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Community Article: Indie Insights - FEZ

Written by John Edwards

When it became clear that the Switch was becoming the ideal format for indie games, I couldn't help but wish for the release of older indie games to be ported to the format so I can relive them again but in a convenient portable way. It's seems incredibly unlikely Journey will escape its PlayStation exclusivity, but we are getting Sky: Children of the Light from the same developers soon. Braid is getting an anniversary reissue, and I remain hopeful of seeing The Witness get ported.

I never really hoped for FEZ to be ported because of the controversy surrounding it. If you've seen Indie Game: The Movie you'll know what I'm talking about it. But it seemed like FEZ would remain stuck on older formats, until the Indie World presentation where Nintendo snuck it in at the end among a bunch of other games as though it was no big deal.

But for me, FEZ absolutely is a big deal. It is one of the games that cemented my love for indie games and was something of an obsession when I played it on my Xbox 360. I would like to say just go and buy it, play it, find its secrets, enjoy the discovery. If you'd like to know more before you do go buy it, I'll try to encapsulate why it is such a brilliant game for me.

FEZ starts with your character Gomez waking up in his bed. On his wall is a poster that looks suspiciously like the title screen for the first Zelda game. You wend your way to the top of the village, chatting to people about how great it is to live in 2D, and meet someone with an eye patch before the sky splits open and you're transported to another place where a cube speaks to you in another language before giving you the titular headwear. Once you have the Fez you can now rotate your 2D world by 90°. One reboot of the game later and you're back in your room.

Now when you walk around the village you can look at it from all four sides. You remain in a 2D plane, but by shifting which viewpoint that plane is on you can find new routes. Two platforms can be too far apart to jump between, but switch 90° and they're within a manageable distance. Much like Superliminal, your reality is determined by your perception of it.

Initially, it seems like FEZ is just going to be a simple platform game, you're tasked to collect yellow cubes, either as big whole ones or eight chunks to make a complete one. You find doorways that you couldn't see before because the fez lets you see around corners that 2D space would normally hide. If you just stick to collecting the 32 yellow cubes then FEZ is a fine game, it uses its central mechanic creatively and is a satisfying challenge. However, that is accounts for slightly less than half of the game.

You will notice oddities in the world, a language, a number system, Tetris shapes, a QR code on the wall of a room. With a little experimentation or purely by accident, you will find an anti-cube. There are 32 of these purple cubes and they are a lot harder to find than the regular cubes and necessary for the second ending. One of the anti-cubes will need Switch owners to look outside of the game as it doesn't have achievements like the Xbox 360 version did.

Looking outside of the game will help with solving a lot of the puzzles in FEZ. The letters and number systems in the game have their own Rosetta stone rooms, places which, if you're attentive, will reveal their secrets to you, but you might need some additional information to realise what the game is telling you. The Tetris shapes are a little clearer once you've found a specific room. Thankfully FEZ offers a map that shows all the rooms and shows clearly if you've been in the room or whether there's anything left to discover in it. It's a little difficult to navigate but it certainly helps when trying to backtrack for things you've yet to get.

If you do get everything you'll get a completion percentage of 209.4%. 100 for the yellow cubes, 100 for the purple anti-cubes and 9.4 for the incredibly secret and very hard to find three red heart cubes. 'finishing' the game with 32 cubes will give you something to help you find the rest, but a lot can be done just by being observant and curious.

FEZ is a joyous experience with a fascinating level of depth in its intricacies. It has a wonderful soundtrack by Disasterpeace and pays an obvious debt to Nintendo throughout, including sections influenced by the GameBoy and Virtual Boy. It is one of the games that I think of when I think of indie games. It is a seminal title and has found a perfect home on the Switch.