Fez (PSN) Review

April 3, 2014

Phil Fish’s mind bending 2D/3D puzzle platformer finally makes its way onto Sony’s systems after a notable absence. For people who’ve never taken control of Gomez and his physics defying abilities before, does this release warrant a purchase?

Game: Fez
Developer: Polytron Corporation
Publisher: Polytron Corporation
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

STORY

The story in Fez is deceptively simple. You play as Gomez, a pixelated little guy on a 2D island, who has a bizarre yet brilliant power bestowed upon him to bend the laws of 2D physics, and rotate everything around him. Gomez’s quest is straightforward enough. Collect the smaller segments of tiny cubes that have exploded from a much larger one, in order to restore peace back to his regular world. That’s the simplistic part, but as the game progresses, many more puzzles come to light, and a huge sprawling mass of a game begins to open up. The beauty of Fez is that if you don’t want to get involved with the deeper elements, you don’t have to, but the deeper you probe, the more you get out of it.

GRAPHICS

Fez has always looked beautiful. Regardless of whether it’s running on the PS4, PS3 or Vita, the art style is enough to convince anyone to at least try it out. A pixel art wonderland, with enough neat design tricks to keep you entertained as you start to figure out more ways to progress through the world, Fez’s main gameplay hook of navigating a 3D world using 2D methods really is a joy, and it’s such a well polished graphical trick that it’ll keep you coming back for more.

Fez screen 1

SOUND

It’s easy to see why Fez’s soundtrack is held in such high regard. A throwback to the 16 bit/chiptune days mixed with a delightful orchestral underpinning, it’s almost as fun to stand still and let the music wash over you. It’s matched with a bunch of sound effects that could feel at home in any Mario or Sonic game from the SNES/Mega Drive era, ranging from Gomez’s jump to the crushed-noise sound when you open one of the secret doors.

GAMEPLAY

Fez’s core gameplay is what makes it such a unique and engrossing title. The ability to flip a seemingly 2D world around a 3D plane is confusing, exciting and enchanting all in one. Figuring out the most devious of puzzles would normally take a while as it is, but when you have to start thinking in Fez’s proprietary physical way, you start to feel your grey matter starting to wrinkle.

Having said that, once you get to grasps with it, it becomes second nature. Timing a jump-rotate-land move to navigate a chasm that would otherwise have been impossible is one of the most satisfying moments in Fez, and indeed any game I’ve played in a long time. What makes it even better is that the game is chock full of them, and it’s hard not to love it.

Fez screen 2

There’s no death in Fez either, which is a welcome relief to some. If you fall off a high ledge, you simply go back to the ledge and try again instantly. It can be slightly annoying if you fall off a ledge and land in water though, as you need to make your way back to the top again, but it’s a very minor niggle in a game full of fantastic moments. Besides, when you get past a certain percentage of completion this should no longer worry you.

LONGEVITY

And that leads me onto Fez’s length. If you want to play it as a tricky puzzle platformer and nothing else, you’re more than welcome to do so. However, poke beneath the surface of the game’s offering and you begin to uncover an absurd amount of content that will absolutely shatter any preconceptions that the sheer length of the game’s development was simply due to bug squashing and procrastination (But for that side, you’re best off watching Indie Game: The Movie). The amount of content that can be dug out of Fez is absolutely staggering. When the game initially launched for the Xbox 360, it was hard not to get swept up in the journey of discovery and amazement as people uncovered yet more of the game’s secrets, to the point where if you wanted to do it all on your own, you needed to get a pen and paper handy to make all kinds of notes! Tetrominos and mysterious patterns litter the levels, and when it finally clicks as to their true meaning, your eyes begin to open to the many roads the game may take you down.

Fez screen 3

The addition of Cross-Buy and Cross-Play on Sony’s platforms is a great move for Fez. A number of times when playing through the game on the 360 had me having a “eureka” moment when on public transport or on my lunch break, and the Vita allows you to delve straight in as soon as you mentally smash through a barrier. Launching a cross play session is as straightforward as selecting the option from the save menu, and it works flawlessly across all 3 platforms.

VERDICT

If you’ve yet to play Fez, either through sheer laziness or you’ve simply not had a machine to play it on, then I’d thoroughly recommend picking it up on the Playstation Store. The cross buy/play incentive works superbly, and if you have a Vita then it’s the perfect game to pick up and play on the go, at least in the initial stages.

If you have already played Fez, then it’s a slightly tougher sell. If you feel you got all you could out of it before, then there’s not really anything new to the PlayStation version. However, if the release has rekindled the interest in the way that it did for me, there are much worse ways to spend £8.

The whole “which way does it lean” thing in the logo still confuses me though…

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