If you have a pulse, you should be excited for FEZ
One of my fondest memories of years past was spending Saturdays sitting in my pajamas playing Nintendo games until about 3:00pm, at which time my dad would typically stomp upstairs and yell at me for wasting my life and being unproductive. I remember it perfectly...
Clive's High-Expectations-Father: "You've been sitting on your butt playing video games all day! DO SOMETHING with your life!"
Clive: "You're not the boss of me!"
Clive's High-Expectations-Father: "You're 28! It's time to grow up!"
You gotta cut him a little slack, I guess. He grew up on a farm and life was different when he was a kid. I didn't catch all of his "when I was your age" stories, but from what I remember, he had to start clicking on crops and animals at 6am every day, rain or shine!
No matter what generation you're from, times were simpler when you were a youngling, and there is nothing quite like the euphoric feeling of nostalgia sweeping over you when you savor something blissful from your childhood. That's why from the first moment I laid my eyes on upcoming indie game FEZ, I was instantly transported back to my carefree Saturdays, munching on Koala Yummies, and playing through the pain in my D-Pad bruised thumbs. (It probably helped that I happened to already be munching on Koala Yummies and playing through the pain in my D-Pad bruised thumbs.)
But if you can manage to look past how this game has perfectly captured the 8-bit art style, has a charming 8-bit soundtrack to match, and the game universe is crawling with cute little pixelated cuddlies, --wait, why would you want to look past that? Let's actually stop and savor this more!
FEZ doesn't simply pay homage to the 8-bit style. While there are laser-beams of 8-bit awesomeness emanating from every pixel, the thing that's amazing about this game's aesthetic is that it is kicked into overdrive with artistic undertones from beyond the confines of its 8-bit limitations. Indeed, the game is full of more vibrant colors and moving objects than any classic game console could ever handle, but if you pay careful attention, you'll notice more: Moving platforms glide smoothly up and down, regardless of aligning to the grid of pixels. Clouds cast gentle, feathered shadows onto walls, and the water reflects pleasing refraction patterns on nearby blocks. Even the music has gotten an exo-8-bit boost in its ambient reverb and bass-y booms. (Pondering out loud, I wonder if this is done in reference to the game's story of a 2-dimensional character breaking out of the confines of his 2D existence?)
At first glance, FEZ's gameplay appears to be yet another 8-bit staple, 2D platforming, but as seems to be emerging as a theme here, it has been given a modern twist: FEZ takes place in a 3D world. The main character, Gomez, can freely rotate the world in 90-degree increments, and thus only exists in two of the three dimensions at a time. This can allow him, for example, to traverse what looks like a chasm from one viewpoint, simply by switching to another perspective and walking across. It's difficult to picture in your head, but if you watched the video above, you likely noticed this effect in action. You did watch the video above, right?
Go do it.
Okay, moving on.
The object of FEZ seems pretty reminiscent of classic platformers: collect cubes in order to restore the fragmenting universe. This task is accomplished predominantly by solving spacial puzzles using the rotation mechanic. To complete the game, however, the player must collect every cube and crack what appears to be a complex meta-puzzle laced throughout the game.
FEZ seems to have something for everyone. Its simple inviting art style is palatable to all ages, and its lean array of game mechanics should make it easy enough for even your grandma to pick up and play. Completists will love spending hours exploring FEZ's many doors, nooks and passages. Casual players will be lured in to the charming but mysterious ambiance of the game. Gamers of my vintage will love diving into the nostalgia of this mock-8-bit beauty. Those on a budget will appreciate that this game is only $10. Aside from die-hard PC gamers, who may never see a version of the game appear on Steam, I am having a hard time envisioning someone who wouldn't love FEZ.
Having not played the game yet, it may seem as though I'm rushing to praise something I know little about, but from what I've seen, and at the risk of just a measly $10, I can't imagine myself being anything but totally pleased with FEZ.
FEZ will be released Friday April, 13th 2012 on XBLA.