The Issue: I’m Too Old for Fez

The Issue is where I get to lay it all out. A place where I can speak honestly, all opinions. I’ll take some recent news and examine it for what’s really there. Sometimes you’ll agree and other times you’ll hate-spam me. Regardless, this is the news and this is The Issue.

Fez came out on Steam but a week ago and I’m on its fabled New Game + already. The first chunk of the game – I guess just plain ol’ New Game - is an absolute wonder. Playing as a 2D character in a 3D world was crafted perfectly. Even more, clever homages saturate the game and the spatial puzzles really worked out your noodle. It was fantastic.

You can imagine my eagerness to start NG+, considering it has been celebrated by Internetters all over. Let’s talk about that crazy, crazy, cuh-ray-zee New Game + mode, okay? But only after I explicitly and IN ALL CAPS SAY THAT I’M ABOUT TO SPOIL A LOT OF THIS GAME. If you don’t want it to go all three-week-old-milk on you, stop reading.

Okay. Are they gone?

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In Fez’s NG+ you get the ability to see from a first-person perspective, and it’s fascinating. Before I even had the chance to click the button I was all-in. It’s the kind of unexpected Hail Mary I was expecting to not expect. And when you do switch, – oh, that wonderful first second – it’s beautiful. Strikingly beautiful, until you are smacked with disappointing restraint. You can’t move! You can’t look around! You can’t do anything! Awwwww, poop.

That’s fine, I thought. At least the remaining 32 cubes I haven’t found would become solvable, right? Wrong. See, the only thing you gain from glasses is the ability to see in first person. What that brings along with it are only deeper puzzles. And considering I loved the first 32 or so puzzles, these should be a blast. Here lies The Issue. The Issue is that I’m too old for Fez and don’t care.

This isn’t a lambasting of Fez. The game is a reinforced, hurricane-force tour de force of game design. Really. The problem is that to fully solve the game (a compliment right there, considering I actually wanted to solve it all) you have to have all the things I don’t: patience, determination, drive, ambition. The game’s dichotomy is it’s biggest flaw. One last time, SPOILERS IMMEDIATELY AHEAD: you have to decipher an alpha-numeric glyph system throughout the game.

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There is no thrust to do so until you hit the dead-end and, once you realize it, you must make the call. It is 100%, inextricably necessary to getting all the cubes. So, the question begs, do you care enough to discover, learn and sketch out the cypher or – well, yeah – screw it. I opted for the latter.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, that’s not my idea of fun. Really. The solutions you come to aren’t even clever ones, like a riddle or couplet. They’re button prompts the vast majority of the time (RT, RT, RT, LT, RT, LT, LT … etc). Instead of using this to introduce a new mechanic, it’s wrote translation and minutiae. And if there is one thing geezers like me don’t like to do, it’s waste time. I could see myself loving sketching out glyphs and cyphers when I was a teen or maybe younger. Now? Not so much.

Secondly, it is bad game design. The second you get your glasses, the game goes from being a spatial puzzler to a slog through some highfalutin lore. This is only made worse by the map, which serves its purpose nobly for the first run through, but is ill-suited for NG+ and the back-and-forth it requires. Frankly, I don’t care about the secrets of Fez’s narrative world and – since the game actively withholds them from you by means of encoded busy-work and a poor map – I chose to not be bothered.

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Now, I don’t want to turn this into a Polytron / Phil Fish bashing thread – commenters, you’ve been warned! Go ahead, read my review. If I can like bad games (Army of Two), I can dislike good ones (Fez). Sadly, I cannot think of how to spin my words otherwise. Bluntly, I found the whole idea of aged, alien language exciting in concept but pretentious and diluted in execution. I don’t care about fluffing egos as I fall into the statistic of “Only X-% of people fully completed Fez, we made such a smart game.” I would rather the game be executed as well as the first half was for the entire game, building upon the concepts only briefly explored. It’s my fault I’m old, but the designer’s that I don’t care.

Written by: Nick Cane

Game writer, fervent lover of mac and cheese. Favorite games are ES4: Oblivion, Kirby's Adventure, Link's Awakening, Final Fantasy 8 and Mario Galaxy.

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