We’ve lived through a lot of amazing video games in just the last decade alone, with Zelda: Breath of the Wild proving to be the most recent gem among many. But today we celebrate the five-year anniversary of Fez—one brave platformer that dared to be refreshingly clever, devastating beautiful, and at the same time wildly nostalgic. To celebrate the anniversary, developer Polytron Corporation released this short video announcing a release to iOS, which astonishingly makes it available to basically everything, including PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and–the system where it all began–Xbox 360. Happy Birthday, little guy!
Of course, Fez wasn’t launched without a few road bumps along the way. The five-year long process was notably featured in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie (2012) which followed the creative team of designer Phil Fish, sound designer Brandon McCartin, composer Rich Vreeland, and programmer Renaud Bédard. Development difficulties aside, once Fez was unleashed to Xbox Live on April 13, 2012, there was no going back. It was quickly praised as the one of the best indie video games ever created, selling 20,000 copies in its first day and picking up a handful of prestigious game awards. Many indie games today have Fez to thank for paving the way.
For those new to Fez, the plot is simple–you control a little pixel guy named Gomez who has to save his two dimensional world after discovering a mysterious third dimension, all while wearing a tiny red fez (spoiler: you get a rad pair of sunglasses too, upon completion). Instead of battling bosses and enemies, you explore the world and collect various anti-cubes, codes, and glyphs to solve super difficult but satisfying puzzles while interacting with a few NPCs, including adorable owls and chirping seagulls. The magic of Fez is that there’s nothing simple about it– there’s never a dull moment in any of its levels.
I first played this game in college a year after its release, and let me just say, Fez hit me like a ton of bricks. From the clever fake-out opening scene to the contemplative ending, everything about Fez makes me nostalgic for the days of my youth playing Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda with my brothers, completely absorbed for hours. Before Internet guides and forums, games didn’t hand everything out to players, meaning you had to get lost in the wonder of the puzzle and talk to your friends about its secrets in order to unlock that 100%. Fez has that same frustratingly charming spirit to the extent that it even includes an entirely unexplained ciphered alphabet and QR codes for an in-game language, which might be the only downside for less patient gamers.
It’s hard to not be blown away by the dazzling environments and brilliantly crafted ambient 8bit original score by Disasterpeace (the composer for a similar indie game, Hyper Light Drifter). I was trapped in one particular level–the secret puzzle “Sync” room under the waterfall–for what seemed like days, but because that level’s particular Tetris-inspired gameplay was paired with engaging lo-fi synth melodies, I felt like returning to it long after I completed the game and even turned that track into my ringtone.
Fez is a big game bundled up in a little package with so many intriguing details to pick up during first run-throughs and multiple replays. It’s the perfect time to check out or revisit this bit-sized masterpiece, so what are you waiting for? And if you’re fans of the game already, let us know some of your favorite levels from Fez below!
Images: Polytron Corporation