By Polytron Released: 13 Apr 12
Also on: PC
Fez begins like so many retro adventure and RPGs, with its protagonist - in this case a little blobby fella named Gomez - getting out of bed. From the first screen portraying Gomez's room we're introduced to some fourth wall breaking humour with a Zelda poster (minus the text) hanging in the background and a drum kit adorned with developer, Polytron's logo. It's easy to think Fez is shaping up to be a satire of 8-bit gaming, but it soon becomes apparent that it's its own beast.
This is first evident when Gomez encounters an otherworldly cube - a shape that shouldn't exist in this 2D land – that instils in him the ability to see his once two-dimensional world in 3D. You still move along a 2D plane, but hitting a shoulder button rotates the scene 90 degrees. Objects that look far away from one angle will appear nearby from another, and the absence of a traversable Z-axis allows such visual trickery to reshape reality.
Shifting perspectives becomes essential when scouring Fez's world for secrets. Fez doesn't contain any combat, upgrades, or game overs. Instead, the emphasis is squarely (pun intended) on exploration and puzzle solving. The goal of the game is to collect a series of cubes, but there are plenty of other treasures hidden throughout dozens of interconnected areas and sussing out their locations can be extraordinarily difficult.
Fez's arcane world is full of mysterious glyphs, obscure machinery, and all manner of oddities like a strangely engraved bell, bizarre grave-like stones, and an ominous owl statue that looks directly at the camera no matter which angle you spin the environment. In an age where games tend to handhold to the point of ruining solutions, it's invigorating to encounter so much peculiar paraphernalia, unsure of its purpose.
One minor gripe - there were a couple times where I uncovered hidden QR codes. I appreciated having to think outside the box and use my iPhone on these, but I don't think we're to the point where everyone has a QR reader handy, so it's an odd, somewhat off-putting assumption to make of players.
At least these are optional. Completing Fez only requires you find half of its collectible cubes. There are plenty of puzzles that can't be solved initially that you'll have to return to, so while several of Fez's secrets are buried deep, you'll rarely hit a point where you can't progress at all.
Ultimately, Fez is a game about tinkering around in a labyrinthine world while wearing a funny hat. Maybe you'll stubbornly insist on gathering every collectible, maybe you'll just want to cruise through its cubist countryside until you've hit your head against a wall, or maybe you'll trek around snapping pictures to decipher the cryptic lore. Fez's ornate world, sumptuous audiovisual presentation, and cryptic machinations made me feel like an adrift archaeologist filled with wonder. I say it belongs in a museum.
Virgin Media verdict:
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