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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox Live Arcade
GENRE: Platformer
April 13, 2012
 Written by Brian Lelas  on May 10, 2012

Reviews: Fez is a fantastic puzzle platformer with a wonderful 8-Bit visual style that transforms into three dimensions with the pull of a trigger.

Every now and again a game like Fez will appear and inject a sense of vibrancy into the indie market that becomes a catalyst for trains of creative thought to come. Phil Fish and Renaud B?dard, the two men behind this gaming gem, must be commended immediately for their accomplishment, but also for their persistence and patience in completing its five-year development cycle. Could any game or project ever pay back that much time and personal investment? In the case of Fez, the answer is ?in a heartbeat.?

At its core, Fez is a platform game. Your adorable little avatar, Gomez, can run from side to side, jump, climb, lift and push objects. He also adorns the titular Fez upon his head. The real trick to the game is that Gomez can flip the game world from one axis to another. With the simple flick of a trigger, Gomez's flat world rotates the Y axis 90 degrees in full 3D, becoming locked in place again. What makes this interesting is that something that had been a simple jump above before, is now revealed as being much deeper into the former background, allowing travel across impossibly far distances with a little shift in perspective.

This innovative camera reliant technique has been seen before, most notably in Sony's Echochrome and Crush. There are also similarities to Paper Mario. What Fez does differently is that it ties in a level of charm and complex marvel not seen since Valve's Portal arrived in 2007. The vibrant use of color and simple 8-bit style animation harkens back to the golden age of platforming, but every time you hit that world-rotate button, you come careening back to present day with what is essentially some of the most mind-boggling 3D visuals ever seen in a game. The abstract nature of the purple doors and warps becomes all the more impressive once you experience a level with rips in space. Gomez's peaceful exploits in the lighthouses and village trees become something enchanting, but those voids of nothingness that begin to populate his world drag a sense of much-needed urgency later on, despite never giving you the hurry-up. You can play Fez in as much or as little time as you like. That spectacular world map is not going anywhere and it will take a while to give it a complete golden border.

Some of Fez's puzzles require some thinking outside the box. Most of them will be completed by trial and error or a little persistence, but be aware that there are one or two of the anti-cube ones that will likely require you to leave the area, reset the board, then return, as you can mess things up pretty bad in some cases, throwing blocks about in the wrong way or leaving something too low on a climb to ever get back to the top. I learned that lesson relatively quickly, but I can imagine that some players will find it frustrating in some instances.

Aside from the occasional brain-melting perspective moment, Fez is simply a joy from start to finish. Gomez is responsive and adaptive. He cannot die, so daring moves are encouraged with little or no penalty. He also doesn't say anything throughout the game, but meeting other characters is a fun, if brief, experience. What story you find is merely a frame for the gameplay and a subtle one at that, which might surprise you along the way.

Fez is also a love affair between its creators and the industry they work in. There are tiny subtle references to gaming classics, many of them extremely well hidden in the world. The game's cover art was commissioned to Scott Pilgrim writer and artist Bryan Lee O'Malley, who is an outspoken lover of gaming and incorporated an obscene number of gaming references in his works to date. It is these details and investments that really strike a chord with my gamer heart. Fez is a truly monumental indie game that does everything that it sets out to do in an endearing and wholly impressive way.

Bottom Line
Fez is a game about perspective. As you progress through the first few minutes, it becomes clear that this is not simply the one exhibited in the dimensions of Gomez's world, but also about the perspective of the state of the video game industry. Fez literally turns things around in a unique and ingenious way that breathes fresh life into a medium that has recently been clouded by a fog of familiarity, clones and rehashes. In a world dominated by annual FPS updates and shoulder high wall camping, it takes a brave little adventure like this to reel in the hype machine to get people to notice that innovation and great gameplay are not constrained to the big budget blockbusters. Fez belongs in the same family as Portal, Braid and Limbo. It's a truly spectacular surprise and one that will likely live in the memories of those who play it for many years to come. I tip my hat to you, Polytron.


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