FEZ Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Apr 16, 2012 20:36

FEZ is a game all about revealing new layers to you the further you get in. At first it tries to convince you it’s yet another 2D ’retro charm’ platforming game, and you can find several of those already. Yet its simplistic graphics, intentionally ’bad translation’ story text, and other obvious nods to the 80s era of video games give way to something much more interesting, a game that is in many ways an experience rather than something you will merely play and discard.

FEZ (Xbox 360)The controls are fairly simple, as expected in a genre with mechanics that mostly consist of "run, jump, grab things, push switches, and go through doors." The tutorial segment at first makes it seem like that is all you’ll be doing, but a series of interruptions add FEZ’s defining trait: most of the game takes place within a series of rotating cubes. While some rotations are forced, the player is also able to rotate the world. Your control over this isn’t precise and you’re limited to very wide rotations, but it’s still enough to make each area about four times larger than they initially appear.

Rotation is needed to get anywhere in FEZ, since vital items are often hidden. You might not be able to see the key from your current position, but what if you spin the stage so that you can now see around the wall’s corner? That’s enough to get you to the other side of said wall, and another rotation will probably let you fully go past in order to get the key. Or perhaps there are some mobile platforms on tracks but they can only move within tracks you can see; spinning the stage will bring the rest into view.

While rotation is the primary game mechanic, it isn’t the only one. The unusually detailed backgrounds in many areas are just eye candy (perhaps odd given the blocky Atari/early-NES era style visuals), but others contain interesting hints. Staying alert for these clues will reveal a whole other aspect to FEZ, though I hesitate to give any specifics... even mere hints would ruin that awesome feeling when you finally understand what the game was getting at, which would gut a lot of your enjoyment.

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Our Rating for FEZ Review (XBLA)
8.0 Replay
While very linear if you know where to go and are solely concerned with playing from start to finish, clever stage design hides many secrets to explore. This is actually the true point of FEZ, as just completing the game misses out on a lot of neat things.
8.0 Graphics
The obvious use of retro-style art is no longer as creative as it once was, but characters and environments are very well animated with lots of interesting detail to enjoy. Cats and birds wander around, the sky shifts between day and night, and other nice touches stand out.
8.5 Sound
Sound effects are a very odd mix of basic and more advanced noises, while the subdued music is clearly intentional. It fits the exploration theme very well, and is good enough that it could justify a soundtrack release.
9.0 Gameplay
Thinking in the non-linear, multi-dimensional way FEZ requires is very odd. Its developer seems to be well aware of this, and has managed to strike a fine balance between challenge and not being cruel to the player. Failure is inevitable, but is also only a momentary setback and you have infinite lives; exploring and trying risky things is thus outright encouraged.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game.
9.0 Overall
This creative platformer has some modest flaws, but exploring its detailed world is a delightful and worthwhile experience. FEZ is one of the most interesting games in the XBLA catalog!

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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