“Fez” isn’t new to the gaming world. In fact, it’s a few years old, and all told the buzz about the game has kind of died out. However, where the fervor for the game subsided, a new wave of indie games inspired by its success have come. “FTL,” “Hotline: Miami” and more have come to fill the void that was left by Phil Fish’s creation.
Not your traditional platformer, “Fez” will challenge your way of approaching a puzzle in a few ways. You play as Gomez, traveling through the very well-thought-out world that he resides in. Scattered in the world are cubes that Gomez must collect in order to complete his quest.
An interesting sort of mechanic in this game is that not only are there cubes to find, but Anti-Cubes. These are rewarded to the player when they solve some sort of contextual puzzle in the world. Here is where things get tricky.
So, the majority of “Fez” has puzzles that are merely platforming in nature. You jump, climb and rotate the camera (which in turn rotates the whole world) to find cubes scattered through the nooks and crannies. Some cubes require solving small puzzles or the rotation of platforms to reach point B from point A.
Now, the twist comes in. Throughout the world there are signs, symbols and some creatures that you can interact with in order to find these Anti-Cubes. The issue that many players have, as evident by the numerous guides for this game and YouTube walkthroughs, is that when encountering these puzzles early on, people are generally clueless as to how to solve these. This is not to say that people aren’t good at solving these puzzles, but merely that the way these puzzles are presented and how they interact with the player are slightly ambiguous.
When you think about puzzle games you don’t generally think about how the puzzle interacts with the player, but in this instance I’m going to explain that. Puzzles are not merely just the presentation of a conundrum and then some hints, depending on the type of puzzle. In “Fez,” the puzzles don’t really give you a lot of feedback unless you find certain items in the world which act as keys to solve them.
The closest example to this that I can give is probably “Kings Quest.” That being said, I don’t really feel that this type of puzzle solving is conducive to a game that seems to flow so well as “Fez” does. Not to say that some of these difficult puzzles are impossible. But many of them would have taken me quite a long time and a lot of hunting to even find the keys. And I’m not talking keys to doors, I’m talking about keys to understanding things like a key to a map.
I feel that while the puzzles are clever and do have some charm and even mystery to them, which in and of itself is quite cool and unique, I don’t feel they really go well in this particular game. “Fez” moves at a good clip, and admittedly would be a pretty short game without the Anti-Cubes. But that is not to say that short is bad. “Dishonored” was and is a really great game, although additional length could have benefited world-building.
But “Fez” slowly gets bogged down by these cleverly hidden puzzles in a way that seems a little, if not insanely, frustrating at times. If not for these puzzles, I would actually have said this was a close-to perfect game.
Though these things do not degrade “Fez” in a way that make it a terrible game. In fact, I would say that if one is looking for a great example of an indie game that was part of the first wave of new blood in an industry that was dying of stagnation, “Fez” is right up your alley.
“Fez” brings the charm, fun, and fluidity of a good, solid game to Playstation 4 in a way that “Rayman: Legends” did, but without resurrecting a long dead mascot. Just remember to break out a pad and paper for those really tough brain teasers that show up late in the game.