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General Description

Fez is an abstract platforming puzzle game, developed by Polytron and released for Xbox Live Arcade in April 2012.


Players control a little white blob guy who lives in a 2D village with a bunch of other little blob guys. He wakes up one morning and climbs to the top of his village, where he has a strange vision and receives a magical fez. He has to solve puzzles to collect cube shards, which will allow him to move through certain doors and eventually reach the edge of his world.


Wearing the fez allows him to shift his perspective of the world; players can now rotate the game world by 90 degree increments. Fez’s cubic stages exist in 3D, but players can only look at one side of the cube at a time, meaning platforms and objects located at different ends of an area can be walked across freely if they can be lined up on the right axis.


The perspective-shifting mechanics make up many of Fez’s platforming puzzles, but the game also contains many more devious challenges. To solve all of the game’s puzzles players will need to study patterns scrawled onto walls, learn to decipher various symbols into a recognizable language, and even become of aware of clues located in the game’s soundtrack or in the rumble of their controllers.


Fez’s strengths are in problem solving and creativity. The game looks and sounds fantastic, but the real meat is in its puzzles, many of which are gigantic, spreading throughout the entire game and occasionally even moving outside of it. Players will need to think in ways that videogames rarely require to uncover all of its secrets.

Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
Ratings at a Glance
Facts: 3 Title: FEZ
Creativity: 7 Publisher: Microsoft Studios, Trapdoor & Polytron
Business: 1 Developer: Polytron
People: 0 Year: 2012
Problem: 6 Genre: Platform/Puzzle
Simulation: 0 Strengths: creativity, popularity, problem
Popularity: 9 Platforms: Xbox Live
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts


Several of the game’s central puzzles involve coded languages scrawled onto the walls. One maps symbols of cubes to the letters of the alphabet. Players can eventually uncover certain rooms that have these symbols planted next to deliberately identifiable objects, allowing them to figure out certain letters. This code instructs players towards certain button combinations or other puzzle solutions in certain rooms. It’s an unusually deep focus on cryptography.  Cryptanalysis involves solving math problems involving integer factorization.


Players receive a few paper maps that contain abstract symbols. These will eventually correspond to landscapes in certain areas in the game, and they reveal the locations of hidden platforms to players that spot the visual connections.


Players can also bring up a 3D world map. It allows players to see the areas they’ve been to and to find out which areas still hold secrets. It quickly becomes essential.


Creativity & Imagination


By the Player:


Fez requires players to think creatively almost constantly, in both platforming and more abstract puzzle-solving. Exploration is also a huge element of the game. The dozens of stages all exist as self-contained areas, and almost every one of them has secret exits, cube bits or other more unique surprises to uncover. While an area can seem simple at first glance, rotating your view a few times is often enough to uncover plenty of things to check out. This sense of exploration and innovative thinking persists throughout every inch of Fez, despite the fact that the puzzles all have set solutions from the beginning.


The areas are all linked into one sprawling web, and players can access all of it with very few exceptions from the beginning of the game. The game contains 64 collectible cubes - either hidden in levels or locked behind puzzles - though the game can be completed with only 32. This means that the experience is altered greatly depending on the exact manner in which a player explores the game world, though players that seek to collect every cube will have to explore the entire world thoroughly.


By the Developer:


Fez’s puzzles - a few of which are detailed in Problem Solving, below - regularly move it outside the bounds of traditional game design. A detailed fascination with cryptography permeates the game, as do puzzles that require players to consider time, sound and the vibrations of their controllers to succeed. Even the more videogame-standard block-pushing puzzles are reimagined to great effect in Fez’s cubic 2D/3D world.


And it’s this collection of ideas about perspective and level design that make up the other of Fez’s central pillars. The game’s dozens of areas all exist as 3D worlds that can be flattened into 2D stages on any of their four sides. This mechanic is explored to great depth, making for plenty of challenging and original level design.


The levels also look fantastic. The game embraces a pseudo-retro pixel-heavy design, but draws inspiration from it rather than using it as a crutch. The bulk of the game’s stages use a vibrant green-grass-and-blue-skies art style, though stages with stranger, more fantastic themes pop up regularly. A memorable soundtrack is full of enough surprises to match.


Business Skills


Business skills are not a factor in Fez with the possible exception of keys. While players can mostly more freely, there are a few doors that require keys to unlock. Keys are generic, and opening a door means consuming a key This makes them a resource in a sense, though it’s not as if players can ever permanently lock themselves out of an area.


People Skills


Fez is a single-player game outside of some simple leaderboard functionality. While there are a few characters that inhabit the game’s world, they are largely marginalized in favor of exploration and puzzle-solving.


Problem Solving


Fez is ultimately a puzzle game. Platforming challenges become their own puzzles as soon as the perspective-shifting controls are introduced, and they require players to approach 3D space in a way that simply isn’t found in any other games. A small action like flipping a switch to extend a platform becomes extremely complex once a player starts considering how it will affect an area’s geometry from every side.


But Fez’s other puzzles run much deeper. They require players to scour walls, areas and their own inventories for clues. Many of them stretch over the length of the game, and players that persevere will figure them out piece by piece.


One code is a series of symbols that corresponds to the letters of the alphabet, though others are more unusual. One cryptically maps symbols to the buttons on the Xbox 360 controller; another maps those buttons to different vibration patterns. Another puzzle requires players to consider the real-world time that passes as they play.


Players are constantly asked to think outside the box, and they are rewarded for paying attention as certain puzzles build onto one another over the course of the game.




Fez is not a simulation game.




Fez has earned some detractors for its extremely lengthy development period, and there are controversies surrounding the game and particularly its creator. None of this stopped Fez from getting a fantastic reception upon its release, with many reviews going so far as to call the game a masterpiece. It also won many awards during its development, both for its art style and its game mechanics.


Controls & Options


Fez contains some basic A/V options.




Fez was rated Everyone by the ESRB with a descriptor for mild fantasy violence.