Critical Play: Puzzles

Fez is a 2012 indie puzzle-platform game developed by Polytron Corporation and published by Trapdoor. The player-character Gomez receives a fez that reveals his two-dimensional world to be one of four sides of a three-dimensional world.

Gomez’s job as the protagonist is to solve various puzzles: to collect all 32 cube bits scattered around the open world. But in order to capture all of the cube bits, puzzles need to be solved. The entire game represents a series of challenges that build off each other. All experiences are purposely placed and instrumented to add a greater sense of depth and purpose to the narrative, along with the narrative.

Some cube pieces are found easily – others, with more difficulty and problem-solving skills, and others with a lot of complicated measures. Other things like anti-cubes are also difficult to find. Fez’s main fun is in discovery, exploration, and problem-solving. The narrative also adds excitement; importantly, there are no enemies within the game. The objective is clear to Gomez from the beginning. In a way, similar to genre-breaking games like a brick breaker, the only true opponent is the player and the environment.

Gomez’s ultimate goal is to save the world by assembling all cube bits together, which he attempts to find via various puzzles and discovery. Some negative aspects: There is little direction and the world is vast. There is a fair bit of wondering, exploring and trying different things in the hopes that by completing a task/challenge, Gomez will be able to access another level. Fez puzzles can require time and patience. Besides the graphics, music, the rotating ability, the puzzles are the motivating/continuing factor to play the game.

Some unique mechanics only found within this game: rotating the game 90 degrees to be able to see trends otherwise Gomez would be unable to. Relying on this core mechanic is fun, inventive, and creative, allowing the game to have multiple layers of dimensionality and depth with one simple mechanic. Treasures found through this method only improve the process.

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