FEZ is what every indie video game should strive for. It’s a masterpiece work of art, and anyone who’s interested in playing some more indie titles should definitely play this.
One of the problems of a lot of games these days is that they hook me initially, but fail to keep that hook. As a result, I only sink in a few hours before I pull the plug on them forever. For example, the new Call of Duty looked fantastic so I got it and played it. In the beginning, I actually thought it was good, but then I just got bored of it. The reason is that it didn’t feel unique enough to grab me. It didn’t provide me with enough of an incentive to keep going. No amount of flashy colors and explosions could keep me in my seat anymore because the gameplay was repetitive and the story was garbage (in my opinion). FEZ was that rare game that had me hooked the whole time.
It’s honestly a pretty simple concept. A guy named Gomez who lives in a 2d world suddenly gets a fez hat and realizes that the world is actually 3d. This realization is abruptly halted when the world suddenly goes glitchy. Basically, the world is becoming unstable, so it’s up to the main character to collect yellow cubes to make bigger yellow cubes that can be used to make this 3d world (and its 2d components) stable again. Step 1: Get cubes, Step 2: Get more cubes. While it sounds easy enough, trust me when I say it’s addicting.
This is not your average low-graphics indie game. Developer Phil Fish has created a breathtaking experience unlike any other. The way 2d objects become 3d is just really stunning to watch. The level of detail in each frame really goes to show how much effort was put into FEZ. I read a lot about the development process of the game. FEZ went through a 5 year development period, which ultimately put a lot at stake for Fish and his company, Polytron. Moreover, Fish had to deal with potential lawsuits, multiple renditions of the game, a huge list of bugs, and a delayed release. However, given all this immense pressure, Fish pulled off one of the best indie games I’ve ever played, and I really applaud him for that. There is a wonderful documentary that details this development process called Indie Game: The Movie. It’s out on various streaming platforms, and I really encourage any aspiring game developers to watch the film.
Okay, back to the game. FEZ taught me a concept that I think is pretty important for many smaller games. FEZ basically has one unique game mechanic – the rotating dimensions. However, it uses this idea in as many unique ways as possible to create a continuously fresh experience. As someone who dabbles in game design, this taught me an important lesson. Instead of coming up with a ton of different game mechanics, it would be easier and more effective to just think of as many creative ways as I can to use a few mechanics. This one mechanic makes me time the way I jump around the map and the way I interact with the environment. As the game progresses, I become more aware of each of my decisions. I start to think about what I’m going to do before I attempt to get that last cube. This thought process made the simple task of collecting a cube much more rewarding than it should be, and that’s awesome. The really interesting thing about rotating the dimensions is that if you just take out that one game mechanic, FEZ would be a really forgettable game. It would just be another platformer, and I doubt many people would play it. Just this one mechanic turns this game into a masterpiece. That said, it is a massive game mechanic and probably took Phil Fish a really long time to figure out how to do.
Besides its gorgeous art and smart gameplay, FEZ’s next best thing is its soundtrack done by Disasterpiece (aka Richard Vreeland). I’m serious when I say that FEZ’s soundtrack is one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve ever listened to, and I listen to a lot. The soundtrack has slow and calm tones, but it sometimes gears off in different directions to reflect the uncertainties that the game has in store for the player. FEZ will sound nice and relaxing, but then as you start to encounter weird obstacles, the soundtrack adds glitchy synthesizers. It’s so well timed and just awesome to listen to. I really can’t pick a single favorite piece so my top three works are “Adventure,” “Death,” and “Home.” You can find the full album here on Disasterpiece’s official Bandcamp page.
Overall, FEZ is an amazing experience from start to finish. I never talked about the end because I just don’t want to spoil it. However, the end of this game is just so satisfying and charming that I wanted to play it again just to get to the end again. The only reason I’m not giving this a full 10/10 is that I really wished it had a little more of a story. It seemed like it was going for a story at the beginning, and while it ultimately tells a story entirely through visuals and no dialogue, I just wish there was somewhat of a character arc to Gomez. I know it’s not required or anything and it’s really just a tiny nitpick. Other than that, there’s nothing. FEZ is a beautiful, breathtaking, and cathartic experience that will have you playing on your computer for hours on end. It’s phenomenal visuals, gameplay, and soundtrack will leave you speechless as you will question how most of this was done by one guy. It’s definitely one of the best indie games ever made in my opinion, and on a scale of one to ten, I’m going to go ahead and give FEZ a 9.5.
So what do you think about FEZ? Have you played the game? If you haven’t played it, would you want to now? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks!