Review: Fez (PC)

Note: Portions of this review appeared in our Xbox 360 Review of Fez.

Long in development, the award winning Fez has finally arrived at a steal of a price. This seemingly 8-bit former Xbox Live Arcade exclusive title features a true adventure where you’ll find the greatest mysteries on your own. Fez is not going to hold your hand around every corner and tell you what to do; it’s up to you to find out and discover what’s in this world and whether or not it’s worthy of understanding.

So what is the story of Fez? You are someone of importance who inherits…well a Fez…that allows you to see the world though different means. The giant hexahedron cube that has given you these powers has exploded into 64 pieces and it’s your job to put the world back together again, Humpty Dumpty style. Traverse the varied vast lands in order to collect the many scattered cubes and shards to ultimately save the world. While not necessary a bad thing, the game is astonishingly easy. Maybe one of the easiest games I’ve ever played. The only real time you die is if you fall to your death or find yourself sinking into some ripple in time – a black hole, and even then there is no penalty as the game just places you a couple steps back. While it may not be much of a challenge, it also means it’s very much accessible for anyone to play.

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Although drawing inspiration from older Nintendo titles, such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros., it’s difficult to deny Fez’s uniqueness with its incredibly abstract core mechanics. Fez is an adventure game that has a hefty open world to explore through interconnected doorways. Deceptive as it may be, it’s is not necessarily a two-dimensional game. You will be moving on a two-axis plane and everything looks like early 90s sprites, but it’s more of an illusion as the world itself is build in three-dimensions and you can manipulate it some wild ways. Your placement in the world is dynamic. Based on how you rotate the surroundings, you can find yourself in different locations you didn’t think you could get to. Expect to throw the laws of physics out the window with these intricate paradoxes.

Fez is not just some run of the mill 2D adventure platformer, though. It may look it on the outside, but there is so much more to this game than just running, jumping and alternating the different perspectives. Fez is surprisingly cryptic. It can easily be compared to something like Dark Souls in the sense that there is little to no information given to you about the world, but there is so much around the fiction. It’s up to you to find and decode pieces of this world through the smallest details. If played as a traditional platformer, you’ll miss out on what’s hidden right in front of you. The hardcore of fans will find and solve the most difficult puzzles through the most intense measures. When players are breaking out pen and paper to come up with solutions for the many different puzzles and translate a secret language, you know something was done right. This applies to the various hidden challenges scattered about, but playing through the game on your first attempt will be nothing more than a fun and persistent adventure.

With the success of Fez on Xbox Live Arcade, and the rising PC community openly accepting independent development, it’s no wonder why a game of this stature has found its way onto the platform. Originally, we received an early review build of the game and it came with a number of shortcomings. These included exclusive Xbox 360 in-game prompts, even without a controller plugged in, and a lack of native and scaled screen resolutions. These have mainly been resolved, with the exception that any resolution between 1280×720 and 1920×1080 will actually be a 720p image centered and framed in thick black bars. Thankfully, that’s the only issue, and Fez feels well optimized for the PC platform, both visually and in terms of keyboard controls (the mouse can be used during menus, but is far slower).

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Closing Comments:

Fez was one of the most enjoyable and entertaining games I’ve experienced last year and the same thing applies with the PC version. It’s a charming, charismatic adventure that will leave you with a smile across your face for the duration of your play. It’s also incredibly cryptic and is far more than skin deep, introducing a deceivingly vague world. I can’t decide if Phil Fish and his team are geniuses or completely out of their minds.
score5
Version Reviewed: PC