Only – first things first. Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. This review is solely going to be about my experiences with Fez, the game. This is not going to go on about Phil Fish and his opinions. If you want to enter a war of words over his opinions and such, do it elsewhere. This is a review of a game, not a place for name calling.
I’m explicitly saying this to avoid the backlash when I say this – I don’t like Fez.
Seriously. It has to be one of the buggiest games I have ever played. The game just doesn’t seem to work all the time, and it frequently did things I had no control over. The hype and excitement over this seemed to justify its purchase, but personally, it’s a mediocre game.
But, let us start off this review with an actual description of the story. One day, out hero, Gomez, is called up to see the Great Cube, a mystical object that exists in 3 dimensions (as Gomez and his kind all exist in 2 dimensions). After receiving the titular fez, the Great Cube shatters and…the game crashes. Though this crash is intentional (unlike some of the other ones I found). As we start the game again, we see the world (and title screen) is falling apart. When we start the game again, Dot, a sprite in the form of a tesseract (a 4-D cube) confronts Gomez and tells him the power of the fez has unlocked the 3rd dimension to him. And with this new skill, he must recollect all the cubes to save their world before it is destroyed forever.
The game is part exploration, part puzzle. You control Gomez through many worlds to collect a variety of items: cube parts, cubes or anti-cubes. Cube parts are small collectibles you can find, with 8 giving you a full cube. Full cubes are found either by chance, through puzzles or in treasure chests. Anti-cubes are like normal cubes, but are devilishly hard to get and are only obtained through puzzles. You can also find treasure maps, heart cubes and artefacts, all of which are optional but can help you in the game. Not much, but they’re there if you are ever in the mood to find them. What this results in is a game that has a lot of travelling, but no real urgency or goal, aside from getting 32 cubes of any form. This means that, to me, it is a game that feels very boring. Especially with the various insane ways you need to collect anti-cubes.
Graphically, it is superb. The attention to detail is astonishing, and all done in a very classy 8-bit style. It takes the best parts of the games of our past and distils it down such that there’s something that will please someone. There’s also so much going on, you can’t see it all in one go. However, that is also a problem. There’s so much action and activity, it distracts you and makes you lose your focus at times. Especially as the game uses as much stuff as possible to offer “hints” for “puzzles”, it can get too much at times. But overall, it’s a pretty game.
However, graphics does not a game make. The music…Well, I’m not going to call it music. It’s an atmosphere. As you play, you hear seagulls, thunder, water dripping and the like. Personally, although it’s good, it’s not a soundtrack. And the music tracks I do hear, I don’t like. They seem to go too much into the “8-bit” style and it makes something that I personally can’t stand. It’s disjointed and doesn’t seem to fit. And before people say, I do actually enjoy 8-bit music. I love the music from the Mega Man and Mario games. Metroid did atmosphere really well. Hell, DuckTales made some of the best NES music ever. They all actually held a tune and it fitted with the game. Fez’s music is just noise to me. It’s incomprehensible and offers nothing. Which, to be fair, seems to be the game itself.
There is also a little problem with the controls too. You move Gomez around as normal, but the controls do feel a little off. It feels a bit slack and not what you expect. But you get used to it, making sure to time your jumps correctly and counter the small problems that Gomez has. You also have the option to carry items like bombs, which also have the same small flaws as Gomez. The biggest thing you have to overcome is the “rotate” mechanic. When you rotate, Gomez hovers in the air and, if you have no platform under you, you fall straight down. This is very disconcerting when it happens the first few times, but you eventually get used to it and it even forms the basis of some puzzles. It’s a scheme that is interesting, but needed a bit of refining.
In terms to what the game offers, there is a lot to do. It’s just dependent as to whether you can be bothered to complete it. Fez offers two endings – one for getting 32-63 cubes, one for getting all 64 cubes. However, getting that last ending is pretty insane. You need to solve puzzles that are, to me, illogical and very odd. There are not many hints to help you out and the ones that are offered vary in complexity and logic. Seriously, the clue for understanding the language is just ludicrous. Even Phil Fish has said that not all the puzzles in the game have been solved properly, as many games prefer to brute force their way to a solution. It’s an artificial difficulty that makes me very annoyed and reluctant to continue playing it.
There was also something a little off when playing the game itself. I can’t put my finger on it, but I had this sense of unease when I was playing it. Like something was not right. Although the game is supposed to be a surreal world falling apart, it didn’t feel like that. It felt like…as odd as it sounds, playing a painting. There was something not right about the game, and it left me cold and unentertained. Maybe I wasn’t the target audience. Maybe it was supposed to be an artistic voyage in the shape of a puzzle/platformer. But my basic criterion for any game is that it should be fun, and in my opinion, this game wasn’t.
And now, to the main thing I hate about this game. It seems to have not been bug tested properly. And I know in this game, it was a huge task. But honestly, falling ad infinitum to your death and perma-saving it so you’re stuck there is a bit of a big bug to not spot. I acknowledge that the game is tricky to debug with its rotating mechanic, but some bugs are inexcusable, like the infinite death problem mentioned earlier.
But by far the worst part of the bugs were that the game corrupted my save file. Not once, but twice. Meaning the hours I spent playing it were wasted. I played it on the Xbox 360, which was infamous for having a bug patch that make the game worse. This was part of the problem – the other part being that, at times, if the save wasn’t corrupted, it just wouldn’t load. Meaning I had to reset my console to just play any game. This might be a reason for my dislike for the game, but in all fairness, it’s a ruddy big reason.
In conclusion, there seemed like a lot of promise for this game. Everyone was hyped and the high reviews made it seem fantastic. Personally, it’s a buggy game that makes no sense, it has puzzles that Mensa members would be unable to solve and it seems like every other indie game out there. If you love it, that’s fine. This is my experience with it, and in my opinion, it’s a mediocre game that could have been so much better. For want of a better word, this game is simply flat.
Oh, and the 1st ending – what the hell is that all about?! Talk about “A Winner Is You*”…
|GRAPHICS||The 8-bit graphics do look fantastic and the worlds are lovely to look at. Certainly shows a lot of effort was put into them.|
|MUSIC||As I said, it’s not music; it’s more like an atmosphere. And even with the musical tracks, they just sound too disjointed to be enjoyed.|
|CONTROLS||Gomez is fairly hard to control to start with and the use of the rotate can be tough, especially with the delay they use that can throw off jumps. But you get used to it – eventually.|
|REPLAY VALUE||The game offers so much, but once you’re got the…whatever the hell the first ending was, there’s little to bring you back to do more, particularly with its insane puzzles.|
|ACHIEVEMENTS||12 achievements, most of which just flag that you’ve done something. One is a clue for a puzzle, but I don’t see people going for all of them.|
|OVERALL||An average game plagued by game-breaking bugs and a general mediocre experience. Definitely a “Try before you buy”.|
* A term used to describe an ending that is either abrupt or has no bearing on the game itself. Fez falls into the latter one in spades.