The storyline to Fez is extremely weak. The protagonist has a pretty cliche motivation: saving the world, but plenty of good games have done the same, so that is not something to hold against Fez. What there is to hold against Fez is that other than during the start of the game, the storyline is not explicitly developed at all. What there is to praise about Fez’s storyline is the indirect storytelling through gameplay elements and the environment. However, in this case this indirect method was not strong enough to carry the storyline by itself and was better suited to be complementary to more traditional explicit story telling methods. No spoilers, but the ending of Fez was completely underwhelming which didn’t help it’s case for presentation of a good story either.
When people toss around the term “indie game” these days some of the time it refers to really weird “games” that don’t resemble the games that most people have come to love and enjoy playing. Fez however, takes elements from classics while throwing in it’s fresh take on things. A lot of the gameplay and game mechanics were nothing new: collection goals, chests, flavor text npc chats, platforming, small npc helper flying around you, etc but there is nothing wrong with that as the game’s stand out mechanic mixed with old was a great combination. The stand out mechanic: rotating the 2D world around the 4 sides of a cube was cool but could be spatially disconcerting until you get the hang of it. Unlike retro games from generations past, Fez had a detailed map function that was extremely helpful. The downside however, was that the map had to kept being checked as you moved throughout each level, which got quite tiring after a while. Fez has no health bar and if you fall from a certain height you die and respawn at the last major platform you were on. While this usually worked well and kept players from raging for having to do a tricky platforming sequence from the very start, at one point the spawn point was stuck on a platform you couldn’t jump off without dying so the game had to be restarted. While the game mechanics were generally well developed and presented the actual gameplay had major disappointments. The biggest issue with Fez’s gameplay was that there was no motivation for puzzle solving. Most puzzles there was no reward other than being one step closer to finishing the game. The game progresses in a generally non-linear fashion so elements of progression were limited. Fez’s gameplay was not rewarding in the way that solving a Sudoku puzzle or progressing in a Mario game is rewarding. I liked how the game broke up the more challenging puzzles from the easier ones and only required solving about half to complete the game. However, the gameplay got stale and tiring near the end of the game that that there was little motivation to go out of your way to finish all the puzzles. The replay value for Fez relies on wanting to seek out and complete all the puzzles possible but the motivation to do so is very limited.
Fez had some nice splash screens and menus which is always a plus. Overall the game had great atmosphere and theme as the art style was continuous throughout the entire game. The pixel style graphics had some issues with fidelity. as some objects in the game world were hard to make out what they were. The level environments were varied and kept the player interested while at the same time stayed complementary to the rest of the levels.
The sounds in the game got the job done but at the same time didn’t contain any of those really satisfying sound effects that some games manage to create. The music was a non distracting selection which helps for a puzzle / searching type game. There were a small number of moments where the sound and music was abrasive and jarring which was uncalled for.
I would recommend purchasing Fez to platformer and puzzle fans who are looking for something different but tell anyone else to take a pass on this game.