Fez made me feel like a crazy person

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This article contains puzzle solutions for Fez (if you can pick them out).

Last week, Bitmob editor Sam Barsanti confessed to the world how dumb he is. His brave article has inspired me to write my own confessional about developer Polytron's brain-twisting puzzle game, Fez. OK, here goes:

Fez made me fear for my sanity.

Initially, I wasn't interested in buying this game, but then I heard rumblings on Twitter and elsewhere. People were complaining about headaches. Taking notes. Graph paper. What the hell are they doing with the graph paper? I thought. Granted, I break out the graph paper every time I move furniture around in my apartment, but this is just a video game.

Curiosity won out, and I bought Fez. What was I getting myself into?

It started out simply enough: rotate the thing, climb the thing, grab the shiny thing. What were people getting so worked up about? That's when I saw The Code.

I'd passed by the purple marker several times already, and its markings had never struck me as unusual. It was only on the third or fourth time seeing it that I made the connection:

This is a language.

This game has secrets.


Fez marker

I found a blank sheet of paper and copied down the odd shapes. I didn't know what they meant, but I knew that they were important. I had started down the same twisting path as so many before me: I now had Fez Notes.

Later on, I found the Writing Artifact, one of the game's several mysterious cubes. I noticed that its symbols matched the ones from the marker, but I didn't know how they went together. I copied the faces of the cube into my notes and tried to compare them to the text I'd already taken down. How did they write with this?

I thought maybe one could roll the cube around to form words. I tried to visualize it on the version I'd copied, turning the paper to try to make the symbols line up in a way that matched the ones on the marker, but I'm really bad at spatial reasoning, so I got nowhere. Frustrated, I went to my girlfriend.

"Do you have an extra six-sided die?" I asked.

She's played Dungeons & Dragons. Of course she did.

I blacked out for a few minutes, but when I came to, I was holding this:

Fez cube

I rolled it around, muttering to myself about connections and the spaces between space. The shapes didn't line up this way, and I couldn't see how the text I'd copied could possibly form words. I threw my notes down and got up to take a break, and when I looked down, the paper was on its side.

When I saw what the writing looked like rotated 90 degrees, I did that thing that happens at the end of every episode of House when he finally figures out why the patient won't stop bleeding from whatever: I stared blankly into space and put it all together.

"It's a substitution cipher!" I said, too loudly. "They write down!" My girlfriend, who was trying to watch Iron Man 2 in the next room, closed her door.

Once I recognized the word groupings for what they were, it was an easy matter to figure out which letter each symbol represented. My writing cube became a decoding cube.

Fez decoder cube

After that, my girlfriend would often walk in on me staring at the TV, my powered-off controller beside me on the couch, and spinning this cube in my hand while muttering word fragments to myself. I decoded every bit of language I found. I picked up a lot of lore, but I made no real progress in the game.

Decoding Fez's language wasn't  the only thing that sent me off to Pi Town. My notes are full of failed attempts to solve some of the game's trickier puzzles, which include a couple of blinking lights that I tried (unsuccessfully) to transcribe into Morse Code.

A puzzle involving a clock had me measuring angles at different times of the day in order to calculate when the minute hand would reach a certain point, and then I unplugged my modem and manually changed my Xbox 360's system clock to get there. I know this was cheating, but my need to solve the puzzle had transcended such quaint notions as human morality.

That's what the insane hypercube in my head kept telling me, anyway.

Did I beat Fez? I found all of the cubes and saw the ending, if that's what "beating Fez" means. But at the same time, this game drove me to fashion a prop out of a die and double-sided tape and watch a YouTube movie in five-second chunks to write down a series of dots and dashes that ultimately put me no closer to understanding anything. I have to live the rest of my life knowing that I did those things.

I think I'm going to call this one a draw.

As a little bit of bonus content, here is my full set of Fez notes. Like I said at the beginning, these contain puzzle solutions, but they are also the scribblings of a madman, so good luck picking them out.

Fez notes 1Fez notes 2

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