Last we heard, Fez creator Phil Fish had quit gaming and cancelled the sequel, Fez II, due to having about as much as he could stomach of gamers and their passionate and often over the top ways. In a way it's a real shame that a sequel may not materialise, because as you'll find out in this review, if you've never had the fortune of playing this game, it's well worth doing.
Given that Fez had already sold over 1 million copies before it hit the PlayStation Vita, PS4 and PS3, you can imagine that there had to be something special about it. I've played previously on Xbox LIVE and certainly enjoyed the experience, but there is just something about playing on PS Vita that makes it even more special. Maybe it's that brilliant screen or the layout of the controls, whatever it is though, Fez feels made for Vita.
I'm not saying that playing on PS3 or PS4 isn't a reasonable alternative, after all should you buy one version you'll get all three, complete with cross save functionality. Both the PS3 and PS4 versions play wonderfully and look great on the big screen, it's just that to me, the Vita version offers the perfect way to play this game.
Fez is certainly an interesting experience. Taking the form of a pixelated, 2D World, it uses a clever mechanic to allow you to explore the rest of the world via three dimensions. This means you can use the shoulder buttons to spin the game world round in 90 degree steps, allowing you to open up more of the world, be it to find hidden doorways, ladders or ways to climb up or across to the next platform in order to find your way to the next area of the world.
It's pretty clever design, because all of a sudden, platforms which seem far can become a short jump by a spin of the screen or places that seem impossible to reach can suddenly become accessible via a ladder or some vines. In addition, paths which previously looked blocked can also be opened up thanks to the appearance of a door, the latter of which can often lead to hidden secrets.
What's more important though is the reason why your character is traversing through these worlds. At the beginning of the game, you'll discover the main objective. This sees you tasked with collecting cubes and cube fragments which will help you to save the universe. There are two different cubes that count towards the 32 you'll need to complete the game. All of these cubes are spread throughout different areas of the world, and to access all of the areas you'll need to unlock them by, you've guessed it, collecting cubes. Searching for these hidden cubes is what makes the mechanics of the game so interesting. You'll turn the world around and find them in hidden areas or at the top of platforms. But you'll also enter aforementioned rooms via hidden doors and find yourself faced with puzzles which you'll need to figure out in order to get to the cubes. What's great about Fez is that there are so many hidden secrets, so you'll no doubt make your way through the game and miss the treasure chests, additional puzzles and hidden doors that you've skipped past in your desperate quest to find these cubes.
An interesting point is that Fez has very little enemies. Your only enemy is falling off the edge of a platform, which simply resets your character back to his last point. There are inconveniences of course. As you progress through the game, platforms will suddenly appear for you to jump on to and doing so causes the world to spin, leaving you disorientated as to where to go next. Blackhole-like rips also appear, sucking you in should you get too close. There are other obstacles too, all of which adds to what is already a puzzling and often 'head scratching' game.
To add a little fun and yet more clever mechanics to Fez, our protagonist, Gomez, is also accompanied by another companion known as Dot, who acts as a helpful floating tutorial. Dot doesn't do much, but occasionally pipes up if there is a new mechanic to learn or has something unhelpful to say, such as "Uh, I don't know what this is." Dot is a nice addition and can occasionally have something useful to tell you, so it's nice to have her along for the ride.
Perhaps the most important thing to say about Fez is that it'll always require you to think outside the box; e.g entered a room with QR codes hanging on the wall? Well what do you do here then? Most of all though, Fez is about challenging your perception of the game you are in. You need to think about what it is you are trying to achieve and spend time looking at every problem logically. There is a lot to discover in Fez and to make sure you don't miss anything you'll need to spend time studying the problems. In this respect Fez certainly feels unique.
Fez is a wonderful looking title from a very clever developer. It's well designed, challenging and great fun to play. There's no doubt that it's a very important part of the indie movement over the past few years, so it's just a shame that, at the moment, we aren't going to see a sequel. One things for sure though, if you've yet to experience Fez, then now is the perfect time.
Words by Joe Anderson.
@_wotta | PSN/XBLA: wotta
(Version Tested: PS Vita / PS4)
+ Looks wonderful, especially on Vita
+ Some clever mechanics and gameplay
- Nothing has changed from previous versions