Fez Review

Fez is a puzzle platformer that puts you in control of the mysterious Fez, a magical hat that gives an extra dimension to a 2D world.

Published: October 12, 2014 1:00 PM /

Reviewed By:

FEZ Key Art

When people toss around the term "indie game" these days it sometimes 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 its fresh take on things.

Fez - Gameplay

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 keep being checked as you moved through 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. In 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 so 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 - Story

The storyline of 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 storytelling methods. No spoilers, but the ending of Fez was completely underwhelming, which didn't help its case for the presentation of a good story either.

Fez - Graphics

Fez had some nice splash screens and menus, which is always a plus. Overall the game had a 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 were. The level environments were varied and kept the player interested while at the same time staying complementary to the rest of the levels.

Fez - Audio

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 nondistracting 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.

The Verdict

Fez certainly has some impressive gameplay behind it, but beyond that, it's mostly just a pretty-looking game that is easy to pick up and play for anyone who has played a platformer in the past few decades. That said, it probably won't have much to offer anyone who isn't already a fan of the genre. While the 3D-rotation mechanics keep things interesting, they can quickly become boring with a total lack of any reason to want to keep playing beyond morbid curiosity. Still, a worthwhile time if you're the right sort of person. 

TechRaptor reviewed Fez on PC via Steam. It is also available on Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Vita, iOS, and Nintendo Switch. This review was originally published on 10-12-2014. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions, and for historical context.

Review Summary

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. (Review Policy)

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John Rozger has a BA in Computer Science and is a fledgling software and video game developer. As a lifelong gamer he enjoys writing about the gaming… More about John