What if we
turned our head to the left and looked at the blocks from this angle? What if
we jumped every time there was a slanted line, and held the left trigger
whenever there was a square? What if the secret to opening this door involves
standing still for twenty minutes? Is this a glitch, or are we supposed to be
able to fall out of the window? Is that a QR code on the wall? Should we talk
to more owls? Yes, all of these are perfectly valid questions you'll be asking as you experience Polytron's Fez.
is more about cryptography than it is platforming. Sure, there’s plenty of
jumping around from object to object and climbing things, but that’s only
surface-level stuff. It’s deeper – much deeper – than initially anticipated,
proving to be an absolutely magical, albeit maddening experience.
off as we expected, giving us control of Gomez, a 2D sprite living in a 2D world
with 2D people and 2D things. Everything is flat, sprite-based and adorable,
until Gomez is gifted the titular Fez that bumps everything into the
third-dimension. This magical, mysterious hat lets the shoulder buttons
break free of the second dimension, allowing Gomez to shift the four-sided
world over. A giant block also happens to explode once he gets his fez (a
tragic coincidence), and for the remainder of the game he needs to travel the
world collecting small cubes that can be used to make larger blocks. Collecting
blocks opens doors, which lead to other rooms with more doors and blocks and
treasure maps and anti-cubes and artifacts.
His ability –
to shift the world around on an axis – has plenty of practical uses. Gomez can
rearrange the dimensions to line up objects that otherwise wouldn’t connect and
reach platforms in previously inaccessible places. It becomes more complicated
than that as the game goes on, adding in other interesting elements that play with the unique formula. If you’re signing up for Fez specifically to jump on
things, you’re not going to be disappointed; it does that well. When it puts on
its platformer hat, Fez has some of the smartest design we’ve seen in
years, with mind-bending segments that require precision timing as well as a
mastery of the game’s unique world-shifting mechanics.
eventually, we ran out of places to go and doors to open, and were drastically
short of the number of cubes we needed. We opened the map (which became more
vital as the web of interconnecting doors became more wild) to see dozens of
rooms we didn’t (or couldn’t) get to – some with question marks hovering above them,
hinting that there are secrets to be found. This’ll happen after a few hours of
play, causing the game to suddenly transform from cute, indie platformer to
absurd, puzzle-cracking masterpiece.
and cubes we mentioned earlier? They’re important. Very important. A major part
of Fez is finding out how to open doors that lead to different areas that
include more cubes. These doors oftentimes have very specific button presses
needed to open them. Usually, you’ll need to hit the right combination of
buttons, as prompted by a nearby object, in order to pass through; then, and
only then, will the door open.
Sounds simple, right? Well, there’s a problem: although the code needed to open the door or access a cube is usually written in
the room, it’s often hard to find – covered by an object, or hidden in a
picture. What’s more, the codes aren’t written in English. Or Spanish. Or any
actual recognizable language at all. They can be blocks, or squiggly lines, or
shapes representing numbers.