. There can, of course, be times when a particularly tricky puzzle will have you scratching your head for longer than you had have hoped but the satisfaction in completion is one of complete and utter joy. The second half of the game does entrust itself a lot more around deciphering the cryptic language of the world and it could prove disheartening for players who – up until that point – have yet to master its intricacy.
For suitors of Polytron Corporation’s puzzle platformer, Gomez’s intrepid journey will comprise of moments; small, succinct memories that will stick in the minds for sometime. This may involve happening across a secret waterfall chamber containing a myriad of fantastical 8-bit colouring complete with musically pulsating blocks, or even salvaging a bunch of baffled owls to stand tall in front of their giant rotating father-esque figure. The symbiotic bond between these moments and the music afforded to each cannot be understated. The latter elicits comparisons with the likes of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis and works in near-perfect synchronicity to whatever the underlying theme of the particular area happens to be, making the whole experience one of poignant, joyous discovery.
At its heart, Fez is a title chock-full with budding imagination and brimming with a fantastically-realized world ready to be scaled, traversed and tackled. Little Gomez’s journey is one of sincerity and discovery, with enough innovation and dimension-shifts to bring a smile to anyone who decides to takes the plunge. So, pick up a controller, source a fez in whatever way possible and become enveloped in the mesmerizing world that the game so readily presents. You won’t regret it.