January 10, 2024 by Lucian Mogosanu

FEZ1 is an excellent puzzle-platformer adventure game whose fundamental, that is mechanical, graphical, narrative and philosophical underpinning is a changing perspective.

The avatar of FEZ is a tiny digital and seemingly two-dimensional being known as Gomez, who in a very short while discovers that the world isn't what he thought it is. Early in the game, aided no doubt by the player, he acquires a fez which serves as a symbol for his newfound ability to see the world in... let's call it 3D -- except this "3D" is for the most part a combination of four 2D perspectives. Thus, as the camera "rotates", some objects don't join in the rotation themselves, or at least not in the usual sense. This shifted and shifting perspective allows Gomez to travel to all sorts of places and to discover things that I will leave for the reader to explore.

From a gameplay perspective, FEZ is just huge. There's no so-called "fighting" and most of the times no urgency of any kind; most puzzles aren't particularly hard, except for the few that are are really tough, so tough that they'll lead most players to ruining their experience by running to the interwebs for hints and walkthroughs. But those who have the patience for this kind of games should find it a truly enjoyable experience.

From an artistic point of view, FEZ is a complicated amalgam. The graphics aren't in any way glamorous, in fact they're so minimalist that they could fit the entire thing in about 200-something megabytes. In any case, you can easily be fooled into thinking that you're playing something from the times of Commander Keen. The main advantage of this cartoonish style is that... how shall I put it -- well, it doesn't lie. While the archetypal triple-A game goes to great lengths to make things look "more realistic", FEZ lies at exactly the opposite end: what raytracing, man, all you get in the end is a bunch of neatly-drawn pixels. I don't know about you, but I like this, and if it paints me into a weirdo then so be it2.

As to the overall sound design: I hadn't heard of Disasterpeace when I first played this game. Meanwhile Disasterpeace has written music for artsy-fartsy movies, but I still like his FEZ soundtrack much more, possibly for the same reason as the graphics. To be fair, the music does sound like standard chiptune on a first listen, but it's in fact a multilayered cake of unusual timbres, sometimes slightly dissonant, sometimes distorted, sometimes uneasy, but in any case deeply atmospheric and most importantly, completely not boring. Overall I'd say Disasterpeace has earned his place in my book, I definitely recommend going through his other stuff if you like the genre.

Before summing this up, I shouldn't forget to mention that I thoroughly enjoyed the humour, especially the meta-referential stuff about the "universe" that is just a computer program -- quite "Plato's cave"-ish indeed.

So to sum this up: FEZ might not be up your alley, but whether it is or not, you'll have to appreciate its agelessness, as I'm sure it'll look as good in 2033 as it did in 2013, much unlike some of the (much) more popular pieces.

  1. Published circa 2013 by Polytron Corporation, an "indie game company", i.e. a couple of hipster dudes doing game design and software development each. 

  2. I suppose I'm just from another age

Filed under: food for the soul, gaming.
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