Fez

Forethought:

I know vastly more about Fez creator Phil Fish than I do about the actual game, and that could perhaps spell doom for my play-through of it.  Phil Fish is, by all accounts, an eccentric personality who, in the wake of being criticized on a podcast, has recently quit video games forever.  Although I question the veracity of such a permanent decision given the passion he showed towards his craft in Indie Game: The Movie, following his resignation there were a number of influential developers that mourned the loss of Phil Fish in the gaming space.

As for the game, I realized shortly after deciding to play Fez that this might be a fruitless endeavor for the purposes of this blog.  One thing I heard repeatedly was that the game really took off, that you really discovered what the game was, halfway through completing it, and that there is vastly more to be discovered than you think there is. 

I'm a little nervous, because Fez has been built up a lot in the past year, so how could it possibly live up to expectations?

FEZ

Ok, I get it.

This game is gorgeous.  I've spoken before about the proliferation of pixel-style games, and how that style is often used a shortcut to say "hey, look, I'm an indie game!"  But nothing about Fez's style in unintentional.  The game is absolutely beautifully rendered, with detail in every oversized pixel.

My personal favorite graphical touch is the adorable animation of the main character - watching his little mouth grow into a smile, or watching him sigh or fall asleep when you don't touch the controller for too long, or even watching him fall off a ledge.  For all of the hullabaloo around Phil Fish and his unusual way of speaking to the gaming press (which, for the record, I am entirely in favor of), it is clear that a tremendous amount of love was poured into this game. 

Look at that smile!

I also completely understand the development hell this game went through.  Every aspect of the graphical wonderment is supported by the game's programming.  Despite the style - which one who hasn't played the game might arbitrarily refer to as "rudimentary" - the world of Fez is absolutely alive, with birds flying around and chirping sweet MIDI chirps, butterflies flying overhead, and grass and flowers blowing in the breeze.  And then there's the turning mechanic.

You see, Gomez (our adorable little character up there) lives in a world full of people who are only aware of two dimensions.  They have no idea that there is depth in the world.  But one day, Gomez is visited by a tremendous cube and granted his Fez, which allows him to see the world in the third dimension.

Now, this isn't accomplished by pulling the camera back to an isometric view and letting you swing the camera around.  In Fez, you can push the shoulder buttons to rotate the camera ninety degrees left or right.  Your view of the world is always two dimensional except when the camera is moving, but there are always four perspective to ever part of every level.

It is breathtaking.  Knowing what little I do at the moment about the technicality of game design, I can only imagine the difficulty of programming a 3D world that is always presented as two-dimensional.  And at no point is there any hint that what you're looking at isn't two-dimensional.  It does not feel like you're looking at textures on 3D cubes that are imitating two-dimensional art.  Every turn and perspective in the game looks better than almost any strictly two-dimensional game.  It is an unbelievable feat.  And the very short time that the player spends in the 2D version of the world truly makes them appreciate the power of the third dimension.

This style is accompanied with music that was reminiscent of SNES cult classic Earthbound, and each sound effect - birds, wind, Gomez' sigh - is rendered in a MIDI style that is truly unique. 

Now, the gameplay.  One of the things I had heard about this game - especially from the folks over at Giant Bomb - is that, until you hit "the moment" about halfway through, the game is a simple platformer.  I haven't hit that moment yet, and I can attest that so far, it is a simple platformer.

Now, I can see the puzzles.  There are mysterious purple pillars scattered across the land, and symbols that I cannot decipher just yet.  Large bells and a tremendous telescope are as of yet enigmas to me.  But the platforming I'm doing, looking for pieces of cubes, is satisfying.

I heard much criticism of the world map, but I understand why it's designed the way it is.  It is a series of cubes, with larger cubes representing hub worlds that break off into smaller cubes, which break off into subsequently smaller cubes.  The game is a series of endless rabbit holes, an at-first overwhelmingly vast experience, seemingly a metaphor the game's own development.
 

Overwhelming is right.

Provided what I've read about where the game goes is true, this game is a masterpiece.  As it is - even if it never evolves into something greater than a beautiful, undeniably adorable and engaging platformer - it is an excellent game.  However, I have seen enough hints at something deeper that I am very excited to say that, of course I

Will Revisit

Fez.  I'm also very excited about the game I'll be looking at tomorrow, which I've been playing for about two weeks at this point.  Let's start our talk about

Rogue Legacy!