When I first played Fez way back in 2012, I remember I had a positive first impression. But for some reason, whether it be life or attention span, I never completed it. The only other thing I remember about Fez is the drama surrounding the game designer, Phil Fish. He came into the public spotlight for his anxiety-driven behavior in Indie Game: The Movie, and he’s become infamous for his outburst on Twitter, culminating in the cancellation of Fez 2 back in 2013. It’s been a while since those incidents were on my mind, but I can’t separate the behemoth personality of Phil Fish from Fez. It’s too bad the controversy occupies so much of my brain space because I forgot how wonderful Fez is.
Fez is a puzzle exploration platformer that is played in 2D, with a 3D twist. You play as Gomez, who gets the ability to flip the world around to reveal four 2D views. Most of the gameplay is a sort of perspective-based 2.5D. Flip the screen and a platform that was across a wide gap might now be closer to the front of the camera, bridging the gap at the 2D perspective, allowing the befezzled Gomez to cross. Your ultimate goal is to collect golden cube fragments through Fez’s multiple environments. There isn’t much of a story to Fez urging you forward, but Fez doesn’t really need to convince you to explore its magical world.
I think Fez is one of those early indie games that pioneered the modern indie game landscape, and it holds up today for a variety of reasons. Fez has a great soundtrack, impressive pixel art visuals and charming animations. Gomez and his expressions are just so damn wholesome. The gameplay itself was innovative for its time, and is still quite satisfying. World flipping is the main puzzle mechanic in Fez, but it’s used in a few different clever ways throughout.
One of Fez’s biggest draws is just how low pressure it all is. There aren’t enemies to fight, and there are no timers: you can explore at your own pace. Falling outside of the screen—or to your death—slows down the gameplay for only a moment, and then you’re back to flipping the world around to find your path to the next collectible or way forward. Even with its low pressure nature, I’d still like to have had some more quality of life changes. Navigation in Fez is a little annoying. There are warp gates, but no real fast travel. You have learn to how to use Fez’s rather unwieldy map to get a grasp of its world, which is almost essential to getting around.
Fez plays great on Nintendo Switch. It feels like a perfect fit to the hybrid console, but the visuals weren’t designed for such a small screen. Fez in handheld mode is playable, but often small details will be hard to see in certain scenes. There were only a few instances where this made gameplay a little more difficult But Fez is a great game to carry around and play in small spurts, because it moves at your pace. The Nintendo Switch has been a great platform for indie titles, so it totally makes sense to have added this classic to its library.
Fez is available now on Nintendo Switch.
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