Gaming: Fez says goodbye to virtual hand-holding

By Ian Ording | | @IanOrding

The rise of the Internet has caused great shifts in not only the real world but in the video game world as well. It has brought gamers together in more ways than one. While the obvious result of this is direct competitive and cooperative play with other people, it has also taken the surprise out of modern gaming.

When video game consoles first began appearing, one of the greatest assets of the games was that thrill of stumbling upon the ins and outs of the worlds that were being traversed. Whether it was the warp pipes in Super Mario Bros., the burnable bushes in The Legend of Zelda, missile upgrades in Metroid or the gruesome fatalities of Mortal Kombat, the infant years of gaming employed an infantile attitude of discovery. Word of mouth provided players with fascinating new secrets in the games they were playing and it was only through individual experimentation that these mysteries were uncovered.

That has since ceased to be the way of games. The Internet has become a veritable convenience store for video game handholding. The modern gamer is coddled by the Web; any time a hitch arises in the progress of any game, he or she is only a trip to a popular game walkthrough site away from having a detailed guide on how to overcome the obstacle. The only way the old-school style of going into games blind can be achieved once more is if a game could be so difficult and confusing that it cannot be explained or figured out.

That is where Fez comes in.

Fez is a recently released 2D/3D hybrid platformer developed by Polytron for Xbox Live Arcade. Phil Fish and his development team have done seemingly everything they can to make a game that is full-walkthrough-proof. Between its complex map and lack of direction, the game has avoided getting an entire walkthrough (at least none that I could find) since its April 13 release. This is almost unheard of with modern games.

While on the surface the game may seem reasonable, its innards hold nasty secret puzzles that have left the vast majority of players baffled. Some involve translating Morse code-like sequences of blinking dots into binary code. Others have the player working with QR Codes that appear in-game. Fez also has its own invented language that is necessary in the solving of the final secret puzzle in the game. However, that is about the only thing known about this puzzle, seeing as the developers of the game are the only people on the planet that know how it works.

Since the so-called “Black Monolith” puzzle was found, players have been trying desperately to uncover its solution. Discussion boards online are filled with pages of notes deciphering the language and the clues scrawled on the walls in the world of Fez. The only players to have conquered this stumper did not actually figure it out. One called a friend who helped develop the game and another hit buttons at random until something worked.

In a modern world where games paint lines on the ground directing gamers to objectives and have architecture that is little more than corridors leading players from one explosion to the next, Fez dares to not say a word of how it is beaten. If this lack of direction can make a comeback in the gaming industry, many classic game enthusiasts will rejoice. It has taken away the ability to look up the solution in two minutes. Instead, gamers must collaborate and share knowledge to figure out the enigma that is Fez.


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