A charming and imaginative puzzle-platformer, Fez is a lot of things. Smart and witty comes to mind – as does shamelessly adorable. It epitomizes the very best qualities of a fledgling medium, a perfect example of the still undefined sums of parts assumed exhausted. In an industry where technological one-upsmanship is, for better or worse, the prime directive, Fez proves that there is still a marquee solely for ingenuity by literally turning things on their side. It’s impressive for everything it tries to be and everything it is, but Fez is not fun.
“You’re wrong. It’s a ton of fun.” The first thing I hear when I share my opinion. “You just don’t get it,” usually comes next, “Fez is amazing.” But therein lies the problem, because I do get it. It’s been completely gotten. Fez is amazing for so many reasons, but I don’t enjoy playing it. I think that’s where the distinction needs to be made — I appreciate Fez for everything it does so well. Does that mean I have to like it?
The creation of a 2.5D world where horizontal movements exist in a z-axis is brilliant. The often deeply intellectual puzzles and sense of humor, the quaint visual style and excessive fan service, it all combines to form an irrefutable charm that makes Fez a remarkable little title. Still, I don’t want to play it.
I think it’s healthy to have an appreciation for parts of the whole despite not actually caring for the whole itself. Why do the two have to be mutually exclusive? In my defense, I generally try to drum up an analogy to clarify my point; something relatable.
“Look. It’s like exercise, right? On paper exercise is awesome: it conditions the body, improves the quality of life and even prolongs your life at that higher quality. It’s just awesome.. on paper. In reality exercise is like, it’s just.. it’s just the worst ever. Yet we still do it, because we appreciate what it does, despite how much it’s seriously, just so, so terrible.”
When we’re all in agreement, I shift gears, bringing it back to Fez. “So to me, that game is like exercise. I appreciate what it is and everything it does but I don’t enjoy it.”
Of course there are times that we’re not all in agreement. Where somebody in the conversation is one of those rare masochists who actually enjoys the act of exercise for more than just the promised perks, to which the analogy is completely lost. I secretly applaud these people even though I have no right to do so. Because to me, what seems like an unattainable marriage of enjoyment with what is very clearly the worst necessity ever, is simply a positive experience for them; not worthy of merit or praise.
That’s the beauty of Fez. It lives somewhere between the begrudged acceptance that I must elevate my heart rate for 20-60 minutes a day and another’s blissful enthusiasm over the same truth. What I enjoy is not what she enjoys is not what he enjoys, but we can all respect the underlying value in it. I’m certain I’ll never play Fez again, but I’m equally certain that I’ll find myself singing its praises, for everything I appreciate about it.