Gomez is the star of this bit odyssey, starring alongside game tips and tricks companion, Dot. The goal is surface level simple: restore pieces of a thing to save the world. All bits considered this makes for a package that is memorable: Fez.
Back in 2012, Fez arrived — after a long dev cycle — exclusively to the Xbox Live Arcade store. I knew nothing of its history or even how popular it was when I first played it a couple of years later on PS3. Now, nearly 10 years later I’m still impressed by what Polytron Corporation delivered. That said, there are some modern nuances that are missing — most notably in the accessibility department. I do wish Fez would’ve received the remaster treatment, rather than getting a simple port, however, the gameplay, writing, and music all still hold up in my opinion.
Gomez’s mission is simple. He is enlightened by the fez hat sent from above that his world isn’t just flat, then you must set out to restore cube pieces that make up a big hexahedron. Your biggest mechanic, thanks to the fez hat, is you can now manipulate the world and rotate perspectives. You can tell as you rotate an area that the game itself is built in 3D but it visually presents to you as 2D when platforming.
Something interesting that I want to point out is that if Gomez falls from too high he’ll reset. This encapsulates what I believe is one of the messages of Fez to keep moving forward. Go to that next door. Jump to that next bit. Rotate the level if something is a bit out of reach. Which is why I’ll echo in saying don’t get too caught up in trying to collect everything on your first playthrough. Wait for that second playthrough to fully collect and dive into all the secrets because there are plenty to go around.
Don’t skip on the writing within Fez either. There’re plenty of one liners either from Dot or a random villager. The main gist of the story is that the world will end if you don’t restore the scattered pieces of the hexahedron. Eventually, you’ll run into text that’s codified. I would have liked this to have been addressed in a quality of life update. It was novel back then to have the player self-decode secret text thanks to an alphabet key within the game. There should’ve been a trigger that happens behind the game when playing through a second time that auto deciphers for you.
I experienced the sound for Fez through a headset and TV; both were great. Some sounds though can be piercing to the ears when wearing a headset, like the secret doors as they open heavy and slow. Unfortunately there’s no granular setting for that. There’s a wide range of tracks that mirror well with their respective area design. Your home village theme is soothing with some touches of wonder. There are effects throughout that’ll warp the background music. In your starting village, the track is muffled a bit if you enter a house, for example.
You can break down most of Fez’s gameplay to simply rotate and jump until you get to the next cube or door. Even still, it is so satisfying. Eventually, you’ll find out that there are complimentary cubes to the gold ones you’ve been finding, called anti-cubes; These are more difficult to find. There’s also an entire codified alphabet for you to decipher. Also tetronimo symbols make an appearance complete with meaning, too. Both are tools in helping you find those harder to acquire cubes in search for the true ending.
As you can tell, Fez is a lot about collecting. It’s no surprise then that its map features a system that marks an area as fully explored. A decade old game got this right. If there’s collecting going on then there should be a way for players to track progress; even better when it’s done on an area by area basis.
I had such a fun time exploring as Gomez again. There’s a lot to love here as a first timer. It’s a timeless classic situation of leaving a level’s music on without playing just because it’s that good. A simple platformer with a couple of deep puzzles that reward you with the satisfying “a-ha” moment. It is a missed opportunity that there wasn’t a touch up of modernity. I’m glad to have revisited Fez, it’s a sign of the staying power indies have even decades after release.