2D is a special little dimension. Forgoing that pesky thing known as depth, it’s a world wholly unlike that which we see and live in everyday; an otherworldly place where being flat isn’t a negative, but a wondrous and unique expression of the universe. The residents of Fez know this better than most, being a group in and in love with the 2D space they inhabit. But what if this world isn’t as flat as they believe? What if there is an entire other dimension right beneath the surface? What if all it took to discover it, was for a tiny little guy named Gomez to put on a Fez?
For as troubled as its development may have been, none of those hardships have shown through now that Fez is finally here. While I could try to avoid hyperbole, it’s hard for me to talk about my time with Gomez without spouting an abundance of praise with the look of a child telling you about his favorite toy on my face. It’s a heartwarming and beautiful experience; a masterwork of merging traditional and unorthodox game design into something enrapturing.
To reiterate what I mentioned before, Fez is a 2D game taking place in a 3D world. Every area in the game is fully modeled in three dimensions, but you can only ever see one side of it at a time. Combating this is your one and only power: that to rotate the world around you, revealing a new side to what once looked to be nothing but a flat wall. Although the idea of never gaining any new mechanics or your character otherwise progressing and growing stronger might sound limiting and repetitive, this is as much a journey of your own discovery and growth as it is Gomez’s.
The reason for this is that Fez is clever. Brilliantly and confoundingly clever, to the point I’m not sure if I should praise Phil Fish for his ingenuity, or curse him for making his game too smart for me. Although progressing through the world may at first seem a simple enough task, it’s not until late into the game that you begin to truly understand the finer points of how to utilize perspective to get where you need to go.
The only thing standing between you and getting through the game is you, creating a fantastically nonlinear progression that requires backtracking not because you were previously halted by an arbitrary obstacle, but because you now understand how the various parts of the world fit together in ways that otherwise never would have occurred to you. It’s a wonderfully rewarding style of play that’s rarely seen in games that makes you feel intelligent in ways only video games can.
There is a bit of a double-edged sword to all of this however, that being Fez sometimes doesn’t know when it’s being TOO clever for its own good, pushing past reason into the obtuse. I could blame a lot of this on my being dumb, but certain puzzles are simply so abstract and unexplained that using a guide almost feels mandatory if you want to see everything Fez has to offer. To be entirely fair much of this is in the form of extra areas and secrets which you aren’t required to solve to complete the game, but it’s a tad frustrating that so many of the most interesting parts are also the most confusing, leaving those disinclined to scour the internet to likely set the game down when there is still much to find.
But even then, I can hardly knock Fez for this given how much I adore everything else. It’s a wonderful game that makes me feel like I’m rediscovering games for the first time. I don’t even know how to best describe the sort of magic it creates, as any attempt fails to encompass the broad warmth and imagination it embodies. The pixel art is remarkable, full of so much charm and life that I couldn’t help but feel a part of it as I got sucked in for hours on end.
There are no words for how amazing and fitting the soundtrack (composed by the ever so talented Rich Vreeland AKA Disasterpeace) is, easily one of the most dynamic and original that I have heard in years, and an example of how a game’s music can so perfectly compliment its gameplay. Everything shines with the sort of passion you only see in indie projects, and I am so very happy that it found its release and I was able to take part in it myself.
Thank you Phil Fish, it was quite the adventure.