Fez PS4 Review: Owls Creep Me Out
If you haven’t played Fez that you’re living in a bland world that will be much brighter once you join Gomez in his quest for cubes. Released years ago for Xbox 360, Fez is finally available on Playstation platforms. The PS4 version specifically stands out as the definitive visual version of a game that would be a delight on nearly any hardware. Playstation fans no longer need be jealous of their PC and Xbox friends as Phil Fish’s innovative and charming puzzle platformer has finally hit PSN.
What can be said about Fez that hasn’t been said already? For those who aren’t familiar with the game, Fez is a 2.5D puzzle platformer. You play as Gomez in a 2D world but can shift the world 90 degrees to the left or right. This creates some fantastic and positively mind melting puzzles that will have you hooked for hours. You rotate the world to the right or left with the triggers and jump with X.
Gomez himself is pretty fragile. He can pick up some items, like bombs and blocks, but for the most part Gomez is prone to death. Thankfully the game saves every time you do anything of importance or enter a room so you don’t have to worry about the checkpoint system in such an expansive game.
Visually Fez is striking. Of course the game’s 2D 8-bit art style will stand out to most but the character designs are what have always caught my eye. The game is notorious for its prolonged development cycle but once you see how much work went into every tiny detail of each stage, environment, character or puzzle you’ll understand that it was worth the wait. Yes, there are a lot of 2D indie games out there but very few of them look as pretty as Fez. It runs in full 1080p on PS4 with zero issues.
Fez excels at exploration and freedom in a time when games are holding our hands and steering us towards the end only to pitch expensive DLC to us. This is part of what makes Fez so great, that it unapologetic for being a difficult, slow paced game. It does what it does (puzzles and exploration) very well and never waivers. There are no silly ideas introduced to make the gameplay more fast or fun, it maintains its identity throughout your six hour play through. It sets you loose in a cute and charming world with the goal of finding these cubes but doesn’t tug you by the ear in the right direction. Fez lets you figure out the right course of action and that’s what makes it great.
There are several nods to video game history’s past in Fez, all done lovingly so. Gomez’s house has a painting that pays homage to the original Legend of Zelda, Dot obviously resembles Ocarina of Time’s Navi, Gomez himself looks similar to Quote from Cave Story, the game has a crash screen at the beginning similar to the many DOS crash screens gamers saw decades ago and more. Each of these add how the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes the experience all the more fun. Twin Peaks fans will also find a few easter eggs related to the ill-fated David Lynch 90’s drama.
The flaws with Fez in 2014 are the same as when it released in 2012. There is a bit too much back tracking and navigation is overly complex. The map is confusing as all hell at first and is still not intuitive once you get the hang of it. For a game that relies so heavily on freedom and exploration it could have used a much better navigation/map system. It doesn’t have to come at the cost of the freedom or lack of hand holding, warp gates to a central location in every single stage would have been a nice touch to make navigating the surprising large game world a much more stream lined experience.
Additionally there are some puzzles that are real annoyances. While I appreciate a nice, difficult puzzle here and there, some of these are just not obvious at all. Some of these puzzles will make the gameplay even more fun by influencing you to get out a piece of paper and write information down, something modern games don’t do often. Others will drive you mad like when a teacher asks a class of young students a question that he/she knows they could never know the answer to. Some parts of Fez can be tedious and push away players who are more easily discouraged.
One very odd bug that I ran into was that the game crashed once while I was playing it. The entire screen went black just as Gomez was about to go through a door and all sound went away except for a few movement sounds. I could go back to the PS4 menu and back to Fez back nothing would change. I’m not sure if this was a glitch with my PS4 console or the game because shortly after (while still having Fez suspended in the background) the audio in the PS4 menu disappeared for me too. I assume this was just a minor, one of a kind bug that most won’t run into.
In the end Fez is a fantastic game that everyone should get around to playing no matter what the platform. The PS4 version specifically stands as easily the best console version so far. The game stumbles with navigation and back tracking but excels in all other areas. It has some really creative puzzles, a charming art style, superb music and a one of a kind mechanic to overshadow its few rough edges.
Fez was completed by reviewer in roughly six hours on PS4. Review copy provided by Polytron Corporation.