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(Fez has been selected as one of MacLife's 25 Best Mac Games Today!)
Fez takes place, as most games do, in a world on the brink: the mysterious Hypercube has exploded, setting off a chain reaction that eventually culminates with the universe collapsing unto itself. Armed with the titular hat that allows him to perceive three dimensions for the first time, a bulbous sprite named Gomez sets off to restore order. Fez is, ostensibly, a two-dimensional platform game, sporting the bright pixels and too-floaty jumps that have characterized the genre since the late 1980s.
However, the click of a button — or the pull of a trigger, as the Mac version of Fez supports controllers — rotates the camera 90 degrees, offering a new perspective and rearranging the game world. With each shift, unreachable ledges are drawn close, scattered ladders realign, and hidden toeholds are exposed. Fez sounds complicated, but its baseline mechanics are used so naturally and cohesively that simply moving through its Escher-like world is a pleasure. There's no separating Fez's platform and world-rotating mechanics, and the game's perspective-bending conceit is woven into its very fabric.
The world of Fez is riddled with secret passages, ancient artifacts, and inscrutable mysteries, and any given level might be connected to three or four more, which themselves connect to other parts of the sprawling universe. These interconnected environments have a way of pulling players along, teasing and tantalizing them with new obstacles to surmount or Hypercube pieces to collect. At its best, Fez's momentum carries players through a rabbit hole of sun-dappled forests, abandoned cities, and spooky temples, each populated by carefully crafted snails, owls, cats, and komodo dragons. For being ripped apart by black holes, Fez's environs are detailed, vibrant, and alive, and even the game's secret languages and hieroglyphic arcana give the world a sense of cosmic history despite being totally unapproachable for most players.
Fez is a collection game at heart, though — Gomez has to find each piece of the shattered Hypercube to save the world — and eventually players will need to backtrack. Navigating Fez's Byzantine web of hub worlds, whether to explore an alternate route, collect more cube shards, or chip away at a previously unsolvable puzzle, is a chore. Unfortunately, Fez also threatens to devolve into brute-forced trial and error in the few occasions that a level is too difficult. There's a difference between purposeful, calculated play and simply rotating the world at random because it's the only mechanic. The majority of Fez's voxelated edges have been rubbed smooth, but its rare missteps are marked by drudgery.
Despite its traditional art and structure, Fez breathes new life into the platformer genre. Polytron's crucial insight is that providing fantastic new worlds to explore is what video games are best at, and Fez's novel (and judiciously used) rotation mechanics make the most basic actions – running, jumping, climbing — challenging and fun.
The bottom line. Fez is an imaginative and charming platformer that builds a seamless, compact, and cohesive design around a handful of genuinely novel ideas. It shouldn't be missed.
Mac OS X 10.6.8 or newer, 2.8Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor or equivalent, 2GB RAM, OpenGL 3.0+ support (Intel Integrated Graphics not supported, excluding HD series)
Beautifully detailed art and level design offer up a dense, textured world ripe for exploration, and each new level puts a unique and welcome spin on Fez's signature mechanics. Straightforward premise and structure are balanced by devious puzzles and a series of riddles that will keep all but the most dedicated code-breakers busy. There's a lot of fulfilling, engaging content here.
Because of the way Fez's levels fit together, backtracking for collectibles can be a pain. Players may spend some time spinning their wheels before really getting the hang of the perspective-shifting mechanics.