GDC '08: Fez Hands-On

We stop by the Independent Games Festival Pavilion at GDC and get our hands on this 2D platformer with a 3D twist.

SAN FRANCISCO--The IGF Pavilion at the Game Developers Conference has traditionally been a great place to find some of the most creative and unique games out there, and this year's is no different. Among the indie games on display is Fez, a charming platformer that quite literally turns 2D platforming on its side, and then some.

You play as Gomez, a fez-wearing two-dimensional critter that discovers--after some guidance from an eye-patch-adorned friend--that his world has a third dimension. With the newfound ability to rotate his 8-bit world, he sets off to explore it in search of more hats. After all, as a sign in the game points out, "Hats are great!"

Built with Microsoft's XNA development tools, Fez is designed to be played with an Xbox 360 controller, which makes navigating the world a snap. Using the triggers, you can rotate the camera to the left or the right, which drastically alters the two-dimensional playing field and lets you access areas that were previously inaccessible. This power can be used as many times as you like for as long as you like, though there are some restrictions. You can't rotate the world if you're in an enclosed space or would collide with an object, and if you rotate the world so that Gomez would not have any solid ground underneath him, he will yelp in surprise and force you to rotate back.

Meet Gomez. He likes hats.

The single level playable on the floor is a massive vertical climb that begins with some floating, grassy platforms and culminates in a mountain-like tower. The progression from one platform to the next seemed almost puzzle-like in nature, considering that it often required experimentation with world rotation in order to figure out how to proceed. Gameplay was simple and laid-back, and with no enemies to avoid, the only hazard to fear was gravity itself, given that falling from any considerable height resulted in your demise. Upon collecting all the hats to be found and arriving at the top of the level, Gomez hops onto a mushroom and levitates on a rainbow out of the world, presumably to continue his hat-collecting adventure at another location.

The visuals of Fez are bright, colorful, and very retro, with an 8-bit pixel art style. Gomez himself is adorable and is surprisingly expressive, from the way he hangs from the side of a ledge to the way he reacts when smacked in the face by a wall when a rotation goes badly. The music is soothing, minimal, and suitably retro, as are the sound effects.

The version of Fez that was playable is the result of three months of hard work by a three-man team based out of Montreal, Canada and Tokyo, Japan, and is only the first step toward a final product. They did mention that there had been some discussion over distribution, but retaining their IP ultimately seemed to be their highest priority, and so nothing has been decided on. We'll bring you more information on Fez when it becomes available.

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Discussion

30 comments
Sonicgod
Sonicgod

I rather play this on xbox 360 (points) or ps3 or wii as a download game. Xbox live arcade people will go insane if it was an xbox live game with a demo; it looks better than 98% of the junk that is on there.

kingalasdair
kingalasdair

While it uses a similar concept, a marked difference between Fez and other games is that you can't actually move around in the 3D world; it's not a tacked-on gimmick like in SPM, and it'll play quite differently from Crush - it's hardly a straight rip as some have said. I don't think the game "acts like it's the first to come up with it", and I'm not sure what would lead you to reach that conclusion. I find it amusing that people only scream ripoff when it's an interesting mechanic; I'd prefer games like Fez to incestuous FPSes. Besides, it's got character of its own - I'm looking forward to it.

LisVender
LisVender

I don't mind the development of an idea that was put forth by Super Paper Mario, but I don't like how this game acts like it's the first to come up with it.

treznick
treznick

I heard that this will be retitled: "Super Paper Hello Kitty". If you liked super paper mario and you're a hello kitty lover, then this game is for you! Really, the character looks like hello kitty. On the other hand, I bet this game will be really fun

renebs
renebs

Actually it looks like it was heavily inspired by the old old old Game Nebulus for the Amiga

Skreb-Masters
Skreb-Masters

Depending on how much and whether it has Achievements, I'll give this a look.

willripyouanew1
willripyouanew1

Not too original if you ask me, and wasnt Fez the name of some dude in " That 70's Show" played by Wilmer Gomez , I mean Valderama??. Maybe he's financing the development.

flazzle
flazzle

I never played Crush but this game screams Super Paper Mario rip-off all the way.

MasterNuts
MasterNuts

Well i agree with urban-ninja, smells like a copy of crush.... with hats :/

urban-ninja
urban-ninja

OMG!! has no one ever played Crush on the psp. This is a straight copy of that game, just change the characters and graphics but the gameplay is identical. Don't get me wrong its a great idea for a game but it annoys me when games have already been made and no one gives notice to the original creators. Maybe its because Crush didn't get much marketing. P.S - LOOVVEEE the pixel art style of this game!! =)

Hellwilder
Hellwilder

I'm wishing a Xbox right now... and a hat too xD

zero9167
zero9167

SMG rip off? I think you mean super paper mario...

NyGin07
NyGin07

what was fez from that 70's show? lol btw great show but season 8 WAS TERRIBLE

paul_hubans
paul_hubans

I'm disappointed that my game didn't get chosen as a finalist, but after seeing the ones that did, I can see why... Amazing entries and the expo was a lot of fun! Looking forward to next year!

jared_delacruz
jared_delacruz

cave story anyone? lol a bit too much like cavestory but its worth looking into cavestory was great!

King_Wii
King_Wii

Now I wana get a Fez so I can wear it when I play the game! Seriously though I loved Super Paper Mario, and this game looks even better! Hopefuly its as good as it sounds I look forward to trying it out... now if I can just figure out how to use my Xbox 360 controller with my pc... hmmm

nick15uk
nick15uk

Sort of reminds me of Super Mario Galaxy but looks interesting.

rockstar_88
rockstar_88

When they say Fez, I keep thinking of the funny Mexican(?) kid from That 70's Show. Still very intriguing though.

Agulf
Agulf

I like this recent rise of 2D platformers. Especially when it says "for PC". Reminds me of the olden days with Flashback, Duke, Prince of Persia and Jazz! I'm starting to think Duke Nukem Manhattan Project was released a couple of years too early. :)

red-orc
red-orc

Looks like a Super Mario Galaxy-concept-rip-off ... but: why not?

GunnyHath
GunnyHath

Need some video of this, screenshots dont do it justice.

nintendorocks
nintendorocks

Get it on the Xbox Live Arcade or PSN and it will be awesome.