April 13, 2012
Perspectives, and heads, are turned…
The best games are those that take a simple concept and expand upon it till the concept has become a sprawling playground off ideas and opportunities. What Fez manages to do is subvert the way a modern gamer thinks about achieving their endgame and instead asks them, literally and metaphorically, to change their perspective.
Fez is a very simple platformer in the vein of so many before it, in that you jump around between landings and make your way through doors and up ladders. The most obvious twist is the ability to switch the view between four angles, changing your perspective of the level and therefore the 2-dimensional field of play. Large gaps can become shorter when looked at from a different angle, which is the most basic usage of the technique. This eventually expands to encompass a whole range of ideas that allow you to traverse some increasingly challenging puzzles, some of which have managed to stump the entire internet community, for it is in the deeply observed solutions rather than the puzzles themselves that is the most intriguing aspect of Fez. For instance, one notorious puzzle gives you a set of blocks to maneuver accompanied by a set of symbols on a wall with no explanation whatsoever. As soon as you figure out what the symbols are referring to the answer becomes very obvious, but the journey to get there is definitely worth the simple solution.
It has astounded me how cleverly Fez has managed to bring people together in a single-player game as they shared and compared notes on its fiendishly obscure world. Unfortunately that experience has disappeared now what with all the solutions being known, so if you do want to keep at least part of the magic alive then I would advise you to play the game with a friend so you can work it out together. There is still the matter of the final puzzle however, whose answer is known but, interestingly, not the question, and is still being hotly debated and discussed everywhere so if you make a move now maybe you’ll be able to uncover the truth behind Fez’ black monolith.
It is also a rather dark and bleak game for one so bright and colorful, as you will encounter a world in silence, forgotten but not missed with many secrets that are never fully explained. It is beautiful in this respect, and though it makes attempts to honor the 16-bit games that inspired it the real genius is in the way it tells its own story through its own language. And Fez does actually contain its own alphabet and number system as well as a third secret codex, all of which must be mastered to complete it fully but, again, once resolved the answers become very clear.
The most intriguing aspect of Fez is in its silence and the way it encourages you to attain full completion through you own sense of enjoyment alone rather than because those missing collectibles all come with rewards. And you will find yourself grinning and patting yourself on the back often as you put two and two together to somehow make a three that works, although you will also just as often look down at the notes you’ve written and wonder what tiny mistake you’ve made in order to prevent you opening a simple door.
Fez, then, is transient, a game that exists on paper and on the internet as much as it does on the screen in front of you. It is also very confident and rightfully so, except for when it gives you a challenge which is more arduous than interesting. Overall though it is a positive experience and will keep people talking for a long time yet.
A lot of people are talking about Fez right now. Have you played it? Would you like to see a sequel?