33 hours into Fez and only a few items left to collect; the color and feel of Fez gets engrossing with progression. Everything comes together to give us a place to be.
The 33 hours I’ve spent pouring over Phil Fish’s Fez has been in small doses. These games are the most for me, for some reason puzzlers are bigger than I can manage for extended periods of time. But every time the game makes its way back into my mind in a way that playing is unavoidable, I’m met with precise comfort. Even the opening chiptune chord that accompanies the title screen instructing us to press A seems to catch you, like falling into the game, or rising up to it, depending on how you view the rotating letters FEZ.
One of the things that stick out to me most, as Phil Fish explained in various interviews, is that all of the artwork for Fez was created in Photoshop and then imported into the Trixel engine to create the 3-d world. I don’t know how to make a game but I do understand Photoshop, and work ethic, and craft. It all comes together to create the original Zelda feeling of I-am-lost-and-I-haven’t-even-started. A game is often described as ‘Metroidvania’ because you run around collecting items that power up an otherwise weak player character. Fez is like Metroid because you feel the character of the place, you understand that there is life but it isn’t overt and when you do meet it face to face its something you have to translate, explore to figure out and puzzle over. Its eerie and inviting and joyful and the further you get in the game the more you will recognize the precision of each cube, even more so when you see it in first person perspective. The cubes are not flat with lines drawn to represent cracks and moss, they are textured, the cracks are indented, moss hugs the ground and butterflies land on it.
The eerie-inviting-joyful was driven home in the room above. The white skull (and let’s be honest the skulls and owls are carrying the creepy throughout the game) floating in what looks like blood was enough, by this point in the game these rooms feel close, like a thought that you live with and hear in your head often, maybe without you realizing it. It’s personal. This room’s secret stood out to me as strange and unique, they are all unique but this was unexpected and only added to the texture of it all. I wanted out shortly after finding it.
I loved that the owls were scattered throughout, and I loved that you could talk to them. What they had to say came off as just weird, as I found one early, and then another. Having seen the two out in the wild and then traveling to their little corner of Fez-land where its spooky greenish blueish ghost home plays background to stormy weather and the lightening reveals hidden steps; that’s where the owls live, with the ghosts, I didn’t want to stay there either.
When I played Metroid for the first time I was way to young to grasp it beyond shooting the things that were killing me. Somehow, my 7 year old best was to make it to a vertical tunnel with tiny white blocky steps, I don’t remember the name of the exact location on the map. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I played it again after that first experience and I had carried that feeling with me all that time. I literally felt like I was trapped at the bottom of a deep tunnel and wasn’t able to negotiate the handholds to get myself out. Wondering around in the woods as a kid I’d been in that situation before. You know there are people around but they aren’t around you and you are going to have to reach that next whatever to get yourself out. When I got to that point in the game again I stopped to take it in and it had the same effect. There are so many moments in Fez that have that effect on me as I play through (I’m still not finished with it). Fez is for sure something I will come back to every few years as a place to visit.
To be continued…