I got into a couple betas this week (including Diablo III) and I was going to tell you about that (it’s still coming but later) but I got sidetracked by a little thing called FEZ.
Before I tell you my thoughts on FEZ, I feel I should first tell you that I have a Rule for myself when it comes to what games I play. I came up with this rule at some point after I’d been doing QA work for a year or so. It’s a simple rule: “Don’t play anything that feels like Work.”
Mostly this means anything that isn’t fun, but also anything that’s buggy enough to seriously impinge on my enjoyment (SWTOR fell, in part, to this aspect of my Rule). Now, fun is a subjective evaluation, and there are plenty of games that I do not consider fun that many otherwise sensible people enjoy. Puzzle games, for instance. I very rarely find puzzle games fun, or any game whose gameplay is predicated on solving a puzzle that is clearly the warped product of some twisted mind who likes to fiendishly torment the poor saps who were foolish enough to purchase their game. I can’t stand Braid, for example. (I know I’ve lost a lot of you at this point.) Or Machinarium or many of the classics of the point and click adventure game genre, because they’re all essentially puzzle games. Or as I like to call them “Read the Mind of the Demented Designer” games. If I ever make a puzzle game, I will a) have someone else design the puzzles because I am clearly not demented enough and b) have a murderous alternative to puzzle solving (especially any Damn Jumping Puzzle™), probably some sort of cruel demi-god who demands a blood sacrifice and then does the puzzle for you. (And there will be no penalty or bad ending for the player who takes the blood sacrifice route. This is because I vastly prefer Shooting Things to Reading Minds.) The exception to this are the really stylish and hilarious Monkey Island games as well as Grim Fandango – they get a pass on account of being really, really well written and hilarious. Otherwise, it’s a big N-O to demented puzzles for me.
From all the buzz about FEZ, I suspected that it fell into this category, but also that I should still try and play it (like I tried to play Braid and many other games). And it turns out that for some reason I bought a bunch of Microsoft points a while back and then never used them. So I bought FEZ, figuring I’d eventually check it out but not really expecting to play it.
I was partially right.
It actually fails my Rule on both counts. It is one of those Fiendishly Twisted puzzle games and it is also incredibly buggy. So far it’s only crashed on me once and otherwise the bugs have been limited to horrible framerate issues and the occasional extremely long load time (>5 minutes once or twice). According to raptr, I’m 10 hours and 4 achievements into the game and it pains me not to pick up the controller RIGHT NOW and play it instead of writing this (also laundry and various other chores that need to be done today).
Why is it sucking me in so much?
Well, for one thing, I think it’s a gamer’s game. It references so many classic console and puzzle games of the past that are much beloved by many of us (including me) that I find myself looking for/hoping for more references. Mario, Tetris, Castlevania, to name a few. The music (many have commented on how incredible the music is already), the art style, are all reminiscent of those days of yore that many of us (especially if you’ve been playing since the NES days) remember fondly.
Some of the puzzles are the kind I hate, that basically I have no chance of ever figuring out on my own on account of not being a Mind Reader, but quite a few are interesting and fun. More than once I’ve come across something and thought to myself “If I put this in my game, it would do this” and lo and behold, that’s what it does. Sometimes I’m playing with the world just to play with it and the goal (mind you, I’m still not even sure what the goal is – I think some old man in a village told me but I seem to have forgotten in a haze of wonderment) falls to the wayside.
However, late last night in my voyage I found something disturbing. A number of the puzzles require that one decipher a sequence of characters and then execute a sequence of button presses in specific locations. I eventually cheated and looked up one of these and even knowing exactly what I was supposed to do, it took me a good twenty minutes to execute it. Admittedly, it was late and I was tired and I kept getting confused about which sequence of button presses I was supposed to be executing, but I really, really cannot stress enough how much I hate these kinds of puzzles. They’re the same sort of combination of “memorize a sequence” and “execute perfectly” that makes me hate, hate, hate jumping puzzles.
So I’m going to cheat and look them all up. It doesn’t do anything for me to sit there staring at a sequence of symbols and write them down and decode them and then have to execute a series of button presses. Obviously I can’t get out of the button presses (no cruel demi-god to do them for me in this game) but at least I can bypass the rest.
I’m not even sure why I’m still playing; this should be the Last Straw in breaking my Rule. But I am, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I “finished it” whatever that means.
Originally published here.