fez

Fez is a truly wonderful and beautiful video game. It is such a joy to explore and experience everything it has to offer – I, I can’t even describe the experience I had playing the game, immersing myself in its idiosyncratic logic and just having fun. I think I’ll start by talking about something else and sort of ease into it.

Back in the halcyon days of my youth, I was enamored with a lovely little game called The Neverhood. Okay, who am I kidding? I still love that game. A lot.

Anyway, it was a claymation clone of Myst with an incredible visual style and sense of humor. I remember getting stuck on this one puzzle, though, involving rotating colored crystals to activate a shrink ray. I was stuck on that thing for weeks – maybe months. This was before GameFAQs and all I could do was turn to my friends for help. They had aided me in some previous puzzles, but this one had us all stumped as we pored over it after a D&D game.

The name “Bobby” was written on the side of the machine – did that have some significance? Well, yes, of course it did. One of us eventually realized that “Bobby” corresponded to the colors blue-orange-blue-blue-yellow: the color order in which the crystals should be rotated. BAM: mouse-sized Klayman – we had solved the puzzle.

Was it a good puzzle? I think so. I certainly remember it 15 years later. I like it because the information you need is right in front of you, staring you in the face – if only you knew how to read it. It is, in some small way, about interpreting symbols and languages into something that your brain can recognize, and Fez has this in spades.

There are three main “languages” in Fez: an alphabet, a number system and a set of tetris pieces representative of the game inputs (left, right, jump, etc.). These symbols are everywhere, but starting out the game, you probably won’t even notice them – thinking that they’re just adding color to the world. But eventually you realize that everything around you is a clue – clues to help you decipher these languages and clues to use these languages to discover secret collectibles. Secrets are everywhere, but in order to find them, you need the proper information. And to get the information, you have to pay attention. To everything.

It is just surprising how much detail went into every little nook and cranny of the game. You can feel the passion of the two guys who worked for years to make Fez, making sure every aspect of the game was perfect and that every pixel in the game added to the experience. It is obvious that this game was a labor of love for them, and the result is a game that truly feels “lived in” in a wonderful way.

It sort of gives you more faith in humanity. I mean, if these two guys had the passion to create Fez, what are the rest of us capable of? What am I capable of?

I hope the games I create will always be full of that same passion.