There are so many video games being released these days that some can completely pass you by.
FEZ is one such example for us. It was released in 2012 and has been stocking up awards and critical acclaim ever since, although we only bumbled into it this weekend.
It’s a puzzle-platform title where the player takes control of the creature Gomez.
He lives in a 2D world, is handed a magical fez by a cubed monstrosity, and he suddenly finds his world to be merely one of four sides in a 3D world.
Clearly inspired by Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland, it makes for a unique and charming little game which we’ve spent the weekend enjoying.
Polytron developed FEZ (also known as Fez), with the company seemingly set on lampooning 2D platformers and their rigid world of two-dimensional running about the place.
In the introduction, we meet the cute Gomez (who has a drum kit in his room). This dude is introduced to a magical third-dimension by the aforementioned cube and, after this development, the entire game appears to glitch out and reboot.
We’re sure some players were convinced their computer or games console broke after this. Believe us, we were about ready to file a lawsuit when, as if by magic, the game began proper!
It’s a charming experience, with a central gameplay mechanic of rotating Gomez’s world around into four separate views of his 3D world—it proves a neat little challenge.
Gomez can jump and scale the arenas he’s in to discover cubes to unlock new areas—there are no bad guys and you respawn immediately from a convenient place if you accidentally plunge to your death.
Fez is, consequently, one of those inspired indie titles which puts the mainstream industry to shame.
It’s a simple yet complex premise carried out intelligently, offers no more than is required, and builds on its core idea with rewarding new concepts.
With shades of Monument Valley, a wonderful soundtrack, and an eye-catching visual style, we can see why this one bagged so many awards. It’s a must.
You can get it on pretty much anything: Steam, GOG, PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita (there’s no Wii U support, unfortunately) at a super price of around £6.99 ($10).
This would be a lovely way to spend your weekend—questioning your notions of reality.
Is there a fourth dimension just around the corner filled with giant pink dragons who enjoy an average IQ of 3,000 and fire bolts of unadulterated splendour into the atmosphere? We can dream.
Addendum: Flirting with Flatland
Edwin A. Abott’s prescient and much-lauded novel sits in the background of FEZ. The game’s use of its concept does highlight an ongoing problem for modern games: storytelling.
Video games are at least 200 years behind canonical literature in this respect, which is kind of ironic given the advanced nature of the technology.
With a few exceptions (Half-Life 2, Final Fantasy VII, Zelda) most of the time sitting through a big blockbuster game’s cut scenes is like punching yourself in the face with a copy of Spot the Dog; appalling dialogue, an atrocious script, and hamfisted voice acting.
It’s become so much the norm these days the games industry, and gamers, seem to have wholeheartedly accepted this fate and don’t see anything wrong with it.
Some developers are convinced it works and plunge on into the abyss, whereas the likes of Nintendo (and dozens of inspired indie developers) have recognised it’s futile as it typically works so poorly.
Subsequently, they craft games with a minimal amount of plot interference so that the gameplay is barely interrupted.
FEZ is a glorious example of this. It sets up the simple storyline, it drops in its gameplay mechanics, and you’re away in after few minutes of intro stuff.
Soon you’ll notice day turns to night, there are quirky and simplistic dialogue boxes, and how it all harks back to the heydey of ’90s gaming whilst adding in challenging and fun modern features.
Not everyone agrees with this approach, preferring instead to ramp everything up to 11 and presume that’ll work.
In the embarrassingly sycophantic Netflix documentary Video Games: The Movie, one developer confidently claimed video games tell a story just as well as a book can. Yeah, mate, if the book in comparison is 50 Shades of Grey.
Seriously, though, the vast majority don’t come close to the progressivist themes in classic novels, with 1884’s Flatland proving an eye-opening premise for many gamers (In the form of FEZ, at any rate) who don’t stray in the direction of literature.
Polytron should be congratulated for its efforts, however, and it makes us think: what other games could (and, indeed, should) take inspiration from the literary world?
We have movie-game adaptations (and vice-versa) but few (if none at all) book-game adaptations, which is something of a wasted creative opportunity.