In this age of “more is always better” modern gaming it’s not hard to see why some developers have turned their attention away from conventional approaches, even perhaps looking to the past for inspiration. In short, Polytron Corporation’s “FEZ” is along these lines – it possessing a distinctive “retro” sort of flavor but being informed by everything / anything contemporary.
First off, you have your token lovable, fez-clad character (Gomez) that is thrust into a familiar, yet entirely new world. The impetus of the game stems from an event that takes place in Gomez’s world where the peaceful 2D environment is split into 3 dimensions. Needless to say, this changes everything and opens the door for exciting new possibilities as well as the obvious rotating levels and puzzle-filled concepts you’d expect to encounter which have been expertly utilized by the game’s makers. This is the epitome of the side-scrolling puzzle platformer in all its glory, ready to be explored and conquered.
While the notion of actually “updating” the various concepts created during the 8-bit era is a bit of a misnomer, that’s a simple way of describing what’s been accomplished with FEZ. In fact, one can’t readily think of another title that’s utilized this concept of rotating levels as well as what’s found here (or at all). This extra-dimensional fun creates the added depth that effectively transforms this game into a rather remarkable experience.
Throughout it all, FEZ takes you on a colorful ride through interesting levels that seem to pay homage to all the classic design elements and familiar tropes. However, it’s the way that the game frames these various aspects that ultimate takes things further and dramatically increases the overall entertainment value. You’ll meet various other inhabitants who are somewhat perturbed the all the dimensional madness who will dole out humorous little anecdotes which keep the loose plot moving forward at a nice pace. Of course you’ll need to reassemble the “cube” in order to help restore the original order to your world.
Aside from the charming, if not classic-looking visuals, FEZ also incorporates a great soundtrack. The end result is a game that really seems to generate a very strong sense of mood or character that’s certainly not commonplace. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about FEZ though is its apparent lack of enemies, bosses or conventional castigations. Whereas it’s considered to be standard operating procedure for a puzzle platfomer to throw loads of wicked enemies at you and challenge you to learn to effectively blast / dodge your way to safety and success, this title relies entirely on its novel design instead. In truth, it presents a very interesting situation whereupon the idea of exploration is merged with more accessible platforming ideas, and to great effect. Once you add the various inclusions of tales of ancient civilizations and how their relics have come to influence the 2D world of FEZ, the game opens up even more.
All in all, FEZ is a very charming and highly entertaining puzzle platformer with one foot in the past and one in the future. The developers have done a great job of updating olden 8-bit concepts without traipsing across worn-out concepts to present us with a very fresh experience indeed.