Analysis of Fez nine years later

FEZ arrived almost a decade ago to surprise us with a magical proposal with a simple aspect, but with a surprising background. A unique work that proves its validity with its relaunch on Nintendo Switch.

FEZ was launched nine years ago . It first came to Xbox 360, supported by the Xbox Live Arcade label, and a year later began a path of ports that has not stopped until today: first PC, then PS3, PS4 and PS Vita, and now Nintendo Switch . All these versions of the original have something in common: they have been adapted by BlitWorks, a Spanish studio , specifically based in Barcelona, ​​specialized in this type of project. The work of this company is no small feat: they have to safeguard the work of Phil Fish , maintain the creative vision of an inseparable author of a video game who, moreover, played a fundamental role in the birth of what we know today like ‘indie’.

First dimension: the dawn of indie

FEZ is inseparable from Phil Fish , just as both are inseparable from the indie boom of the early 2000s. Talking about this game means talking about these frames of reference in which it is framed: on the one hand, FEZ is Phil Fish because he himself recognizes that it is a highly personal project – “I am so attached to this game … it’s my ego, it’s perception of myself “ , he acknowledges in Indie Game: The Movie , a documentary about the independent development of video games that follows the production process of both this work and Super Meat Boy and Braid together with their respective creators-; on the other, it is one of the first games in which the term ‘indie’ began to be used as a designator for a movement now fully integrated into the community.

Phil Fish opens up on ‘Indie Game: The Movie’ as he watches his project go bust.

It is not that before FEZ, Super Meat Boy or Brai d there were no indie games – those who created Cave Story , Yume Nikki or La-Mulana , to mention just three, would not agree with this statement – but the noise that these made works since the beginning of its development, as well as strong support from the then incipient Xbox Live Arcade program , where the Polytron game sold 20,000 units only on its first day on sale , and an increasingly powerful commitment to the digital distribution (until 2005 there were no games on Steam that had not been developed by Valve, FEZ began to be developed in 2007 ), they made these three titles a romanticized symbol, in addition, by the aforementioned documentary in which all the hardships their creators went through were shown.


“Every time it breaks it feels like a personal failure ,  says Phil Fish in Indie Game: The Movie as he watches the FEZ prototype that he exhibited for the first time at PAX East 2011. If this documentary is of any use, in addition to To know in depth one facet of independent development, it is to see how Fish already at that time accused a certain burning with the channels of the video game industry and a certainly toxic relationship with his own work , even going so far as to affirm that if he did not finish the development of FEZ – it was in the process of creation at the time the documentary was filmed – would end its life.

Phil Fish did not develop FEZ alone: ​​the programming was carried out by Renaud Bédrad , the music is the work of Rich Vreeland, better known as Disasterpeace , and the sound effects were by Brandon McCartin , in addition to the animations by Paul Roberston, Adam Saltsman and Annabelle Kennedy . But Fish was the author, responsible for the idea and, therefore, for sending everything to wind when he was not comfortable with the situation: FEZ 2 was going to exist , it was announced in June 2013 and canceled in July 2013 after a Fish’s outburst of rage that left us all feeling it was a strange joke, a soon from the developer, something that would eventually pass him by. To this day there are people who still believe that Phil Fish will launch FEZ 2 right off the bat, but almost a decade after that decision things don’t seem to be going in those directions.

We do not have FEZ 2 , but we do have FEZ , a wonderful, unique and literally unrepeatable work; a title that has meant so much to the world of videogames that even today it continues to generate fury when it is relaunched on new platforms such as Nintendo Switch. FEZ has the aura of a masterpiece , of a video game to respect even if you have not entered it, even if you only know its most superficial facet, its first dimension, and you have not yet managed to investigate its other perspectives.

Second dimension: hear the pixels

Looking at the landscapes of FEZ is a unique joy; It already was when it was launched in 2012 and it still is today, nine years later. Its arrival on Nintendo Switch means that Phil Fish’s game can boast of pixels on the big screen at the same time as being enjoyed in portable mode . There are no important changes in this regard in this new version of the game – or even that it was necessary – and its technical performance in the hybrid is more than good, with a stable rate of images per second that allows us to appreciate the fluidity of the changes of perspective, as well as in other types of animations.

The ‘FEZ’ pixel art landscapes leave beautiful prints.

In doing so, BlitWorks has once again made sure to keep intact one of the main creative pillars that Phil Fish established when creating this game: its aesthetics . The author pointed out on more than one occasion that one of the key points of this project was its image, one that he even redesigned three times: “I am a very visual person, I like aesthetics and a large part of FEZ is aesthetics. “, he says in Indie Game: The Movie while showing the game sprites , flat designs that are later applied to the cubic figure as if it were origami.

Fish hadn’t worked on pixel art prior to FEZ development , so he pretty much had to learn as he went. His initial intention was to create an idyllic landscape for the players, an idea that is repeated throughout the work: “That kind of placid blue sky, green grass, fresh air …”, he explained in the documentary. The levels oscillate between those pleasant spaces and others much less bucolic ; In between we visit more varied places, from lighthouses to hidden forests, from lively villages to mysterious caves, all wrapped in a certain atmospheric mysticism which gets more surreal as we go along. The game between two and three dimensions is not only perceived in the mechanical plane, but also visually we see a series of magical moments where the screen really seems to gain depth and plunges us into virtual darkness. “It is a glorification of the pixel, but it is also a look beyond the pixel,” says Víctor Martínez in his review of FEZ in AnaitGames .

The bucolic landscapes of the beginning give way to more sinister and mystical places.

FEZ has this double aspect: it works well in its two-dimensional settings, but also when it seeks new graphic frontiers and proposes a new, abstract dimension , beyond the third, with an esoteric-digital symbolism ; This is something that Phil Fish would explore afterwards with SuperHyperCube , the only game beyond FEZ that is known, already published under the Kokoromi Collective label .

But the audiovisual section of FEZ would not be the same without its soundtrack , a collection of songs composed by Disasterpeace and which, as Jorge Cano describes in the first FEZ analysis published in Vandal , is ” hypnotic, absorbing, enigmatic , at times Martian , takes you seamlessly into the world of the game, including its playable approach, merging images and music in a perfect way “. Disasterpeace, by the way, did continue in the industry actively and his music can be heard in works such as Reigns , Mini Metro or Hyper Light Dritfer , to name a few.

Third dimension: they are cubes, not squares

There is no doubt that one of the most striking aspects of FEZ , if not the most, is its main mechanics: it looks like a two-dimensional game, but when the protagonist receives the hat that gives the game its name, the fez, it also acquires the ability to rotate the stage in three dimensions , releasing a new and innovative way to face each of these levels and to explore the game world. Although at first this mechanic can be seen as a claim, and probably worked – and works – as such, the use that is given in the game is masterful on many levels , from the deep use of its possibilities at the design level, until an incipient narrative sense that backs up the work from beginning to end.

‘FEZ’ has some extremely intricate puzzles that can only be solved by cracking your own writing system.

Rotating the levels not only gives us new physical perspectives, it also expands our view of the world of FEZ . From the plain we went to a solid three-dimensional design that Phil Fish squeezed to the maximum in each of the screens. There are a thousand good ideas scattered throughout the entire work, a series of decisions that turn the game into a great puzzle to be solved . FEZ is talked about a lot as a metroidvaniawithout combat and that is precisely why, because of how open exploration allows us to push the limits of our interaction with the world: we are learning new ways of doing things and when we see an applicable solution in an area where we have been previously, we run towards her in a backtracking exercise without weapons or skills .

In addition, the change from two to three dimensions in FEZ is extremely revealing, it means a complete overturning of the pretensions of the platform game : we start here, in two dimensions, but we are going to play here, in all three. It is a break with the classic, to recognize where the video game comes from and where it is going; FEZ clings to its heritage and, without plagiarizing it but not discarding it, uses it to mark its own path from new perspectives, again literally, posing a level design that is as difficult for us who play to solve as it was probably difficult for us to build. Their creators.

The ‘FEZ’ map shows us at a glance which areas we have completed and which we have not.

Not only the existence of multiple points of view shows that the design of this game is tremendously intelligent , but there are a thousand more details that surround the platform experience making exploring the world of FEZ a real pleasure: from the meticulousness of its jumps to the delicate animations of the character and his response on stage, through some wonderfully applied sound effects; Everything feels luxurious in the game and the years do not pass through it , in fact those who have already played it on PS Vita can perceive new emotions in the new portable version for Nintendo Switch, which makes use of the HD vibrations of the JoyCon of the console with a great result.

Ultimately, FEZ proves with all this that it does not want to challenge the audience in a classic way. There are no lives, for example, and when we fall into the void we resurrect at the last point from which we jump. At some point in development it had these kinds of Zelda- style elements , but the subtraction design that Fumito Ueda used at ICO inspired its creators to part with them. In the end, it is a game of exploration, a work that urges us to scrutinize the universe in which we play and to do it in the most creative way we can, “as if Shigeru Miyamoto had done 2001: A Space Odyssey, “ wrote Oli Welsh in Eurogamer back in 2015.

Fourth dimension: deciphering FEZ

As much as popular culture has made us firmly consider that the fourth dimension is time, the truth is that each discipline has a way of defining this mysterious plane of reality: from, effectively, Albert’s theory of relativity Einstein , where time is spoken of as a fourth dimension linked to space, up to pictorial art, with cubist painters such as Pablo Picasso or María Blanchard trying to explore new geometric forms and mathematical drawing techniques, passing, of course, through other sciences such as precisely mathematics and other forms of artistic expression where science fiction has been explored, such as literature, cinema, comics …

As we advance through the plot, the abstract becomes more present in the game world.

Obviously, video games have not missed the opportunity to explore that fourth dimension, but perhaps in FEZ we found one of the most honest ways to enter it: through ignorance . Our first steps in the game world, as well as our first conversations, are not designed in the way that they are by mere chance: at first our movement is in one plane, in two dimensions, and everyone who speaks to us makes us notice that, indeed, he has spent his entire life unaware that there is another spatial plane. When Gómez receives the fez is when everything changes, but there is only a jump from the two to the three dimensions, what about the fourth dimension?

FEZ constantly plays with the idea of ​​the unknown , with what lies beyond and with the knowledge that neither Gómez nor we can reach. This double direction of ignorance , the one that affects both the players and the protagonist, is what makes this game a masterpiece: not only does the character explore a world unknown to him, a humble town man of two dimensions, but also We too are embarking on a journey of which we will surely miss more than half of the details if we are not attentive . Or even if we are. If what we see with Gómez is the third dimension, new to him but known to us, what we are missing is on the border with the fourth dimension, inhospitable for both.

In a normal game we will find uniquely designed puzzles, more or less legible puzzles whose solution is implicit in the game itself, but delving into its universe we will discover a series of mechanisms that FEZ neither explains nor requires . It is a separate shot, something so complicated to capture by oneself that it has even angered part of its audience for considering it too far-fetched. Practically impossible . “It’s that kind of game that’s as devilishly infuriating as it is fascinating,” wrote Chris Suellentrop in The New York Times . We even think that there is something that the game wants to communicate to us ina language for which we have no tools to understand . In reality they are systems that favor a parsimonious exploration, driven by meticulousness and attention to detail, even an extra challenge for those who want to see it like this, in addition to community play: in no other way will we be able to decipher FEZ if it is not in the company of the others .

In 2012 a blog was created in which ‘FEZ’ players shared the notes they had taken by hand to decipher Phil Fish’s great puzzle.

Unraveling FEZ is FEZ itself . There is a game beyond its puzzles, its own alphabet, its number system and its Tetris constellations ; Leaving that aside there are platforms, jumps and dialogues, challenges and challenges more or less common in a game. There is a beautiful pixel art and a very well-managed level design. There is also a lot of work, an obsessive one, easy to romanticize but difficult to digest, and a story of egos that we still don’t know how to fit in today. But the essence of this work lies in its mystery, in the detailed gear on which everything else is based. and that makes exploring his proposal in the company, whether of friends, strangers on the Internet or a guide from almost a decade ago, turns the game into a completely different experience, one in which we begin to glimpse the limits of that twisted fourth dimension.


With the arrival of FEZ to Nintendo Switch, Phil Fish’s game shows much more than its validity ; it shows, as if it were necessary, that it is a unique video game and, unfortunately, unrepeatable. Who knows if with that canceled sequel that it seems that we will never see the author could have managed to emulate or achieve what the original game achieved? Because if FEZ has something , in addition to its beautiful landscapes, its innovative main mechanics, its exquisite level design, its breaking of the fourth wall and its intricate universe , if there is one thing it can boast of, it is of having gained attention at the time for part of the community that to this day is still alive with people trying to decipher the game, which iswhere the magic of the work truly resides . FEZ is one of those titles that is deceiving at first glance, which seems much simpler than it is, but, even though in that first dimension it already works, delving into the rest of the perspectives it offers, we discover a thousand and one details that dazzle any. And by keeping that surprise alive , by continuing to be practically as fresh as nine years ago, FEZ confirms that it is indeed a masterpiece .


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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