Fez is a 2-D side scrolling platformer that gives you control of both the character, Gomez, and the world he lives in. It’s hard to describe the 3-D rotation effect with words, more accurately it’s hard to describe how it affects the gameplay. It’s easy enough to imagine a cube at a perspective so you only see one side, then rotating it so you only see another side, which is how the world is controlled in the game. But in Fez, shifting this perspective can line up paths that were disjoint before, revealing a new path for Gomez to pursue. It’s difficult to describe this mechanic with words and have it make sense in my own head, so this is one you’ll just have to play to really find out what’s going on there.
The artistic style of Fez is directly influenced by 8-bit games from the 80s, so this may not be your game if you’re really into high-end graphics. Gomez is a minimally drawn two-tone (more-toned if you include his magic hat) figure/dude/thing that can move, jump, and climb. He has no special attacks and never levels up. There are no enemies or time limits, and falling from a ledge results in an instant re-spawn from the previous ledge. The game is played at your own pace, and the minimalist design and gameplay are almost comforting, even if a half-hour of exploration goes by with no real progress.
What little background story the game gives at the start reveals that there are cubes strewn about Gomez’s world, and said cubes have been broken into cube-bits, and the cubes and bits must be collected or something shitty will happen to the world. Honestly, that’s about all it tells you. Collecting 8 bits (get it?) will produce a cube, certain amounts of cubes will allow you to open certain doors throughout the game, and the last door before the end credits does not require the full collection. There are also anti-cubes, awards for some of the more difficult puzzles, which also count toward your end-game total.
There’s not much more to say about the game’s content without revealing too much. Below the Metroidvania-ish shell, the game is figuring out that specific pieces of knowledge exist, and if you so choose, finding out how to acquire such knowledge. Sometimes this knowledge is useful somewhere else in the game, and sometimes it just takes up space in your brain.
Finishing the game is not difficult, or at least it is not hard to find enough cubes the see the end credits. Some will find this to be just the right amount of game, play through it purely for the exploration experience, and be done with it. Without spoiling anything, or at least trying not to, I highly recommend that everyone do this first. Just finish it because you can, before it gets frustrating enough for internet research, and while it still is a satisfying experience. Once you have completed the game, if you are still hell-bent on finding everything (like myself), then go to it. And have a laptop ready, because I guarantee you will not find it all on your own. You may take this as a challenge, but this is fact. I’m not telling you back down, but preparing you for reality.
Should you play the game? Yes. Even if only for a little bit, just long enough to feel comfortable with the the change in dimensional perception. If video games really aren’t your thing, there is a film called Indie Game: The Movie that is worth your time. The film chronicles the development of Fez and Super Meat Boy, both of which are games by independent developers, and shows plenty of Fez gameplay as well as the struggles Polytron Studios went through to bring the game to market. I saw the film during its theatrical tour, which was when I first saw Fez in action, and I was not disappointed when my time came to explore it.