Original US Release: April 13th, 2012
“Five years, copious pre-release awards and a leading role in a documentary later, Fez may have been the most buzzed about and anticipated XBLA title of all time with the possible exception of creator Phil Fish’s contemporaries (who happen to co-star in said documentary “Indie Game: The Movie” – Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (“Super Meat Boy“) and Jonathan Blow (“Braid“).
As the story goes, working from a humble office in Montreal with sole programmer Renaud Bédard, game designer Fish wanted to create a beautiful, happy and colorful world that people, himself included, would love to stay in for a good long while. For this reviewer, the brightly colored cloud cities immediately evoked a personal favorite Nicktoons’ animated series – “Skyland,” wherein Sky Pirates terrorize peaceful peasants living on the cloud-bourne remnants of a shattered world. And this is a good thing.
But unlike said anime, Fez pays homage to “8-bit” (though arguably 16-bit) titles of yore, from Jumpman to good ole’ Mario Bros. while introducing a very clever visual trick – the 2-D world can be “rotated” to reveal solutions to puzzles and progression opportunities to otherwise unreachable surfaces.
But it doesn’t stop there. Fez also includes a search for treasure maps, dimensional portals that sometimes serve as shortcuts, a loose storyline, entropy, keys to secret rooms and levels, bomb-tossing and a huge collection of levels laid out like a synaptic network with at least a dozen different theme settings that range from sun-dappled forests to Blade Runneresque cityscapes.
What Fez does right is that, in spite of all these mechanics, it keeps things fairly simple once it gets going. Whereas some titles may endeavor to build these up into larger game-states, Fez states its agenda and then subtly adds complexity without ever veering into mission-creep. And in spite of this simplicity, Fez sustains a constant sense of discovery and curiosity and this is arguably why Super Meat Boy and Braid were also so successful in their deployment.”
- From the original IGR review of Fez by Indie-Game-Freak
Forget the backstory, forget the movie, forget the Microsoft debacle and the ups and downs. Take the game at face value, and you have something quite unlike anything we have seen before. It is a small miracle, and a wonder by any definition of the word. Yes, it nods to many games and genres of game before it, but nothing has ever existed quite like Fez. And the thing worked – the damn thing worked – it is fun, engaging, beguiling, challenging and offers a lot of content to explore.
Some have griped that it is ultimately a lot of hype and window-dressing, but the inverse is true, and those with the tenacity to stick with it will be rewarded with a deep game with some truly mind-warping challenges on various gameplay fronts.
Regardless of what you think of Phil Fish, or the fact that he chose Microsoft’s game console and the headaches therein, look at it for the amazing feat that it is, and then look forward to the new wonders that 2013 will bring.
2012 was Fez’s time.
What were your favorite games of 2012? What games are you most looking forward to in 2013? Please post your thoughts in the comments below >>>