Indie Megahit Fez Came Out 11 Years Ago — But Don’t Wait For A Sequel

Too much, too soon?

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Fame is a tricky thing. Every artist toiling in obscurity dreams of awards and big paychecks and throngs of fans, but there are downsides too. The constant criticism, the lack of privacy and the pressure to deliver success after success is a lot to manage. We are always happy to cheer on the underdog, but we’re less tolerant when someone wants to get out of the spotlight. Nowhere is this more evident in gaming than in the saga surrounding one of the most influential indie games of all time, 2012’s Fez.

Fez has a special place in gaming history. Yes, it’s a fantastic, innovative game, but its inclusion in the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie really set it apart from other indie titles of its day.

Alongside Braid and Super Meat Boy, Fez featured prominently in the film thanks to the mercurial personality of its creator Phil Fish (a.k.a. Philippe Poisson). Fish is one of those media personalities that gets hit with the “controversial” label because he doesn’t seem to have much of a filter.

Of course, being in a documentary doesn’t mean much to gamers if the game is trash. Fez is, fortunately, not trash. Boasting a 91 on Metacritic, Fez was winning awards when it was still in development. Commercial success soon followed, and by the end of 2013, Fez was a million-seller for Fish and his team at Polytron Corporation.

What makes the game so good? Perspective. The core mechanic of Fez is in how you rotate, or shift, the game world as you play through each area. It’s a magical ability bestowed upon the protagonist, Gomez, via the titular hat. There isn’t much written lore or narrative world-building here. Fez is a game that is very much aware it’s a game, and it lets the vibes tell the story. It’s all about reminding you that we need to look at things from different angles in order to understand their true nature.

It says volumes about the addictive nature of Rubik’s-cubing your way through each level that the game has no other major mechanic. There are no enemies, no boss fights, no inventory, and no lives. Should you fall far enough to perish, you just come right back. The challenge is self-imposed, but the game is so captivating you can’t help yourself.

Fez is the rare puzzle platformer that finds a perfect difficulty for just about everything.

Polytron Corporation

Fez is the rare game that ignores difficulty settings and instead builds a world that works for everyone. If you’re looking for a trippy little platformer to lose a few hours with, it’s there. If you want to spend a dozen hours pouring through a labyrinth full of hidden riddles, that’s there too. Nothing is gated, it’s all about how hard you decide to look.

The best example of Fez as an outside-the-box game about gaming is an infamous clocktower puzzle that takes an entire real-world week to reset. You read that right. Miss your window of opportunity and you have to wait a week to try again. Or you could change your system settings to adjust the date on your console by turning the clock ahead a week. Does Fez want you to do this? Or is it cheating? We’ll never know. We’ll also never get a sequel.

Fez is on that Psycho Mantis shît.

Polytron Corporation

At least, that’s the stance Fish has taken since he decided to step away from the project and gaming fame altogether. He very publicly canceled the project during a Twitter fight in 2013 with GamesTrailers host Marcus Beer saying “im done. FEZ II is canceled. goodbye.” It surprised fans (and the people working on Fez II). But, a decade later, we still haven’t seen much of Fish or heard anything about a sequel.

In his most recent podcast appearance, Fish comes across as thoughtful and composed, not controversial. Everyone knows how awful people can be online, but we don’t consider what it’d be like actively dealing with them day after day. Fish decided he’d had enough. It’s really that simple. And now that so much time has passed it's safe to say playing Fez is not going to provide any sort of momentum to anything, really. It’s a near-perfect game that sits and waits for you to come around.

Perhaps it's best Fez sits in a sequel-less vacuum. Consider Super Meat Boy, a prominent indie legend alongside Fez, that dropped a lackluster sequel. Now you can’t discuss its legacy without mentioning another, lesser game. Instead, Fez got the same deal as Fish. Being famous runs the risk of being infamous, too. Just like the game, it’s all about perspective.

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