FEZ ReviewGuest_Jim_* - May 12, 2013
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Now we get to the really important part of the review; the gameplay. This is a platformer, puzzle game, which means you need to think and jump a lot. Some of that thought concerns how to best utilize your ability to turn to another 2D viewing plane, such as to bring a platform near enough to jump to, or to move one out of the way. This mechanic is actually something I found myself getting use to very quickly, and I expect most other people would as well. As there are only four directions to view from, it is not very complicated. Also, time freezes as the world spins, so if that first spin is not the one you wanted, you can spin again without much of a penalty.
Speaking of penalties, this game has no real penalty for death. If you fall to your death, you simply respawn at the last solid platform you were standing on, and often at the exact spot you last stood. It may not be the hardcore 'replay the entire section' response to death, but it does help keep the gameplay moving. In fact, there even appeared to be at least one point where the developers intentionally designed the level so if you did miss a jump, you would die and respawn, almost like a checkpoint. Of course, there are also some places where you will survive the fall and have to get back to where you were.
Like graphics options, controls can be a concern for games originally released for consoles, but there is no need for concern with FEZ. Every keyboard keybinding can be changed to fit your needs and preferences. By the way, the mouse is not used in the game, as every move is made through the keyboard, at least by default.
The platforming and normal puzzle elements are quite straightforward. There are some twists from the world-spinning mechanic, but nothing too crazy. For example, some vertical block pairs will move when you step on the bottom one, in an attempt to crush you, but you can spin the world around, causing the top block to move out of the way, so the bottom block launches you in the sky. There are also platforms that spin on their own and take you with them, so you need to pay attention to make your jumps. Naturally there are also some blocks that break away after landing on them, which is a staple of platformers it seems.
For better or worse, that straightforwardness vanishes eventually. While the game is filled with cube fragments to find, there are also anti-cubes to collect, which can take the place of the regular cube pieces when it comes to unlocking areas and such. The anti-cubes are hidden in far more obtuse ways, such as requiring the interpretation of markings that indicate an input pattern. In at least one case, the markings are actually spread between rooms, and you need to realize the connection and then correctly decipher the code to complete the puzzle. Some of these puzzles are born only from a very creative mind, but their use and inclusion indicates, to me at least, either a lack of appreciation for minds that are creative in different ways, or the assumption that people will turn to the Internet and others to find the solutions. If you consider that cheating and vow to never do so, you may find yourself staring at empty rooms for hours, knowing there is a puzzle to solve, but without any idea of the solution. Even if you can find the solution without help though, you will likely want a pen and paper with you to write it down, as the world spinning can cause you to lose sight of whatever the clue was.
You are able to know when an area has an unsolved puzzle by viewing the map. The map will actually tell you everything that is in the area too, whether it be cube fragments, larger cube pieces, chests, secrets, or warp gates. This feature is somewhat useful for a completionist. Beyond that though, I find the map somewhat unhelpful. It does indicate what areas connect where, but within an area you still do not know which door to take. Only when you are in front of a door will you get a bubble indicating what lies beyond, though sometimes you can also spot an area off in the distance; however, these distant areas are not always plainly visible. Altogether, this style makes it very easy to get lost in the game, which is not horrible when you are exploring, but it can be frustrating when you are trying to get to a specific area. Warp gates do help, to a degree.
Small warp gates send you to the nearest large warp gate, and the full size devices are able to send you to others across the map. The problem is identifying to which one you are going. Spinning the world changes which side you are going to step through and which gate you are going to come out of, but actually recognizing the destination can be difficult. It only shows you the background of the destination, which in two cases is quite distinct. In the other cases though, it may be blue or purple. The problem with the color changes is the blue-sky areas experience a day night cycle, so some of the time that area is purple. Basically this means you need to memorize what the colors mean, instead of just being able to look and intuitively know. If it utilized the same bubble-view as doors, it would be much easier to manipulate.
Thanks to the anti-cubes being able to stand in for regular cubes, you are able to achieve more than 100% completion in the game by collecting them. Once you reach the needed 32 cubes though, you are able to travel to the end. After that event, you will be given the option to start a new game in the save slot, or a New Game+ (NG+). The NG+ in FEZ is like other games as it lets you replay the game with everything you already found, with a new ability. In this case that ability is to enter a first-person view mode. This has little purpose but to find puzzle clues hidden in the world and to just view the world differently. While viewing the world like this though, you are not able to move or spin the world.
After 5:07, according to the game, I had collected enough to reach the end and start an NG+. Before I did so though, I decided to use the save management options to copy my finished game to another slot. Do not use this function! It actually wiped my save, resetting it to 0% completed. I attempted to restore a local backup made by the game, but this attempt failed. Fortunately, I had the sense to block Internet communication when I spotted the problem, which meant that the 0% saves could not be uploaded to the Steam Cloud. As the local saves were no good, I deleted them, causing Steam to download them both and one of them was the correct 107% completed, 5:07 save. (Oddly it was not the save for the original save slot, but the slot I copied to.) I have reported this issue so hopefully it will be found and fixed soon.
As horrible a loss as that could be to a player, I would not let this be an excuse to avoid the game. The reason for that is the backing up of the save, within the game, is not really needed, so this bug is avoidable assuming the bug was caused by the copying of the save and not some other process. So be aware, but not afraid of this issue, unless it happens to you.
Another issue I came across appears to have been reported already, or at least something similar has. Occasionally I lost specific controls with the game, such as the ability to jump. Only by restarting the game was I able to regain control. The game remembers the room you were in when you quit, so this is not going to set you back very far. Also, it may be linked to the use of the Steam Overlay, but I am not certain.