Critical Play: Puzzles – Fez

Game: Fez

Developer: Polytron Corporation

Platform: PC

Target Audience: 10+

For this week’s Critical Play, I played Fez, a puzzle platformer game based entirely around switching between a 2D perspective and a 3D perspective. You play as a protagonist who comes into possession of a magical fez, which allows the protagonist to see past their old 2D world into the third dimension. The game is presented in a charming pixel art style that shows both dimensions in a cute and clear way.

The Mechanics

The main mechanics of the game involve basic walking with left/right arrows, moving through doors with the up arrow, dropping from platforms with the down arrow, and jumping with space bar. However, the main draw of the game comes from the ability to “rotate” the 2D perspective 90 degrees with A and D. As far as I can tell, the entire game is in fact modeled in three dimensions, with the player being able to view the world from any of four orthogonal horizontal perspectives.


The game attempts to establish some narrative fun by wrapping a narrative around the 2D-3D mechanics. You play as Gomez, who has always lived in a peaceful 2D world among others of his kind. However, the 3D space-time continuum shatters and he is given the responsibility of using the 3D-empowering fez to put the scattered cubic building blocks back together. In all honesty, I found the narrative to be a weak conveyor of fun, and instead more of an excuse to deliver the mechanics of the mind-warping puzzles of the game.

This gap looks too far to jump… or is it?

The Puzzle Experience

The mechanics of the puzzles created a great deal of discovery-fun and challenge-fun for me. The game early on teaches you that you can cross seemingly impossibly long gaps by simply rotating perspective: for example, two islands that were far on the x-axis but close together on the y-axis became traversable once I rotated to view them on the y-axis. These kind of revelations about what is possible by forcing your perspective to another angle were very fun to discover, and I had a blast testing out different ways to solve puzzles.

The best puzzles forced me to try and think in terms of the three-dimensional modeling of the world, which I only had an indirect view of from each of the 4 horizontal perspectives I could have. One asked me to place 4 blocks in the correct places on a 3×3 grid – but the catch was that the 3×3 grid was not directly viewable from any of my perspectives (if I could look down the vertical axis, I would be able to see it!). These types of challenges were difficult, but also incredibly fun and satisfying once solved.

Overall, Fez more than satisfied my expectations as clever and brain-bending puzzler!

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