If you’ve followed the indie video game scene at any point, you’ve probably heard about the puzzle-platformer Fez. Created by Phil Fish, it was one of the subjects of the 2012 film Indie Game: The Movie. Like many people, it was this film that made me aware of the existence of Fez. I never really thought too much of the concept at the time. In fact, I had a much greater interest in the precision-platformer Super Meat Boy. It just seemed like a much more interesting game. Chock full of cartoon gore and potential controller breaking rage. It was like a gamer’s wet dream. I hadn’t given Fez much thought until it was released.
Fez was met with critical acclaim. It won multiple awards and was generally regarded as an indie success story. Reviewers heaped on the praise and you could practically see Phil Fish’s head ballooning to ridiculous proportions. So when I had the opportunity to buy it from the Xbox Arcade store, I took it, thinking I would be in for a treat.
It was the most boring game I have ever played.
It starts off good. You play an adorable little dude wearing a red fez. You jump around a gorgeous world that is a mixture of 2D and 3D. It is well designed, pretty, and definitely has charm. But that charm wears off after about half an hour.
Maybe it’s because I have the patience of a middle aged soccer mum waiting for her morning coffee or maybe it’s because I like my games to have something else to do besides collecting shit, but there was no fucking way I was going to finish that game. Once you’d mastered the main mechanic, and gotten used to the platforming, that was pretty much it. No progression, no upping the ante. I understand that, at the time, people were chomping at the bit for something fresh, but come the fuck on. I imagine Phil Fish sitting in his living room, playing Assassin’s Creed, putting in his hundredth hour of searching for those bullshit flags and thinking, ‘What if there was a game that was just this? Fucking genius Phil!’
You know what? I get it. Plenty of people loved it. I thought it had its charm, it just didn’t hold it. Unlike other indie gems, like Limbo or, more recently, The Stanley Parable, Fez stayed flat. There were no ups and downs. There was nothing to make me feel for the character or the world. The environments didn’t differ enough to remain interesting and without any form of progression of mechanics, there was nothing for me to look forward to.
Video games are narratives, even when they don’t have a story. They lead the player through highs and lows. Quite frankly, the central mechanic of Fez wasn’t enough to keep it interesting. It needed a whole lot more, and it failed to give it.