8.5 Overall Score

Nostalgic return to 8-bit I Challenging

No true difficulty level

Written by on April 19, 2012 in [, , ]

In a world where games revolve around intense action sequences, having the highest resolution, and the latest adventure into virtual reality, 2D platformers are rare. Enter Polytron’s Fez which brings back the nostalgic NES days of 8-bit graphics combined with a quirky soundtrack to create a present day blast from the past.

In Fez you play as Gomez, an adorable 2D character born and raised in a 2D world. Gomez doesn’t have any distinct features, but his expressions of accomplishment are enough to make any heart melt. My wife loved it when I would find a collectible and Gomez would freeze in midair with a huge smile on his face. Gomez’s story is sure to delight and enthrall all audiences.

Exiting your home and climbing to the top of your village you learn that things aren’t what they seem and that the world around you is transforming. Putting on a fez which descends from the heavens, you are greeted by a colorful hexahedron who informs you that the world has indeed been 3D all along and with the help of your newfound fez, it’s up to you to prevent it from being torn apart. On your journey you will travel through the world from a 2D point of view, but upon pressing the shoulder buttons on your controller you can rotate the world by 90 degrees, allowing you to change your perspective. Suddenly, ledges that were too far to jump between are within reach, ladders on opposite sides of the level are fused together, and new pathways are created to allow you to climb up structures. You need to learn to utilize your power wisely so that you can collect all the pieces of the shattered hexahedrons and save the world as we know it.

Along your journey to collecting and assembling all 32 cubes and anti-cubes you will travel through a myriad of levels, ranging from forests, to stormy cemeteries, to futuristic alien worlds. While playing through the levels you will have to think three-dimensionally when it comes to your surroundings. You may be only able to see one door until you rotate the level and see complex paths to other doors and areas. If you can see an area in the distance, you can travel there as long as you find the right door, but often the path to said door takes ingenuity and smart thinking to reach. Each area has at least 2 doors which lead you to secret areas and interior rooms, offering looks behind the scenes of the 3D world, and intense puzzles within puzzles.


There are no real enemies in Fez so it’s not difficult to breeze through the game, but only those with patience and determination will be able to collect and assemble all the cubes. Subtle clues are scattered across each area and figuring out what the secret symbols or patterns mean can be a real challenge. A lot of the text you will see in the game is alien and unknown to Gomez, so it can be ominous at times when the solution to a puzzle is written in a language you can’t comprehend. Luckily for you though, your hexahedron companion can shed some light and give you clues as to what you need to do to complete a puzzle, such as relying on your knowledge of Tetris or a QR reader on your phone.

On your first playthrough you won’t complete all the puzzles, so don’t get hung up on collecting every secret cube or treasure. You don’t need to collect every cube to complete the game. However, solving some of the harder puzzles will reward you with an anti-cube. These are rewarding enough because the puzzles that you complete to earn these can be sadistic at times. There are some puzzles that I miraculously completed on accident after many minutes of trial and error. In addition to finding the anti-cubes, you can also find treasure maps and keys which unlock secret doors. Treasure maps show you the outline of the area in which the treasure is located, but finding the location of the treasure can be just as challenging as deciphering the map itself.


Fez can get very frustrating at times. This is definitely one of those games where you will need to set the controller down and come back to it later. It got tedious at times with the only objective being “collect cubes”. If you are a collector then this game is for you, but the novelty loses its flair after a while. It is easy to get lost in the world of Fez, but several features help you narrow down your options and retrace your steps. Gomez has access to a map which documents places you’ve been, areas you’ve completed, secrets still yet to be found, and illustrates paths from one level to another. This is very helpful because without it you wouldn’t know which section still holds cube fragments. Another helpful feature is that when you stand next to a door your hexahedron partner will display a preview of what is through the door. This is helpful because it saves you the time of traveling through a door, getting your bearings, and then having to come back through the same door because you are lost.

All in all, Fez is a much-needed trip back to the days of 8-bit. Fez’s artstyle along with the simplistic nature and complex puzzles make it an enjoyable experience perfect for everyone. If you are looking to buy an arcade game to satisfy your gaming itch for the summer then I highly recommend you pick up Fez which is out now on the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft points and is rated “E for Everyone”.


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Author: Loren Nikkel View all posts by
Hardcore Xbox and occasional PC gamer. I love to play multiplayer and co-op games where strategy is key.

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