FEZ (PlayStation 4) Review!
It’s rare that the politics surrounding a game are as interesting as the game itself. But in the case of Fez, both Phil Fish’s media persona and the secrets ingrained in Fez’s world are fascinating. However after witnessing both of Fez’s endings, it’s more of a blessing than a curse that a sequel is no longer on the horizon. An unnecessary extension to Fez’s satisfying conclusion would have undone much of the good of Fish’s original creation.
It’s not Fez’s plot or characters which stand out. Gomez – the walking white marshmallow that serves as the hero – must collect 64 cubes to repair the disintegrating universe in which he lives. There is no arc here other than an oversimplified version of the hero’s journey, but the various worlds Gomez visits in his quest more than make up for the weak plot. There is a life in Fez which lacks pretension or gloominess, a welcome rarity in indie platformers. The game holds a fresh breath of air in its demonstration of a way of living which marks an education system, an economy and even alphabet. However this – the game’s greatest merit – is also its greatest flaw.
Fez’s difficulty curve is unforgiving after the first two hours. Once Gomez arrives to the third world – The Neon World – perception puzzles are no longer the only thing to overcome. Translating tetrominology, an insane alphabet system and basic platforming all become extremely difficult. Whilst it can be frustrating being stuck on the same area for hours, Fez tries to overcome this giving the player an open world to explore and return to at will. Is The Neon World too difficult? Well return to The Village, find the remaining cubes there and ponder over the puzzles ahead. Fez is a difficult game, but the reward is in overcoming those difficulties and discovering its secrets – of which there are many. To this day players are still haunted by the meaning behind the cryptic images in the end soundtrack – and rightly so, but it’s the damn owls which got me.
Death isn’t as punishing as the puzzles in Fez. Gomez simply respawns on the ledge he just fell from if he doesn’t make that jump. However with his high leaps there’s little excuse for failing at the platforming. The level design is varied and complex too, with each change of perception creating an entire new level as well as an interesting means to get around the worlds. The perception mechanics, in turning the world from 2D to 3D, are masterfully handled, moulding a sense of immense power in the player as well as a dizziness which keeps the puzzles far from simple.
Fez bursts with colour and energy. It mocks its melancholy predecessors on the PSN and Steam workshop with its spectrum, personality and presentation. Fez looks better than ever on the Playstation 4. Often the pixelated graphics break apart smoothly, fluidly, and when they don’t it’s because Fez wants it to be that way. Everything it does, it does tastefully and with purpose, even when the game ‘breaks,’ to signify how important Gomez’s quest is, there’s an almost artful quality to how holes form in the picture or the menu.
Fez’s sound quality is down to personal preference. The soundtrack is calming, gorgeous, and independent of each level. However the songs have not been cast on a loop so if Gomez gets stuck on a level for too long, the sound of virtual wind is all the player will hear, rather than the tinkle of a pixelated piano.
With regards to dialogue – none has been recorded, but a horrible grinding sound similar to that of an old arcade game plays. If this noise only played once the universe was turned on its head and the game was ‘broken,’ it could have been an interesting addition to the theme of destruction which permeates Fez’s gameplay. However this noise exists before the universe glitches and breaks, and it contrasts Fez’s pleasantness greatly.
It’s been said before and it forever will be, as it’s the best way to sum up Fez, but it’s one of the most personal platformers out there. Despite the ways in which Phil Fish conducts himself over social media, he co-created an absolute marvel in game design. However its best that Fez has remained this way – a marvel – rather than evolving into a franchise. There’s still many secrets and codes to crack for even seasoned players, and whilst its replayability isn’t quite infinite, there’s more here than in most triple-A games.