_FEZ is a game I’ve been looking forward to for the past two years, ever since randomly being linked to a gameplay preview for it [that wasn’t it, but the original video doesn’t seem to exist anymore]. All I needed to see was “puzzle platformer based around perception” and I was sold. To be honest, I really didn’t know much else. I didn’t need to. Sometimes, you’re sold so early on that any more detail is simply unnecessary. But even if I had been absorbing every bit of info I could find on the game, I doubt I would have been prepared for what awaited me.
_The video game, as we currently know it, has existed for about 40 years. In that time span, we’ve seen and experienced many marvels, from the platforming exploits of Mario to the ability to face off against virtual armies with people on the other side of the globe. The first time I personally experienced these things, I was a bit awestruck. As a youth, I had seen games like Pong and Centipede and Missile Command played on my dad’s old computer, but then…suddenly the game world is too large to fit on the screen display? How big IS this stage?! He just keeps running right and there’s an army of turtles and…brown things in his way! And suddenly, multiplayer gaming didn’t just mean “Playing games with people in the same room.” Those were big deals. Both of those aspects of video games are taken for granted nowadays. Now think back to Metroid. The first time I played it, I had that same sense of awe. “Whoa…it’s like a maze. How do you find everything? Where do I go?” That aspect, when found in video games, is not taken for granted. A legitimate sense of wonder for exploration and discovery isn’t something one gets from a video game that often.
Exploration and wonder are both found in abundance in FEZ.
_This isn’t entirely what I was expecting out of FEZ. When one thinks of puzzle platformers or other games cut from that cloth, games like Braid, Limbo or Portal come to mind. Each of those games presents you with stages or areas where the goal is kind of outlined for you. “Press this switch.” “Find your way up.” “Grab this puzzle piece.” Yeah, I know, that’s REALLY dumbing it down, but you get what I mean. But the bigger difference is more…in those games, every puzzle is in its own self-contained world. In Braid, you don’t get a new power which enables you to backtrack and go to a previously inaccessible area. In Portal, there’s no real backtracking of any kind. The easiest way to explain it…the puzzles laid before you in those games are more “Ah-ha!” FEZ is a game where the puzzles are often “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
_In case you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of dancing around some of the content found within the walls of FEZ. There’s a good reason for that: I think FEZ is something that should be discovered for yourself. It’s kind of like Myst, or a well thought out Alternate Reality Game. There’s a big difference between telling somebody something like “You solve the puzzle of THIS with something you find in THIS room!” and discussing the game with other players saying things like “I found this here! I bet I can use it here!” There’s a difference between reading about The Beast and experiencing The Beast. [Sadly, I wasn’t a part of The Beast. I did follow ilovebees though, which was a ton of fun and I hope to enjoy another experience like it again someday.] FEZ has a similar kind of feel to it. Not everybody will be able to figure out everything on their own, but I don’t think that being able to figure everything out on your own is the point.
_Think about the Halo franchise. There is so much hidden stuff and so many easter eggs, it’s just outrageous. Quite simply, there’s simply too much stuff that’s too far out of the way and just unintuitive for any one man to find. But luckily, thanks to the internet, we gamers are the video game playing equivalent to a million monkeys with typewriters. There is as much man-hours going into video games as ever before, except now, instead of only being able to get Milon’s Secret Castle tips from one other kid at class who has played the game and probably not beaten it either, a community is right at our fingertips all the time. As we speak, one’s of people are banding together to try to solve the mystery of the black monolith in FEZ. I have no idea where to start with that thing…but it’s alright if it’s incredibly obtuse! It’ll be solved eventually, likely not by a single person, but by a group of people who banded together to discuss theories about it! Something about FEZ just gives off that communal feeling, like it’s not just about exploring and seeing what you can find, but also about talking with other players and seeing what they’ve discovered that you haven’t and vice versa, as if sharing epiphanies is as big a part of the experience as having them yourself.
_Not everything about FEZ seems like it was the best possible idea to be put in the game. There are parts of it that definitely could have been executed better. But there are so many unique aspects of the game, it’s easy to excuse those parts. There’s so many clever ideas crammed into a single-digit hour game, it will probably embarrass some people. The game world seems so fully realized, it’s no wonder it took 5 years to make. I have a lot of praise to shower upon this game, but I will refrain from doing so. If it is within your capacity, you should check out FEZ.