Fez is a creatively designed game that combines puzzle and platformer elements all set against the backdrop of a colorful low res world.
- Rotate the game world in three dimensions to solve puzzles and navigate the environment
- New game plus offers a whole new layer of more difficult challenges
- Packed with collectibles and secret riddles
- Lovely art style evokes an earlier era of gaming
- Hits a sweet spot between challenging and forgiving
- The original game was designed for controllers, and navigating using a touch screen can be awkward
- Pricing is on the high end for mobile games
Fez isn't going to strike anyone as a graphical powerhouse. That wasn't the case years ago when it was first released on modern game consoles, and it's not even the case today as it competes with other games on the more limited mobile market. But what it lacks in graphical fidelity, it makes up for in style and charm. The pixelated graphics are simple, reflecting some level of quality between NES and Super Nintendo design, but with their bright color palette and evocative design, they manage to do some pretty impressive world building. Part of this is due to the sense of place. The world the developers have created are lush and unique, a floating tower extending into seemingly endless space in both directions and defying our basic understanding of Euclidean geometry. But there's nothing haphazard about Fez's level design. While it has the look of a simple two dimensional throwback to classic gaming, the core gameplay feature completely throws that notion out the window. The cubist structure of the tower you navigate makes sense once you realize that your geographical space can be rotated towards the fixed perspectives of each side. Therein lies the genius of the game. What would manifest as clear navigational challenges in a two dimensional or three dimensional game become creative puzzles in Fez, as navigating your environment means shifting between the four available perspectives. If a ledge exists but can't be seen from your perspective, it can't be navigated, but rotating other aspects of the environment can fully obscure pits and other challenges, essentially putting them out of sight and out of mind. It's a simple principle that the developers wring a lot of potential out of, as very basic fundamentals develop into creative and sometimes frustrating affairs. New complications like hidden pathways, locked doors, and overly complicated backtrack patterns add new layers to the experience over the course of play. In the same way that Fez draws aesthetic inspiration from retro games, it also draws deeply from the challenge of these era of games. The platforming in Fez is not easy, and the concealed nature of a lot of the challenges means that finding the right route to success is often a task of trial and error. This would be frustrating were it not for the basic reload system. Dying is never permanent, and each mistake results in a nearby respawn. There's the sensation that you're always climbing upward and always discovering something new. And there's a lot to discover. The four dimensions of Fez greatly expands the square footage of the actual game world in deceiving ways, and there's plenty of secrets hidden throughout the environment. Riddles and ciphers expand greatly on the narrative of the game and provide deeper level endgame content, essentially constituting a meta game that exists well beyond the core experience. For those interested in puzzlers, Fez is a uniquely quirky experience worth checking out.