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Fez, Polytron, XBLA, XBOX 360, [blog], [impressions]

[impressions]: Fez Demo

It’s weird. I’ve actually been putting off playing Fez all morning. It’s been downloaded onto my Xbox since 7:30, it’s now 12:30, I don’t have an explanation. It’s not like I’m dreading this, or not wanting to play it. Maybe I’m scared to play it and be let down. Either way, this is happening right now.

I can’t quite remember the first time I came across Fez. It may have been on Kotaku or something similar. Though it wasn’t the focus of the movie, it’s hard to shake the feeling it gave me watching that ‘Indie Game: The Movie’ trailer months ago. It brought a tear to my eye, to watch those guys pour their hearts into these games. Maybe that’s what it is. I’ve developed an emotional attachment to this game and I’m scared it won’t be the same. I have this expectation set, probably placed there from playing the likes of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and Cave Story a little too much. I feel like these stylized indie titles are supposed to make me FEEL something, but maybe they’re not.

Booting up Fez for the first time, this is also my first experience hands-on with the title. The game takes no time in getting you started. After a brief crash course as to what’s going on exactly, a cube exploded and you’re left to pick up the pieces. Seconds later, you’re left on your own. Moments after that, I start to FEEL something. It’s odd, as simplistic as everything is, Fez is pretty, but I think in this case it’s more along the lines of execution over style. Don’t get me wrong, Fez has plenty of style, but it’s when all the elements first come together as I make my way up around this vertical structure (rock?) and the soft atmospheric soundtrack sets the tone that you pause for a second. There’s a reason this game has been on everyone’s radar for so long. None of these gameplay elements are new by any means, but they’ve never been woven together quite like this.

I can’t get over the perspective movement. It amazes me to watch my 2D playing field ‘change’ in front of me. All the little details in the background. The environments are filled with so much movement and life, but most of all, it’s fun to traverse these environments. The gameplay feels fluid and solid, which I feel is the most important part of being a GAME. If I had to label a genre for this, my best answer would be puzzle-platformer. The core element of Fez is traversing each environment while changing your perspective to allow access to new areas while collecting cube pieces. It’s finding that right series of maneuvers and perspective changes that makes this start to feel more like a puzzle game. A good example of this would be the recently released Where is My Heart?, a PSN Minis title that plays off similar mechanics.

The first real puzzle in the game comes to us through trying to use a heavy crate to activate a button. Simple enough. The puzzle itself only takes 2 minutes to solve, but I’ve spent the last 10 watching the backdrop fade from day to night and back. It Fez fails as a game, it’s nice to know I’ll at least have a breathtaking screen saver.

Upon completion of the first puzzle, and the very short following one, my demo is over. That’s it. I didn’t even get an exit screen or an opportunity to buy it. Walk through the door and ‘poof’, it’s over. I feel kinda empty right now. If anything, this should be a testament to the overall feeling you get while playing Fez. Looking back on it, Fez is definitely worth every second that was spent developing it, and every second I put off playing it this morning. Needless to say, I’ll be paying the $10 admission to play the rest, but I’m gonna leave that for Neal. He’ll be taking over from here.


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