FEZ is an effect of many painful years of creation, but it was worth the wait. Right now it's definitely the best adventure platformer for XBLA. Perhaps FEZ is two years late to be called a milestone, but it can most certainly be called a work of art.
If you're a 360 owner, you definitely owe it to yourself to check this one out. It's worth the price of admission if you just plan to play through to the ending, but its value goes above and beyond if you really dig into what Fez has to offer. Even though the wait has been pretty long, I find myself incredibly pleased with the final result.
You travel through an engaging world full of secrets and hidden clues. You watch, you take notes, you ponder, you think about what is happening on the screen. This is a mysterious journey through time and space – charming, fascinating, unique.
Perhaps more appealing than the brain teasers is Fez's mesmerizing setting. I'm not usually a fan of low-fi aesthetics for the sake of looking retro, and initially Fez might resemble an 8-bit throwback, but upon closer inspection it's a finely detailed world simply made out of cubes with scenery as varied, atmospheric, and inspired as any triple-A title I've played.
Fez is the most authentic exploration of the NES-era of games I've ever played, from its sound and visuals to its obtuseness. It uses the capabilities of current systems to take those ideas farther, while limiting itself with specific intentions, deploying scrutability in bits and pieces. It doesn't just love the games it borrows from – it understands them.
Polytron has crafted an exceedingly gorgeous world, full of surprises, temples, and eye-melting cuteness. Switching perspectives holds up as a gameplay mechanic, deftly avoiding gimicky traps along the way...Still, technical missteps and a confusing, unintuitive map system, confusing branches and game crashes remind us that Fez isn't the indie hero we need right now, but the one we deserve.
Love the gameplay and features, the sounds and graphics make it look old school and reminds you of the good 'ole times. But the lack of co-op or multiplayer makes you feel lonely and the player feels slightly sluggish moving around, especially on vines.
Horrible game breaking bugs ruin what is an otherwise fantastic game. I really want to give this game an 8 or a 9 because it truly is wonderful to play (when it works) but my experience of this game has been severely tarnished by a myriad of technical issues. I can deal with the occasional drop in fps or the infrequent crashes, but twice now I have had to restart the game (both times from ng+) because of the game becoming selectively unresponsive in seemingly random places. First time at the beginning of new game plus I could never proceed past the introduction as the prompts to carry on a conversation were completely unresponsive. So I started the game again and completed it to get to ng+. This time I could continue past the introduction and quite a way into ng+. But then on one level after the game had crashed everything became unresponsive again - I cannot move my character and he is completely frozen to the spot. Unfortunately the game autosaved after the crash so my game is, well, broken again! I'm now starting right from the beginning again for the third time and I have to say this is really quite disheartening. I experienced less serious bugs in all the Elder Scrolls games combined! Well, that's probably not really a fair comparison, but I have to say, for a 5 year development period, I expected a lot better from Polytron.
I got this game in a Humble Bundle and so came to it a fair bit later on than it's release. I'd read about it generally being a kind of nostalgic and finely crafted game. In response to this I would just say that I don't remember any classic platformers having zero consequence for failure, and the music sounds just like a random haze, totally unlike the finely crafted 16 and 32 bit stuff of 20 years ago.
I was pretty underwhelmed by Fez, but can't really be too sad, having just gotten it in a bundle.
FEZ on the whole, presents an atypical approach to its world design by presenting a pixelated 2D world in 3D terms. The concept of turning 2D to 3D isn't new; this concept can be seen in Paper Mario (by Nintendo) and Crush (by Sega). What is new is the use of pixels instead of completely flat polygons. This is a credit to Renaud BÃ¨dard's programming ability, even though he's new to the game programming realm, the world he coded for FEZ with those pixels is warm, cute and somewhat inviting; however, its not very engaging. There's nothing that draws you personally into FEZ's world and you don't get the same sense of imminent danger that the game wants to present to you.
FEZ's story is that he has to find smaller bits of larger cubes in order to keep his world from disappearing. But you don't get a sense of that at all in the game's world, from the initial explanation of the story at the beginning of the game nor at the end of the game. None of the non-playable characters give you that sense either. So, since there are no time limits, "lives", or much of a story, you end up with an experience that has only the following three elements left: The 2D world that's viewable in three dimensions, exploration and puzzles.
The 2D spin-able world looks nice. The color palette has a nice range of colors, but your eyes will beg for more. AT least mine were like that, I definitely desired to see more depth and variations in the color choices as I played the game. The creators of this game wanted it to be some kind of love letter to old games in the past, so you're only getting a color palette that's a bit better than what the original Nintendo Entertainment System could display. Moving around FEZ's world feels a bit slow due to how the main character moves and I did have one or two issues with the game play itself. After playing for an hour or more, when I went to spin the world to get another perspective to see what I had to jump on next, this action seems to happened slower and slower with each passing minute I played over that hour. When that started to happen, jumping became a minor issue as the movement would stutter. Like many other users, I did experience the crash back to the Xbox's Home screen. Fortunately, I felt that these didn't make the game unplayable, as you can quickly get back to where you left off if you restart your Xbox if these problems start occurring. I'm hoping a future patch will clear these issues up. The map isn't very helpful in finding where you are and where you've been, so I mostly skipped it in favor keeping track of places with that notebook I was using to keep puzzle hints.
As for the puzzles, which outside the 2D/3D thing, is the core of FEZ, there's not much I can say without giving away hints or cause spoilers to appear in this review. The puzzles do range from the very easy, like pushing a block onto a switch to some more obtuse and abstract puzzles where being observant is the key to figuring out the answer, which allows you to get another cube piece. I think Brain Lord for the SNES had harder puzzles to figure out. But I can't really compare those two games since they are different experiences all around in navigating to the next puzzles with in the game world.
Finally to the exploration aspect of the game; which I thought was a bit tough to do. Most puzzle platformers give you something to draw you into the experience. Since many of these games like FEZ rely heavily on puzzles, most of them bring you into the experience by using sound effects or music. Unfortunately for FEZ, the music is a selection of soft ambient tunes; they were so soft at times, it felt almost nonexistent to me. The chiptune sounds aren't bad in the slightest, they are wonderfully composed pieces. But having something with a bit more pep or using music to add to the tension would have gone a long way in making the game more enjoyable while you're wandering around collecting cubes and solving puzzles.
How to wrap up this review? I think all in all, this is a wonderful tech demo and not a fully fleshed out game. I didn't experience the mind numbing brilliance that many other reviewers had seen when they played FEZ. However, it has a nice pixelated world spinning mechanic, some soft ambient music and puzzles that will keep you coming back, especially if you're a perfectionist. I don't think this game was fully realized and it feels lacking in some aspects. Buy this game if you're looking for a game you can slowly complete with you don't have anything else to play or on rainy days. There's no pressure, from the main character or his world. Think of MYST for PC in terms of puzzles and pressures to complete the game, mix in ambient chiptunes, a "retro" graphics engine and you have FEZ.