Review: FEZ – A Mind And World-Bending Puzzle Platformer That Deserves A Second Look
One of the original indie darlings in the eyes of many, FEZ is a game steeped in a whole bucket’s worth of history and intrigue. Nine years after its initial release and no sign of a sequel (as promised by its creator before getting abruptly cancelled), can FEZ still dazzle the new generation of Switch owners? The answer is yes, but let’s pretend you didn’t already know that.
FEZ begins with you playing the role of Gomez, a spritely little chap who says a little bit less than naff-all. After responding to a request to meet the aged adventurer of Gomez’s two-dimensional village, our mute hero is gifted a small fez which allows him to warp his 2D world with 3D impudence. Sadly this has the slightly irritating side effect of tearing reality apart at the seams, which we’re sure you’ll agree is a right old nuisance.
Gomez has to shuffle off to find all 32 cubes that make up the almighty Hexahedron, a doohickey that somehow keeps the world from collapsing, in order to prevent just such an occurrence. These are often found split up into further cubes, eight of which count towards one of the 32 (keeping up?). In order to reach these cubes you’ll have to platform throughout the world, changing the perspective in order to reach otherwise unreachable areas.
You see, each time you pivot the world 90 degrees you’re presented with another entirely 2D perspective that Gomez can traverse with zero depth. This means otherwise distant platforms can be forced to line up granting you access to higher structures, as well as doors that were just flat-out not visible in any way from any other angle.
This is where quite literally the entire game lies; you might play the game for an hour and find a challenge that seems entirely impossible and assume you’ll get a double-jump or something at some point. Nope! You’re stuck with what you’ve got matey-person, you just haven’t figured it out yet. It’s this simplicity that results in a countless number of those ‘a-ha!’ moments that are so important in puzzle games, and what makes FEZ such a joy to play.
Puzzles vary in difficulty fairly significantly, but most of the greater challenge comes from a second version of the collectable cubes you so desire called anti-cubes. That’s right, as well as the 32 standard cubes which are often split up into eight mini-cubes, you’ll have 32 anti-cubes to find as well should you wish. As previously hinted, these anti-cubes are generally much harder to work out, or even find, but are totally optional. There are even some frankly insanely challenging red cubes you can find as well — but again, you’d never need to — which require skills such as an understanding of binary code. No, we’re not exaggerating.
The reality-bending nature of the game is still wildly impressive even nine years down the line, and the variety of ways in which FEZ uses it singular core mechanic is nothing short of masterful; much like Nintendo’s own philosophy towards gameplay, there’s one idea here explored to the nth degree, and without it ever growing stale. There’s even a good chunk of replay value should you want to go through again, but we don’t want to spoil exactly why for those that haven’t played it.
Visually FEZ is also super charming; bright colours, dappled lighting and even a Game-Boy inspired aesthetic in the sewers make it just lovely to look at, if a little simple at times. Performance is also a perfect 60fps which isn’t particularly surprising given the game’s vintage, but we did notice a few visual glitches here and there, as well as one or two instances where objects didn’t behave as they were meant to. These were rare and never impacted our enjoyment of the game or ability to complete puzzles, but they were noticeable. Earhole-wise Disasterpiece’s soundtrack is an absolute treat, and is something that we’ve even enjoyed outside of the game on long drives.
FEZ is a fun, challenging puzzle platformer fit to burst with original ideas and unique gameplay wrinkles. Its puzzles bend reality and even leech into our own world on occasion, but aside from a few select mega-challenges never stray into the category of too obtuse or unfair. A few visual and mechanical quirks stop this from being a perfectly polished experience, but these are outweighed by its charm and other wonderful qualities ninefold. It’s another one of those ‘games you have to play’ on Switch, and it couldn’t be more at home.