FEZ PS VITA
Game by POLYTRON/BLITWORKS
Reviewed by Philip "Pocket Squirrel" Wesley (Original Review 04/07/2014/Deluxe Version 07/17/2014)
Size: 209 MB (Verified by our Download Guide)
Save: Memory Card/3 Slots/Cross Save with PS3/PS4 Home Consoles.
Works with: All versions of PS Vita. (May not work with Vita TV)
ESRB Rated: E
Quick Opinion (Highlight to View): Own
Opening Snide Remarks
A long time ago, there were two brothers named Robyn and Rand Miller. These two brothers started working on a new kind of "simple puzzle adventure" for the Mac Operating System in 1991. They worked on this game until it was released in 1993 and their game set the world on fire with stunning presentation, amazing sound design, and obscure puzzles in a simple, non-violent world. There was a lot of lore to discover and things to tinker with in the game.
That game was Myst.
This game is Fez, a 2D side scrolling puzzle game with a simple collection concept and a "3D Shifting" dynamic. Fez was developed by Phil Fish and Renaud Bedard under their "indie" label Polytron Corporation. They started work on the game in early 2008 (or possibly 2007) and the game was not released until 2012. The game was then ported by Blitworks to several different systems including the Play Station Vita.
A lot of people worked on the game over the course of its development life. These include Paul Robertson (A Gravity Falls Episode with Sprite Art/Scott Pilgrim VS The World: The Game), Adam Saltsman (Canabalt), Graham Lackey, Shawn McGrath, and Jason "6955' DeGroot. By the way, we interviewed Jason DeGroot and love his music.
The build up toward the release of this product has all sorts of drama* associated with it, but none of that is important for determining the quality of the game.
So, is Fez any good?
ADVENTURE IS READY! It's GOMEZ TIME!
The game starts out simple enough, you are "Gomez." You wake up and leave your house one day. You live in a two dimensional village with two dimensional people like you. When you leave your two dimensional house, you walk over to your mailbox and receive a letter from your Mentor(?) that instructs you to climb to the top of the village. When you get to the top of the village, he says he has something to give you.
Suddenly, a wormhole opens up and transports Gomez to a place where a pan-dimensional Cube exists.
Why does this happen?
What does it matter?
The Cube grants Gomez a magical Fez. This Fez allows Gomez to "shift the world" around him and I will explain the concept further in the game design and play control section of this review. The Cube shatters into smaller Cubes and parts of smaller Cubes. Gomez must explore this 2D/3D world in search of these Cubes and Cube parts. The areas of the game are blocked by doors that require you to find a certain amount of Cubes. There are 64 Cubes in all: 32 Normal Cubes and 32 Anti Cubes. You need 32 Cubes in total to "win" the game and get the first ending. After you get the first ending, you get an item that allows you to look at the world in first person. The reason for this is because the game has a lot of hidden secrets that are only visible in this way.
And here is where the gameplay of the game really begins. The map tells you if you have found all of the "secrets" in an area and hunting for those secrets is half of the fun of this game. There are three different kinds of codes and alphabets in the game that are all over the place. This is a game the requires people to investigate the world of Fez. The world has a day and night cycle to it and some items/creatures/doors only appear at certain times of the day.
The game is pretty unique in this regard and tends to give more to those who take the time to explore the world of Fez. The 2D/3D shifting mechanic is imperative to the game because it allows you discover new paths in the game and find hidden doors or creatively overcome some obstacles.
The game also contains no enemies and there is no way to die or run out of time. You can fall into lava or off the screen, but it just bumps you back to the ledge you fell off of. So, there is no penalty or risk involved with failing to do something. This makes the game really appropriate for younger audiences.
Which is why this reminds me a bit of Myst, because Myst was a non-violent game with an obscure internal logic that was best when played as a group or with someone else that you can discuss the puzzles with. The game does have a few "tricky" jumps to it, but nothing that will ultimately frustrate a player. The game is more about the puzzles than the difficulty of the platforming mechanic. This does make the general exploration of the game very easy. The map in the game is a bit daunting, but there are a lot of warps in the game to make it easier to get through.
Liked: The non-violent, community puzzle solving aspect of the game.
Hated: This is not a very challenging platforming game and some of the puzzles are really complex. You really do need to take notes to deal with the languages in the game.
This game looks really alive, despite the "simplicity" of the pixel graphics. The areas are clean and look like something from a Super Nintendo game, but they are also full of little animations and background elements that move.
When you get the item to see in First Person, the graphics reveal even more interesting details. In some areas, you can look up into the sky and see moving stars that blink out codes for other rooms. The game is really pretty because of these environments and the animation is buttery smooth. The frame rate for the game is steady and there is extremely little slowdown. The game looks wonderful on the Vita and the "trippy" aspects of the game are really gorgeous. Gomez is adorable and has cute idle animations, the game has a relaxing atmosphere to it and is just a "simple" treat to behold.
Liked: I like the fact that there are a ton of things in the background that move in many areas. All of the areas are pretty distinct and the game is actually very complex graphics wise. This game is really bright and colorful. This is just a really sharp, pretty, and detailed game.
Hated: Honestly, the game does look really simple... until you look closer at it. I do not have any real problems with the graphics.
Rich "Disasterpeace" Vreeland is the person who ultimately composed the majority of the music in Fez and his compositions are calming and beautiful. The sound effects are from Brandon McCartin and they are appropriate to the game. The music is really beautiful and sets the atmosphere of the game perfectly. I really suggest playing this with a great pair of headphones or through a great external speaker. There is a puzzle in the game that requires vibration on the PC or PS3/PS4, but uses a slightly directional sound in the Vita version. Yes, sometimes you have to pay attention to the music to solve some of the puzzles in the game.
Please play this game with the sound up!
Liked: Wonderful music and sound effects, sometimes I find myself just letting Gomez fall asleep so I can listen to the music.
Hated: Nothing whatsoever.
Play Control/Game Design
The basic concept for Fez is pretty unique and the best way to explain this would be to visually explain it.
I want you to go find a book or a DVD. Now place the DVD or book on a table and then place two chess pieces or other items on the book. Look at the book from the side and now rotate it to the left or right. Notice how the change in perspective shifts the items on the book? This is how Fez operates as a game. The idea of shifting the perspective means that a platform that was too far away before will now be much closer to you when you shift the perspective. The other mechanic is figuring out the alphabet and codes inside of the world in order to break down a complex series of commands into secret code style button presses.
Thankfully, the play control is nice and simple in Fez. You can climb on vines and ledges, jump, swim, and do basic platforming fairly easily. The only confusing thing about the game is the branched map that sometimes requires you to take a series of warps and shortcuts around the map to get to rooms you have not cleared yet. I feel that this could have been improved by providing an item that allowed the main character to warp instantly to any previously discovered room. This would have been a great way to use the PS Vita's touch screen and it feels like a missed opportunity.
The game also requires you to translate the language inside of the game to understand the story of the game. This is pretty nice and it makes this game more of an educational and measured experience than it would be otherwise. The game does use a lot of gimmicks though and some of those puzzles may be rather annoying. Particularly, the puzzles that have to do with the internal clock in the Vita or the ones that have to do with scanning a QR code. Those are a little irritating, but a patient player will eventually work those puzzles out correctly. The game has a lot of love put into it and this shows in the product, although the product does feel a bit incomplete at times. The collection aspect of the game is not very original, but it is presented in a way that makes it a lot more palatable. This is more in line with Super Mario 64 in terms of collection and not like -say- Donkey Kong 64.
The puzzles are a little crazy, but let me spoil one of the secrets to this game really quickly. There are some markings on some walls and pillars that are actually intended to be seen by tilting the screen or your head at a 90 degree angle. Then you can see that the markings look like Tetrads from Tetris. Each of the pieces correspond with directions on the controller and a specific button on the controller. That is how you solve those. You just quickly enter in that button sequence and things will appear. Those kinds of puzzles are the bread and butter of Fez. If you are willing to invest the time into the figuring out those puzzles, you will find a lot of fun in deciphering the codes of Fez.
Liked: The perspective shifting and secret code puzzles are excellent. The game automatically saves at various points while you explore the game and this makes it much easier to pick up and play in short bursts.
Hated: There is one puzzle, The Black Monolith puzzle, which does not have a written answer that anyone had found. That puzzle had to be brute forced by the online community of Fez fans in order to find out how to solve it. While the item was not needed to beat the game, the fact that it had to be crowd sourced is pretty crazy.
Improve (Free Ideas For Game Designers!)
The idea of warping directly to a found puzzle room would be a very good addition to this game. To be honest, that is my only real complaint about the game. I want to be able to access the map and then tap on any of the rooms that are still silver to instantly warp to them.
RIYL (Recommended If You Like...)
MYST and Wario Land 2 actually. The inability of the character to die and the puzzle solving aspects of the game makes me think of Wario Land 2. The night cycle is sort of like Wario Land 3, although this game is far less violent and contains no enemies. If you have younger children, I recommend playing the game with them and talking through the solutions and alphabets for the game.
Fez is a really fun game with a lot of interesting concepts packed into an entertaining and fun game. It does require you to bust out a notepad to solve many of the mysteries of the game, but that is also what makes it a fun and rewarding experience.
Play Control/Game Design: *****
Star Total: 69
Personal Opinion Merit: 20
Final Score Tally: 89%
*We believe in judging art on the merit of its own worth. Not on statements from an artist. George Bernard Shaw wanted to gas all Black people. That does not make Pygmalion (My Fair Lady) a bad musical. Phil Fish said things people did not like and was a generally grumpy guy. This does not make Fez any less of a good game. This is why we judge games on technical merits and not on social justice or anything else. Fez contains the imagination and effort of Phil Fish and not his opinions. We respect the art.
For those wondering, Phil Fish told a critic on Twitter to "suck my dick. choke on it," said he didn't like modern Japanese games, thinks straight broadcasting an entire game is wrong, supports Anita Sarkessian (a "controversial" modern feminist that critiques video game culture), criticized the XBOX Live Arcade "pay to patch" system, took a while to finish Fez, and acted like a "stuck up pre-madonna" on camera for the documentary film: "Indie Game: The Movie." This (and his very public breakdowns) are why people do not like him and -by proxy- his game. I feel that is incredibly unfair to the craft that is FEZ and we at DMG Ice respect craft and talent above all else.