Critical Play: Puzzles

Fez is a platforming puzzle indie game developed by Polytron Corporation which I played on PC.

The target audience would be adolescents aged 10+. The game has a very cartoonish art style with no themes of violence, so it is suitable even for younger players. The audience is limited more by the player’s ability to solve the puzzle rather than the themes of the game.

Fez’s core concept is perception. You play as Gomez, a 2-D character living in a 2-D village that one day obtains a fez that reveals his 2-D world is a single side of a 3-D world and allows him to rotate the world left and right, exploring the other 3 sides of it. This rotation acts as the core mechanic of the game, allowing Gomez to navigate to areas he couldn’t reach using platforms on the other sides of the world. The aim of the game is to collect golden cubes to avoid the destruction of the universe. To do so, Gomez has to utilize the various ledges and vines that he can climb on all 4 sides of the world and solve the puzzle of how to get to where the golden cubes are.

The primary types of fun present in the game are challenge and discovery. The player is challenged to solve the puzzles of navigating Gomez to the golden cubes and requires the discovery of where the cubes are on the map and what ledges and vines can be used to get there. As the player progresses through the levels, they become more and more complex, adding to the intricacies of the challenge. There is a narrative present, but I felt that it was not particularly focused on with the gameplay and that the puzzles were the main feature. The puzzles themselves were quite fun to play and solve. It was tricky to remember what tools were present on the other 3 sides of the world hidden from view, and think about what sequence I could use them in to get to where I needed to be.

There were definitely times when I couldn’t figure out what to do and died repeatedly trying to make jumps from one platform to the next. Fortunately, the death mechanic is handled greatly – when you fall greater than the threshold height, your character dies and gets reset to the last platform you were standing on before you jumped. This means that if you missed a jump, it didn’t reset you to the beginning of the stage but rather where you attempted the jump from, making it a lot less frustrating when mistakes were made. Another thing I struggled with was a specific mechanic where you would need to jump off a platform and then rotate the perspective midair so that you would land on the next platform. I think this may just have been because I was more unfamiliar with the mechanic, but I was confused about what the axis of rotation was. Was the world being rotated about wherever Gomez was or about some other center point on the map? I think it would have been nice to have a more solid “tutorial” type stage for introducing this mechanic.

One thing that I would love in the game is a bit more tie-in of the narrative. I find small Easter eggs or flavor text that divulge part of the lore really interesting and enjoyable.

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