Fez is an indie game. In fact, in some ways Fez is the indie game. Created by the irascible but visionary Phil Fish, the developer spent five difficult years alongside programmer Renaud Bedard bringing the game to fruition. The game’s development was the subject of intense internet scrutiny from a very early stage after it won two awards at the 2008 Independent Games Festival, despite not being anywhere near completion.
Part of that scrutiny was due to the distinctive pixel art style Fish had created, and another part of it was due to the game’s central dynamic which subverted the vision of a 2D platformer by allowing the stages to rotate in 3D. Whilst that scrutiny certainly caused Phil Fish some sleepless nights (for the game’s journey check out Indie Game: The Movie), it didn’t impact on the final product and upon its release in 2012 it achieved both critical acclaim and sold 100,000 copies in its first two months.
However, Fez was an Xbox 360 timed exclusive and until now Playstation gamers haven’t had the chance to experience it. In a true case of three buses at once, Fez has now released across PS3, PS4 and the PS Vita, with the added bonus of being a Cross-Buy and Cross-Save title. Buy it once, and play it everywhere. The question is whether you should still be interested in a game that released two years ago?
The answer is of course an unequivocal yes. Plain and simple, the Playstation releases are the definitive way to experience one of the finest indie games of recent years, with a key addition that is only available due to Sony’s infrastructure. Cross-save isn’t just a bonus in this case, it is an effortless means of continuing your game on whichever of the system’s you have available to you. Sometimes technology just works in the manner which it’s meant to, and being able to start a game on your PS4 in the living room, pop out and enjoy it on Vita, and then play some more on the PS3 in your bedroom is completely refreshing, especially when you have only paid once for the game and when the save system is robust enough to not lose your progress.
If you’re still a little bit in the dark, Fez is a platformer with exploration at its heart. You play Gomez, a short two-dimensional chap who, following a brush with a giant hexahedron, discovers that the world he lives in actually has three dimensions. Donning the titular fez, Gomez sets out to repair his world by finding all of the pieces of the hexahedron that have been scattered throughout the world’s different planes.
The key to exploring the worlds and solving the puzzles is the ability to rotate each level by using the triggers/shoulder buttons of your controller. As you rotate each level, previously inaccessible routes, platforms and doors swing into place, allowing you to continue your adventure because whatever you see on the front-facing 2D plane is what you can walk on. It’s a wonderful mechanic, and one which completely alters your perception of a game that looks like a traditional retro styled 2D platformer.
Graphically, whilst it certainly isn’t pushing any of the systems to their limit, the pixel-art is endearingly rendered and displays a deep-seated love for classic videogames with various touchstones eliciting memories of Zelda, Mario and even Tetris. If you’ve played computer games since the NES era, I genuinely don’t think you could help but be drawn in by Fez’s presentation, and it’s a wonderful juxtaposition to have the bright and colourful 16–bit styling tied to the subversion of the rotating 3D planes.
There are a number of graphical touches that also add a real sense of life to each area, with wildlife hopping, swimming or flying about, whilst one of my favourite touches was invisible platforms in a night area that only became visible if there was a flash of lightning or you spotted the raindrops bouncing off the hidden surface as they fell.
From a technical point of view there isn’t much to differentiate between the three versions, though as you’d expect the PS4 version is incredibly smooth, offering 1080p presentation at 60fps, as well as slightly reduced load times. The PS3 only loses out on resolution, offering 720p at 60fps, whilst the Vita displays the game at its native resolution of 960×544. The Vita version is slightly choppier, though I don’t think you would notice it at all unless you were going between it and the PS4 version. Perhaps it’s the nature of the port to the Vita that’s caused the mild change. Fundamentally, it’s the exact same game, and plays exceedingly well, no matter which flavour of PlayStation you have.
In an effort for parity there are a few niggling problems to be found in Fez. Despite the stellar soundscape provided by Rich Vreeland, some of the repeated sounds are overly respectful of their 8-bit roots bringing some painful screeches and squelches to bear on your ears. Alongside that, you’ll find the odd glitch here and there such as being able to jump outside of some of the rooms, though in at least one case I’m fairly sure it’s intentional. Neither of these detracts from the game in any meaningful way though.
Fez is an indie game. It’s also an indie game you should experience, and if you own any of Sony’s current consoles you have very little excuse not to.
The ability to play across all of your systems, and transfer effortlessly between them, cannot be overstated, and the fact that you only have to pay once for it is an ideal that some companies are sadly still avoiding. Whilst there isn’t necessarily much of a traditional challenge to the game, working your way through the different worlds is so enjoyable that you’ll barely notice.