Follow-Up to “Crash Course (ep. 34) – FEZ”

I’m coming to terms with the realization that I’m drifting away from being a “completionist”.

When I was younger (and had more free time to devote to the act), I relished the feeling of glorious accomplishment for fully dismantling a video game. I would leave no room unexplored, no stone unturned, no award unobtained. And still to this day I’ve retained a fragment of that spark to participate in the entire experience that creators lay before me. I want to read every line of dialogue and see every character’s possible actions so I can absorb the whole story without feeling like I’m missing out on something.

Now, however, there are limitations to how far I will venture into that obsessive territory before I go, “I feel like I’m done here.”

My playthrough of “FEZ” saw those limitations manifest, but not strongly enough to keep me from poking around a little bit here and there.

First off, let me say that I really do like this game. I think that the 2D/3D world-shift mechanic is very cool! It was a helluva lot of fun to figure out platforming with the ability to spin the world 90 degrees and have it keep your location relative to the new playable plane. I also love how the game encourages you to try to peel apart its many layers by being so gentle with the player. There’s no real penalty for falling to your death and no enemies or traps (other than the “void space” that can appear at times). Because you never feel rushed or pressured to reach or find something, the game allows you to stop and analyze the layout of the world as you shift the perspective around over and over again before something clicks.

The game also takes its time with introducing new complementary mechanics to the experience bit by bit. Certain areas provide the ability to raise or lower the water level, thereby also raising or lowering floating platforms as well to grant you access to new locations. There are also a few puzzles to solve where you can rotate a portion of the world while leaving the rest inert. In fact (in my opinion) there were not enough of these puzzles in the game. One of the final conundrums that I encountered was a room where the water-level and the isolated-rotation mechanics worked in tandem to shift a floating platform into the correct position and location to allow access to a treasure chest. This puzzle was a blast to figure out! It’s a shame there weren’t more of these world-manipulating enigmas in the game.

What there seemed to be plenty of were these sort of “out-of-game” puzzles. There were multiple rooms with QR codes etched on the walls, as well as a spoken language to translate and a code comprised of strings of tetrominoes. I didn’t spend any time trying to decipher these codes – I was just there to play the game. I understand that in order to complete the game (and to understand what the giant cube and the inhabitants of the ancient city are saying) these steps are necessary, but I didn’t bother with them. If I give the New Game Plus mode a bit of my time then I’ll try to figure things out for myself. (And yes – I know I can just find all this online. Should frustration win out then I’ll at least look up the keys and use them to unlock the rest of the world.)

That is if I continue the game.

While the perspective shift is really cool, and the environments are imaginative and attention-grabbing, I feel that I’m near the end of my “give-a-s**t” rope with this game. There came a point about two-and-a-half or three hours in that the whole “run, jump, climb, collect” basis of the game just kinda’ grew stale. I got annoyed with the unwelcome introduction of the “negative space” nuisance that just made me exit and re-enter the area that I wanted to be in until the missing chunks came back. And even without the void space epidemic, there was a good deal of back-tracking in the game, though the addition of the warp gates scattered throughout the world certainly relieved a modicum of irritation. (I will admit that I very well may have been less than efficient in my exploration, puzzle-solving, and collecting, so this grievance might be self-invented.)

Speaking of collecting, allow me to throw down some statistics for my first run through the game. Once again, this was what I accomplished without using any type of guide or hints, as well as not doing any of the “meta-puzzles”:

Time: 5.5 hours
Completion: 118%
Cubes Collected: 31 regular cubes and 6 bits, as well as 6 anti-cubes
Other: seven maps, two artifacts (Writing and Counting, which I have no idea what their significance or purpose is), and all five warp gates

Oh, by the way – that 118% isn’t something to brag about. I saw less than five hours in that I had over 100% completion and knew something was screwy. I was very confused because I knew full well that I hadn’t come close to collecting or exploring everything in the game. So I decided to search online to see what the maximum percentage was for truly completing the game. The official total is 209.4%, although several players have found there are some glitches that allow certain cubes to be collected multiple times, making their percentages climb even higher. So as you can see, I have quite a ways to go before declaring this game conquered.

All in all, “FEZ” is an enjoyable little game with many different types of puzzles to unravel and shiny items to gather. The rotation mechanic that is the crux of the whole game is very fun to manipulate, and using it to help solve some mysterious quandary or aid in navigating a zone does give one a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. But unless you’re a big fan of Metroidvania-style games, or you’re one who savors the act of untangling riddles and achieving nothing short of total fulfillment in unlockables, I’d suggest you find a friend who already owns it and commit about thirty minutes to it. If you reach the end of that trial period and feel that you’ve gotten all you’re going to get out of playing the game, then you’re probably right and you’ve just saved yourself ten bucks. But if you find yourself hooked – or if you fall into one of the previously mentioned categories – then venture forward into the weird blocky world that awaits you.

Just don’t feel obligated to do everything the game throws at you. As I’ve been finding out lately, it’s okay to just walk away from what’s left if it means that what you’re taking away is a pleasant and memorable experience.

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