Fez is a Twin Peaks/Link's Awakening/Myst/2001: A Space Odyssey mashup for cubist tetromino cryptographers.
May 2, 2012 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Fez is an independently developed game available on Xbox Live Arcade. It's available for 800 Microsoft funbucks ($10 USD real world currency).

Originally announced in 2007, the game's development process was long, and somewhat tortured. The game and its creator, Phil Fish, were featured prominently in Indie Game: The Movie, a documentary about independent games and the developers who make them. Like Jonathon Blow, the creator of Braid, Fish's outspoken nature has occasionally landed him in hot water.

However, Fez finally saw the light of day on April 13th and has received nearly unanimous praise from the gaming press.

The game is, at least on the surface, an open-world (ala Metroid) 2D platformer. There are no enemies, no death in any meaningful sense, and very little penalty for missing a jump. Rather than focusing on jumping skills, the game uses an interesting 2D/3D perspective mechanic to build various spatial orientation puzzles. The launch trailer and Giant Bomb's Quick Look at the game do a good job of scratching the surface.

But just under that soothing, rotation-oriented surface is almost an entirely separate game filled with puzzles that are far more devious than any of the simple spatial puzzles. This aspect of the game, when combined with the gentle exploration has brought comparisons to Myst. The presence of an alphabet and number system in the game, among other things has lots of people resorting to pen and paper to figure things out (spoilers abound in that tumblr obviously). The game's most difficult puzzle, far and away more difficult than anything else in the game, was so hard that it took almost a week for the collective internet to solve.

The striking, gorgeous soundtrack which has been described as "chiptune Vangelis" is available for $7.

What's next for Phil Fish? He's not saying much yet, beyond the fact that it probably won't be an XBLA title, and might be at least partially Kickstarter-funded.
posted by sparkletone (35 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Wow I had mentally written this off in 2009 or so.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:51 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am, of course, completely obsessed with the game right now, and was somewhat surprised that there'd never been a Mefi post about either Fez or Indie Game: The Movie, hence the post.

I would personally recommend trying to stay away from reading the solutions to anything until one's completed the first 32-cube play through, which is completely doable without getting into any of the crazy QR code/translation/crypto stuff. Just explore and if you get stuck on a particular puzzle, go try something else and come back to it later. There will almost always be something else for you to do.

I think my favorite link of the bunch up there is the tumblr of photos of various people's notes taken while playing the game. It is suuuuper spoiler heavy though, so I can't recommend looking at it if you're going to be bothered by reading puzzle solutions, etc.
posted by sparkletone at 8:53 AM on May 2, 2012

"chiptune Vangelis"

Perfect description. It's one of the best things I've heard this year.
posted by naju at 8:53 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wow I had mentally written this off in 2009 or so.

I'd never heard of it until stumbling across the trailer for the documentary, and by that point the release date of the game had been announced. I waited to see what reviews were like, etc, etc. and everything I read (even that Ars article about the ridiculous final puzzle) suggested the game was very much something I'd enjoy (though maybe it's not for everyone). And I really have!

I tried to be as spoiler-free as possible above. I don't think I can really talk about some of my favorite references/allusions/puzzles in the game without spoilers. However, one tiny one I definitely can was when I noticed last night that above Gomez's drum kit in his room in the starting village is a poster of the water fall from the first Zelda game's title screen.
posted by sparkletone at 8:59 AM on May 2, 2012

There is nothing about this I don't like, and I have managed not to hear a peep about it. Can't wait to check it out! (And, Vangelis being a god, can't wait to hear the music either.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:15 AM on May 2, 2012

OK, I somehow managed to miss it was "Xbox Live Arcade" only. Gah! I'll have to talk my Xbox buddy into getting it. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:17 AM on May 2, 2012

OK, I somehow managed to miss it was "Xbox Live Arcade" only.

Yeah. And unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Fish has any plans to port it to PC, even when people have brought up Super Meat Boy's example to him.
posted by sparkletone at 9:20 AM on May 2, 2012

Do yourself a favor and start this for the first time in a dark room with a big TV close in front of you, headphones on, and drunk. The beginning of this game will blow your mind.
posted by daHIFI at 9:23 AM on May 2, 2012

I'm still wondering if there's a "real" solution to the Monolith or Phil Fish really did just troll everybody.

(Note also that the soundtrack has mysteries within as well.)
posted by kmz at 9:29 AM on May 2, 2012

Currently ploughing through Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet on the pc; once I'm finished with that, Fez is definitely next up. Shame no PC version, but It'll do the 360 good to have the dust blown off it.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:29 AM on May 2, 2012

And once you're done with Fez, you can start saving money for all the broken controllers you'll have to replace playing Trials Evolution.
posted by kmz at 9:41 AM on May 2, 2012

11 comments in and not a single That 70's Show reference!?

"Good Day!"


"I said Good Day!"
posted by Fizz at 9:50 AM on May 2, 2012

I'm in the middle of Fez right now. It's lovely. I really like the casual exploration and the slow reveal of the story. Also the warm aesthetic, it feels a bit like Mother / Earthbound. I'm avoiding spoilers of any sort, which makes it tough to discuss as you play.

One warning: it's pretty buggy for an XBLA launch. It's playable, but I've had one crash and lots of random pauses and sound glitches. Surprising! The game was originally built in XNA, which is basically C#/.NET for Xbox games. I wonder if it still is and if that explains some of the problems. Anyway, don't let the bugs scare you off a purchase, it's totally playable. And amazing.
posted by Nelson at 9:54 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

One warning: it's pretty buggy for an XBLA launch. It's playable, but I've had one crash and lots of random pauses and sound glitches.

I've gotten a decent amount of frame rate stuttering when loading a new area, but nothing else as far as bugs go so far (knock on wood). A patch is in the works, but I wouldn't call the game broken exactly. Buggy though, yeah. And... Yikes as far as that issue with USB sticks goes. I thought about putting a caveat about that in the main post, but forgot.
posted by sparkletone at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2012

Fez is an absolutely fantastic game and so far the only game I've come across to hit the same points of exploration and worldbuilding puzzles that I loved in the Myst series. I really can't recommend it enough, it's wonderful.
posted by flatluigi at 10:01 AM on May 2, 2012

11 comments in and not a single That 70's Show reference!?

This crowd? I'd assume a Doctor Who reference first.

"Fezzes are cool."
posted by kmz at 10:08 AM on May 2, 2012

I can't believe I'm thinking about buying an Xbox just to play an $8 game. Is he seriously not considering doing a port at all?
posted by zsazsa at 10:10 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is he seriously not considering doing a port at all?

He's been pretty adamant about not doing one in the past, but who knows. At the very least, I'm guessing his deal with XBLA makes it an exclusive to that platform for some period of months (which I believe is pretty common).

But there are lots of reasons to own an Xbox, not just Fez!
posted by sparkletone at 10:17 AM on May 2, 2012

Reviewed today on Zero Punctuation, about as positively as he ever gets.

Of course all this blows up the morning after my xbox red rings. Snarl.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:01 AM on May 2, 2012

Here's hoping it ends up on Steam some time.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on May 2, 2012

I just got an Xbox a week ago and, being a fan of platformers and Metroidvania-type games, the first thing I did was download Fez. Very, very cool. I don't think I'm very far in it, as I play games in fits and starts, but I really dig it.

(Also, Skyrim has thoroughly derailed me.)
posted by brundlefly at 12:15 PM on May 2, 2012

being a fan of platformers and Metroidvania-type games

You must, must, must, must play Shadow Complex.
posted by sparkletone at 12:23 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Welp, as a PS3er I'm out of luck. Guess I'll go cry tears into my Golden Grahams and play Journey for the 16th time.
posted by spamguy at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2012

Thanks for reminding me of that, sparkletone! I remember reading about that when it came out and thinking it sounded great!
posted by brundlefly at 1:55 PM on May 2, 2012

I've been looking forward to Fez for a long time now, and it really is fantastic. The art and music are lovely, it's often very funny, and there are some properly satisfying puzzles. Even if you never find the time to get into the >100% completion parts, it's worth the price.

I've got to the point that I can almost read the alphabet without referring to paper, but I still haven't worked out the final mystery.
posted by lucidium at 2:21 PM on May 2, 2012

Shadow Complex may be ethically tricky depending on what your tolerance for giving money to Orson Scott Card is.
posted by figurant at 3:09 PM on May 2, 2012

Note that Orson Scott Card was not involved in the creation of Shadow Complex. He's the one who licensed the rights to create tie in novels. Chair Entertainment made the game, the world, the plot, etc. (They've also made the excellent Infinity Blade games for iDevices).

But even if he had been, I've found value in cultural artifacts made by awful people before and don't feel bad about it. If buying Shadow Complex makes you feel icky, donate the same amount the game cost to a gay rights charity.
posted by sparkletone at 3:20 PM on May 2, 2012

This was the kind of game that could have been very bad for my social life if it had been any longer.

There's nothing very challenging about the jumping and rotating itself (I like that actually - it's a cute and relaxing run through a cool world set to fun music), but sitting underneath is a entirely different puzzle game which has absolutely nothing to do with the surface platformer presentation. You can dig yourself a big hole if you're at all tempted by cryptographic puzzles with little context.

My main complaint that that once the game's central mystery is cracked most of the smaller puzzles fall into place without much further thought. There are a few exceptions - the puzzle referenced in the Ars Technica article above still doesn't seem to have a known logical solution (it was just brute forced by a legion of internet folks).

I'd still recommend it though. It reminds me of a time before the internet when any little secrets about a game came by word of mouth or were discovered yourself.
posted by owls at 3:43 PM on May 2, 2012

Utterly fantastic game. I got the 64 cubes a couple days ago, but haven't really delved into the tome/monolith stuff yet.

A couple spoiler-free tips:

1. Along with pencil and paper, have your phone handy to take photographs of the screen.

2. Make sure your controller has fresh batteries. There are some puzzles that may otherwise become fucked up and unsolvable, in such a way that they'll appear to be something completely different. Drove me crazy.

3. If you aren't logged into XBox Live, you can change your system's clock settings.

4. If the Red Sewer Tower makes you as angry as it did me, rot-13: Nsgre gur 32-phor raqvat, n purng pbqr orpbzrf ninvynoyr gung yrgf lbh syl. V'z abg tbvat gb cbfg vg urer, ohg vs lbh srry n irva ohytvat va lbhe urnq, tbbtyr sbe vg. Abobql jvyy guvax nal yrff bs lbh. V'z cerggl fher gur zbgureshpxvat erq frjre gbjre vf jul guvf pbqr rkvfgf va gur svefg cynpr.
posted by rifflesby at 4:01 AM on May 3, 2012

Welp, as a PS3er I'm out of luck. Guess I'll go cry tears into my Golden Grahams and play Journey for the 16th time.

Fellow PS3er here. Thus my chagrin. I immediately cheer up, however, as I just got the original Bioshock which I never played and started it last night. Holy. Crap.

(Also haven't played Half-Life 2, so that's next on the agenda.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:44 AM on May 3, 2012

So I found an open box refurb Xbox 360 at a Micro Center for only $120, so I am now an Xbox owner! I'll probably sell it once I'm done with Fez, unless there are any other XBLA puzzle platformers anyone can recommend! (I've already played Braid, Limbo, and Super Meat Boy on PC/Mac)
posted by zsazsa at 12:26 PM on May 3, 2012

Trials HD is a motocross-based platformer that has a significant overarching puzzle. I'm guessing its recent sequel, Trials Evolution, does as well.
posted by Uncle Ira at 4:56 PM on May 4, 2012

It's not really the same, no - especially since the "answer" to the puzzle was a non-solution based around tenuous links all about the love of the hunt. The secrets themselves were neat and got people digging around pretty far into the game, it's just that after they were collected people got stuck on the 'now what' that turned out to not exist after all.

And yes, there are similar secrets in Evo. There's even an achievement for finding all of a seperate set of secrets themed around hidden squirrels!
posted by flatluigi at 8:29 PM on May 4, 2012

I picked up Fez a couple nights ago, finished a quick run through of it last night, and now I am running through all the cryptography I missed.

Spoiler commentary - there are some tremendously subtle hints, such as a fox jumping over what looks to be a dog that wants a nap. (Can't just ignore the creatures, and apparently the animated owls have something to offer too.)

Great game... nothing much else to say other than "wow!".
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:49 PM on May 11, 2012

Holy cow - the soundtrack is awesome, not just "chiptune Vangelis", but GREAT Chiptune Vangelis, I am talking Blade Runner/Chariots of Fire Vangelis and not the China Vangelis.

I can't believe I'm thinking about buying an Xbox just to play an $8 game.

Yes, this. I bought a PS2 just to play REZ and so I would buy a 360 for FEZ. But I already have a 360, lucky me. Hoping it comes up in Humble Bundle someday anyway.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:14 PM on May 21, 2012

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