Fez was one of the surprise hits on the Xbox 360 when it hit the console a while back, and now Playstation gamers can enjoy the level spinning fun of an incredible pixel art 3D world across all three Playstation platforms. Using one of the most comprehensive cross-play set ups we’ve seen so far, Fez is not only playable on the PS4, PS3 and Vita from a single purchase but will also allow you to transfer the same saved game across wherever you want to play totally seamlessly. It’s all very nice, but what of the game itself? I’ll tell you: it’s amazing.
Taking control of Gomez you don your red fez and set out to find a series of mystical cubes, all of which are hidden across a maze of levels which need to be manipulated and explored in such a way that you find routes that appear impossible at first, but open up with some clever rotating of the world around you. The reason for this is all explained in the opening moments of the game, as Gomez is pulled from his happy 2D world by an older member of the village who manages to make a mess of things and brings not only a third dimension to the world, but also various doorways and portals which teleport young Gomez too other areas. The journey to collecting all of the cubes doesn’t go smoothly though, and the challenges ahead are for more fiendish and challenging that your normal everyday platform game.
The first challenge you find is getting your head round the levels which, although always viewed in a side-on 2D style are still entirely 3D. It’s something impossible to explain suitably in words, so if you’re intrigued take a look at the trailer here and you’ll see what the general idea is. It’s easy enough to get used to though, and the shoulder buttons make spinning the world 90 degrees second nature very soon after the mechanic is introduced. The bigger challenge though goes much deeper than this though, and offers up puzzles which will astound you once you finally figure them out.
Spread around the world are codes which, for some time, are nonsense. Symbols on a giant bell, posts with series of unrecognisably codes on them, flashing stars offering subtle instructions and even the name of one of the trophies all provide cunning clues which will let you find the deviously hidden anticubes, all of which are needed before you can have the satisfaction of fully completing Fez. Working out the mystical number and alphabet sequences are one of the game’s biggest secrets, and while there are plenty of solutions on the Interweb, beating the game with walkthroughs will ruin what has the potential to be one of the most satisfying experiences you’ll face for some time. That said, they’re a bigger to work out, and with the importance of working them out many people will get annoyed and look it up, but I’m fairly sure this is the first time I’ve had to use algebra to solve a gaming problem and it felt pretty amazing when I tried it out and found it worked.
These problems, as tricky as they are, are entirely solvable though. You have to find a very specific location for each solution, and have to recognise them as solutions when you get there (two things which don’t come easily) but having found the right place and grabbed a pen and paper it shouldn’t take too long to fathom them out. There’s another code in use too, which this time maps various Tetris style shapes to inputs on the controller; again the solution is plainly in sight once you arrive in a certain spot, but getting from the images on screen to a usable and reliable code isn’t as obvious as it initially appears.
The game is genuinely gorgeous too, and dismissing it as a pixel-based old style game is doing it a huge injustice. Whether you’re playing on the super powered PS4 or sat on the bus using your Vita, Fez looks great with some brilliant music also buzzing along beneath the action to add to the immersion. It’s a shame then that the game’s complexity impacts on the usefulness of the 3D map which you can call up at any time, giving you a potentially handy but often bewildering array of links between levels and portals. It’s great for seeing which areas you haven’t visited yet, but using it to navigate your way round the world can be a bit awkward.
But that should definitely not put you off. Fez is one of those games that people rave about when they’ve played it, and is entirely impossible to appreciate if you haven’t. It’s an incredibly well designed world, with some fantastically clever levels and puzzles which will make the journey all the more satisfying. With three way cross-play it’s got huge value for money too, so whether or not you should buy it comes down to one thing: do you want to rave about it, or always wonder what you missed out on?
Reviewed on PS4, PS3 & Vita