There lies much depth behind the simple aesthetic.
Kokoromi insists on promoting video games as an art form. The Montreal-based collective advocates small experimental games to further encourage creative development and to foster better opinions of the virtual medium. Phil Fish, one of the group's outspoken founders, formed the indie company Polytron for the express purpose of designing Fez, a quaint retro platformer with more depth than any Portal or like-minded puzzler of this generation.
Fez is a platformer set in a world where everyone is self-aware of their 2D existence. One day, Gomez, the hat-wearing hero of the game, finds out he is able to shift his view into a third dimension after a cube appears in the world and explodes. It becomes Gomez’s job to find these pieces of the cube scattered across the new 3D terrain. This is where the premise of the game kicks in. The landscape is a rectangular column and can be rotated using the left and right triggers, altering Gomez’s perspective and revealing new traversable paths or hidden items (think Echochrome).
Fez is meant to be difficult at times, but that sudden revelation of completing a previously mind-boggling section gives the player immense satisfaction. There are no instructions beyond collecting the 64 cubes/anti-cubes spread across the 2D panoramas, and gamers learn to play through experimentation. You are also free to go at your own pace, and without a constant threat of enemies, there is no consequence to dying. The experience remains more integral to Fez than the simple beginning-to-end level progression.
What will this QR code unveil?
There are many ways to complete levels in Fez, giving the game a high replay value. In finding alternate routes through levels, players will discover concealed chests and additional puzzles not seen before. Fez is also visually appealing with its soft mixture of primary and secondary colors giving replays a highly visual reward as well. The music is a layered 8-bit soundtrack eliciting a wide range of soothing emotions depending on the setting and mood. Even the sound effects ring like old Nintendo games. Writing in Fez offers the same standout work. Other characters sometimes compliment how flat you look or deny the existence of the third dimension.
Fez can also be interacted with through the real world, much like the codec found on the back of Metal Gear Solid’s PS1 case. These interactions are mostly done through scanning QR codes with a smart phone.
Fez manages to do something special by reminding players of a bygone era why they fell in love with video games. The sound, art, and level design deliver a relaxing experience when you aren't searching various online forums to unlock that final anti-cube. Rare frame rate issues interfere with Gomez's quest, but these instances should not affect the lasting memories created by this game.
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: April 13, 2012
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed)