Graphics - 9.5
Gameplay - 10
Value - 10
Story - 10
Sound - 9.5
Fez is a true triumph for puzzle and platforming gaming. If you don't have this title, change it now.
Originally announced in 2007, Fez has been in development for quite a long time. Was the wait worth it? Absolutely.
Let me just come right out and say it: Fez is an absolutely must have title for XBLA. Saying it stands among the upper echelon of XBLA games is no small boast, but Gomez and his magical hat certainly have what it takes to make the cut.
Gomez himself has always lived in a 2D world with no clue to the fact that there was anything else. It’s other inhabitants are blissful in the fact that they live on a flat plane of existence though they have heard rumor of devil squares (cubes). One day Gomez is given mighty powers and an equally daunting task; to collect the shards of what once was a great cube. Of course all of reality’s existence relies on the cube so Gomez sets out to make things right. Fortunately he is not without his own power that the titular Fez grants him, the ability to see and traverse all the dimensions.
Like Mario before him, Gomez’s story isn’t a spectacular sweeping epic, but sometimes simple is good. As you travel through the various worlds linked by doors you’ll have to use all your wits in order to get every secret from the world of Fez. With the left and right triggers you can anytime turn the entire world in that direction and view everything from a different angle. For instance, spinning four pillars around to different angles with pieces of ladders on them may seem pointless from one view, but turn the world and suddenly all of them line up in your new perspective allowing you to reach new heights. Same goes for distances between platforms, changing the perspective of a door to get to another area and much more.
This simple mechanic becomes more complex as you add in other features and the uses Polytron has found for it are nothing short of genius. The level design alone is some of the best I’ve seen in a video game, nevermind an XBLA title. Each smaller area is linked by a larger hub world and you can find various warp gates to bring you back to the hub worlds. A map provides details and clues about what you’ve missed and lets you know when you’ve mastered everything that area has to offer. You can also find various artifacts, which uses I won’t spoil here, to help you to solve puzzles. The entire game is filled to the brim with clever moments that will have you smiling at how clever the developers were and how clever you were to figure it out.
It’s worth noting that the music is top notch, whimsical and a bygone of older gaming. The graphics, which harken back to a simpler day in video games, are spot on. I don’t think that Fez would have had quite the aesthetic charm it does now if we had seen little Gomez (whatever he is) rendered in gritty realism. As it is the world and its surroundings are utterly gorgeously painted and pixelated and beg to be explored which you’ll find yourself longing to do just that. There are no deaths, no enemies and no real dangers so you’re free to puzzle, explore and make mistakes throughout the game. While some might think that sounds boring instead it places emphasis where it needs to be and provides a sense of wonder and freedom.
As you make your way you’ll find out that the amount of unlockables, secrets and treasures are many and digging back into the areas to find them are where the experience really kicks off. Fez isn’t content to just enrapture your video game life digitally, it also finds ways to affect you outside of your 360. QR codes are embedded within the game and scanning them with a phone can give you unlock codes for bonus cubes. Even perusing your achievement list can net you a password. In addition satire is given to the game in a cheeky way, like how they even manage to throw in a “Hey look!” from you’re not so helpful guide.
Fez’s entire experience is the top notch level of gaming and is as clever as it is fun. I’ve not played a game in a long time that challenges my thinking and perception as much as Polytron’s masterpiece, nor played something that was as deserving as the word masterpiece. From its fantastic music to its charming world, Fez is one of those rare gems out there that I just can’t find anything wrong with. If you don’t own a Xbox 360, find some way to play this game. If you do own a 360, what the heck are you still doing reading this? Download this game right away. You can thank me later.
For more information on how we review games, check out our criteria here. An Xbox 360 code of this game was provided for review purposes. If you have any questions about this title, feel free to ask in the comment section below.