There is a very specific, unparalleled mix of wonder and power you feel while running, hopping, climbing, and rotating your way through the vibrant and artful levels of FEZ‘s world. To both inhabit territory that is familiar and be on a constant journey of discovery as you play, a journey which parallels that of Gomez (the main character) both literally and metaphorically, is nothing short of magical, and it creates a deeper sense of connection with the experience of playing the game. FEZ was an instant classic upon its release nine years ago, and no game has ever played in the same space since. How could it? All of the special bits that make FEZ work so well are a labor of intense love and engineering effort that would still be a major challenge to reproduce in any form today. Nine years on, FEZ is still an incredible gaming experience that was ahead of its time at release, still feels fresh today, and is right at home on the Nintendo Switch.
Given its deep inspirational roots in the NES’ library of seminal classics, which FEZ wears very proudly (Gomez has the original Legend of Zelda title screen artwork framed on his wall), it feels like a long-overdue homecoming for FEZ to arrive on Switch. It nestles in comfortably alongside a lineup of its predecessors, peers, and derivative works, and it only feels right to finally be playing this game on a Nintendo platform. Expectedly, the Switch handles FEZ like a dream, and the continued work that the development team has put into FEZ over the past near-decade to further polish it to perfection and bring it to every platform imaginable shines through.
The truth is, it has never really mattered which platform you played FEZ on, so much as it has mattered that you get to play this game period. There is such reverence for the 8-bit era of gaming at the core of this game’s DNA, placed there by its reclusive but visionary creator, Phil Fish. Every screen, every scene, every sprite and pixel exude a level of love and appreciation for the time of blocky characters, crunchy tunes, and doing more with less. Naturally, FEZ literally turns these concepts on their ear repeatedly by asking what it means to play with adding “depth” to a flat world, and the possibilities that exist in exploring a third dimension through the eyes of a two-dimensional character are truly unique, to the extent that this same game would not work in “true” 3D.
I have played through FEZ so many times over the years, but each visitation is like getting to know an old friend all over again. I remember the broad strokes, but the details of the interconnecting paths, the hidden secrets, decoding the various cryptograms and deriving the big secrets; that all happens anew, and this particular outing on Switch has been no different. While the specifics elude me, the knowledge of how to navigate the space remains, and playing FEZ again now is the joyful embodiment of playing an favorite through fresh eyes and experiencing much of that discovery and wonder all over again; there is truly nothing else like it.
Booting up FEZ on Switch for the first time was a surprisingly sentimental experience. I lingered at the title screen for the duration of the opening melody, letting a sense of nostalgia wash over me to the point of near overwhelm. I have such deep affinity for this game, having watched its development closely prior to its original release, having played demos at PAX, having connected so closely with its vision. I distinctly remember staying up entirely too late multiple nights in a row on the week of its release, unable to tear myself away from exploring its world and uncovering its secrets, propelled forward by a sense of awe and a deep need to fully immerse myself in its world. FEZ is more than just an excellent video game; it’s also one of those games I strongly associate with a specific time in my life, the way we all do with the games we grew up on.
FEZ is the perfect confluence of beautiful visuals, deeply satisfying gameplay, a richly designed world, tightly interconnected systems, an astounding soundtrack, and fantastic pacing. Seldom are games this well composed, and it feels mostly as fresh today as it did the day it came out. This is the definition of a classic; it endures time and shows the mastery of its work as it ages. It will always be one of my favorites, and I can think of no more fitting a place to experience FEZ, be it for the first time or the tenth.
A Switch code was provided by the publisher for review purposes