‘Fez’: An indie puzzle-platformer with a twist

The indie game scene is no stranger to the puzzle-platformer genre. It all started with “Braid” in 2008 — a small, neat title with some fun time-bending puzzles and a complex deconstruction of the concept of multiple attempts. Since then,

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players have seen games like “Limbo,” “Closure,” and “VVVVVV” make the rounds with their own platforming concepts. Last year, “Fez” came out on Xbox Live Arcade, leaving PC gamers in the dust until the PC version release a couple weeks ago.

Delaying gripes aside, the end result is still a fantastic experience.

The player is Gomez, a boy living in a village that is perfectly satisfied living in two dimensions. He is invited by the town elder to receive a snazzy new fez and a magical skill: the ability to “flip” perspectives, revealing that his world is actually 3-D in a 2-D perspective. He learns from a colorful pixie named Dot that the multiverse is in peril, and Gomez must use his dimensional-shifting abilities to save all of time and space.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The concept is practically ripped straight from Nintendo’s “Super Paper Mario,” and that leads to “Fez’s” main gripe: its lack of originality. Players familiar with “Super Paper Mario” will breeze through the game with no sweat and fail to appreciate the puzzles. In a genre full of interesting new ideas, “Fez” seems rather lacking.

But even if it’s not very novel, it still possesses some very nice puzzles and game play. The game often breaks the fourth wall, but not for comedic effect. Players will see things like Morse code messages and QR codes to scan and decode in order to solve puzzles (unfortunately, those without smartphones may have to resort to Google at some points). “Fez” is one of the first games in a long time that will make players reach for a pen and paper, and that attests to the thought the developers put into the game play. This is truly a thinking man or woman’s game.

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If you’ve played games like “Super Paper Mario,” “Echochrome,” or other games that “Fez” borrowed from, you might not find much here, but those who haven’t will find a wonderful, novel, and intelligent experience. Playing those other games after playing “Fez,” though, is also highly recommended.