Review – Fez (Switch)
I was wondering if the Switch would ever receive its own version of Fez, one of the most acclaimed and unique indie games ever made. It’s one of the first few games to make the indie scene feel noted by the mainstream public alongside Limbo, Braid, and Super Meat Boy. We all know about the internal turmoils within its development team, the controversies surrounding its lead designer, Phil Fish, and the fact we’ll probably never get an actual sequel. But that didn’t mean we’d never see a port being released for Nintendo’s machine, the perfect platform to enjoy indies since the demise of the Vita.
The game finally arrived on the Switch’s fourth year in the market, which is shocking, but it was worth the wait. I hadn’t played Fez ever since completing it on my Vita nearly half a decade ago, thinking it would be impossible to find a better place to enjoy that game on unless it was on Sony’s portable. I was dead wrong, thankfully. The Switch version of Fez doesn’t include a single new feature, but this is certainly the best system to play one of the best indie games of all time.
I need to clarify that, as a whole, this is exactly the same Fez as before. This is still a 2D platformer with a 3D twist. An open ended collectathon with a perspective gimmick. Even though your character moves on a 2D plain, you can spin the map in 3D, creating new platforms and unveiling secrets by changing the level’s perspective. It’s a gimmick that sounds completely crazy in theory, but works so damn well you can’t help but think how didn’t anyone else use a similar feature in any other game since.
The best thing about Fez is that its gameplay loop is perfectly designed to appeal to both casuals and hardcore players. Hardcore players will love to find each and every collectible perfectly hidden in each level. Not to mention figuring out how to get past a seemingly impossible gap by finding a new pathway by spinning the level around.
Meanwhile, casuals can enjoy Fez due to its carefree nature. There’s no time limit to collect all of the hundreds of small cubes scattered around the game’s worlds. There isn’t a proper level order: as long as you have enough cubes to open new doors, you can explore new areas the way you want to. There are no enemies to deal with and there are no lives: if you fall down a pit, you’ll respawn immediately, losing nothing in the process. Fez is a surprisingly relaxing experience, as you can play any way you want.
Its presentation still holds up as well. I love how every single character in the game is a 2D sprite with very few frames of animation while the environments, while appearing as sprite-based 2D levels, are actually low-poly 3D stages running at a surprisingly smooth 60 frames per second. The act of spinning the level around feels great just because of how smooth the turning animations are. The soundtrack, while very simplistic, fits perfectly with the game’s “retro-but-not-really” setting. It’s a bunch of modern synth tunes trying to emulate the glitches and bleeps from the 8-bit era, and it just works.
There’s not a lot in Fez that I dislike. The only issues I have with this game are the ones I’ve always had ever since I’ve first played it on the Vita, and they’re pretty minute. I dislike how slow my main character is, especially when he is climbing on vines. I also hate how easy it is to get lost in the game’s world, even though there is a map function available shortly after the game begins. Then again, considering how laidback Fez is, getting lost isn’t exactly a bad thing. It just sucks to try to go back to a previous visited area when it’s so easy to get carried away and end up in a completely different level.
In short, Fez is as good now as it has always been. The reason I call this version the best way to experience this indie game is mostly due to the perfect combination of the Switch’s portability and its screen being much larger than the Vita’s. This is easily one of the best indies ever made, and one of the most important games of the past decade. Even though a lot of younger players only know it due to its troubled development cycle and some post-launch controversies, Switch owners should definitely pick this game up. This gem took an eternity to arrive on the system, but it feels right at home on it.
This art style can best be described as “unique”, as clichéd as that might sound. The clash between the simplistic pixel art characters and low poly environments is a sight for sore eyes.
Fez‘s gameplay is still as creative and functional as it was nearly a decade ago, running smoothly on the Switch. I have some gripes related to how slowly the main character moves when climbing on vines and how easy it is to feel lost in the game’s vast world, even though there is a map function available right from the get-go.
Fez‘s soundtrack is pretty simplistic, being comprised of retro synths and glitch noises, but it fits perfectly with its setting.
Fun Factor: 9.0
Fez features a unique and engaging gameplay loop that can be enjoyed by casuals and hardcore gamers alike. It’s short, but surprisingly replayable. It’s easy, but not too easy. And it feels right at home on the Switch, especially in portable mode.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Fez is available now on PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Fez was provided by the publisher.