Fez put to the test - 2D with depth

Author: Benjamin Schäfer
Date: 2013-05-17 09:30:00
In the indie jump & run Fez we puzzle and spin through 2D levels in a 3D world. Our test of the PC version shows that this is not only complex, but also extremely entertaining.

After scooping up numerous indie prizes and being released for consoles over a year ago , Fez has finally made it to the PC - and at number 1 in the pre-sale charts on Steam, although developer Phil Fish calls his buyers "ungrateful" and asks to steal the game. But he deserves it, because the jump & run around the marshmallow-like hero Gomez not only convinced us in the test with its original game mechanics and clever puzzles.

Incidentally, Gomez did not choose his hero status himself, his predecessor Geezer simply buried him in the role of adventurer. As such, Gomez not only gets the felt hat that gives it its name, but is also let in on a well-kept secret - the third dimension.

Going crazy in 2D

This is exactly what makes Fez what it is. We run and jump through two-dimensional levels in Gomez 'form, but these are only flat images of the three-dimensional areas. The advantage of three-dimensionality becomes apparent when we turn the environment by pressing a button or, better still, pressing a gamepad button (the controls on the keyboard are heavily overloaded) and thus change the accessible terrain. It can happen that our felt hated hero disappears behind objects or buildings, which sometimes confuses us for a short time.

The turning shop not only looks great, it also has a playful benefit. Through the targeted level rotation, we not only reach previously hidden places, almost insurmountable abysses can suddenly shrink to cat jumps, or we unexpectedly find ourselves at the other end of a platform. In addition, the whirling around of the levels surprises us again and again with occasional brain-wracking aha experiences.

Rubik's Cube

The reason why we chase Gomez through the consistently square world is a cube or - to put it mathematically correct - a regular hexahedron. This holds the world of Fez together at its core, but breaks into its individual parts at the beginning of the game. Our job is to turn each level upside down to find the fragments and put the hexahedron back together.

When looking for the 32 dice, we quickly notice that there are also 32 anti-dice to be found, plus nine treasure maps and four artifacts, the use of which has not yet been revealed to us. In addition, Fez confronts us with a mysterious sign language right from the start, with which we cannot do anything with the best will in the world.

In order not to get lost, Fez gives us a map of the world that is a bit confusing, but stylish and informative. On the map we can see, for example, whether there is still a cube fragment in a level, or whether there are locked doors or boxes. If we have found everything in a room, opened all the doors and solved all the puzzles, it is outlined in gold on the world map. So we know directly where we still have work to do. Also practical: the time travel gates. With their help we can jump back and forth between certain nodes without having to visit the levels in between. That saves us a little time, but still leaves so many route and door searches that we miss a direct travel function in all levels at the latest in the second run.

It continues at the beginning

Wait, second run? Right, once we have finished Fez, we have the option of starting a »New Game +«. Then the story starts all over again, but the game world remains as it was from our first run. Because the first time we solve a lot of puzzles, we are not able to find out everything. Since we already have our level rotating felt hat at the second attempt, it would be illogical to get a second fez on our head. Therefore we are given a new accessory and thus a new ability that allows us to solve further puzzles and find all 64 cubes. We won't reveal what our new aid is about here. However, it fits seamlessly into the world of Fez and motivates us, assuming the corresponding ambition, to return to the level we have already visited.

Puzzles with paper and pen

All puzzles within the game world can be solved in the coherent and well thought-out Fez. In theory at least. In practice, however, some tasks turn out to be more difficult than necessary. While we can still easily find out the meaning of the Tetris code, i.e. the combinations of the Tetris blocks that we see in many places, deciphering the secret language requires not only an above-average perception but also our upper room.

As in the old DOS days, we even have to use paper and pen to take notes during a game! But that doesn't always help either, even the community only came up with the solution to a riddle about a black monolith through merciless and aimless trial and error. In order to play through Fez, we do not necessarily have to go to this more complex level, but the bizarre universe makes us so curious that it is almost impossible not to get involved.

Technically, Fez doesn't have to hide in his class. The detailed retro world is presented as if it were made from one piece, and the mixture of three-dimensional levels, which are broken down into two-dimensional levels, impresses us with its cleverness. Gomez and the other inhabitants and living beings are all softly animated, and we always enjoy watching the fauna.

Or we stop and watch Gomez curiously look around the area or take a nap. The soundscape is also pleasing. While the synth background music adapts to the mood of the individual levels, the many ambient noises allow us to immerse ourselves wonderfully in the harmonious world of Fez.