Currently, I’m playing two videogames that are the polar opposites of one another: Fez and Metroid Fusion. Well, there are some ways they are similar. Both are platformers, asking the player to navigate rooms and levels, either by traversing left or right or up and down or via secret paths. Both feature relatively retro graphic styles that are pleasing to the eyes. Both have lackluster jumping, with Gomez feeling very floaty and Samus being too finicky. But that’s kind of it.
Otherwise, one game demands you put in the time and cranial crunching to figure out where to go next and what to do, and the other…well, there’s a computer program that marks your next destination and objective extremely clearly on your mini-map. One requires you to take notes, the other does it for you. One has electrified water, one has water levels you can raise and lower with a turn-switch. If you didn’t know which one is which, Fez is the open field of daisies and Metroid Fusion is the gust of wind pushing you down the path to the market.
I find both styles of gameplay pleasing and frustrating. Various reasons exist, of course. For Metroid Fusion, which I’ve been playing in small bits in bed before the Sandman takes me away, it’s been real nice to have a clear goal, a place to go to, a boss to kill, and a save room right after it. That’s not to say that, across the grand scheme of the Metroid franchise, it’s not disappointing to see such heavy hand-holding, especially when Super Metroid kept its distance from beginning to end, allowing the player to live and learn via trial and error. In Fusion, specially named Navigation Rooms fill out your entire map, whereas you once had to do that on your own. But it’s fine for now. The A.I. commander nicknamed “Adam” tells me what my next objective is, and if I somehow forget, I just click the objective button on the map and get refreshed. It’s linear and predictable, but the game was originally made for the GBA, which means it was designed to be played portably, and in that it is extremely successful.
In Fez, I wander. I wander, and I wonder. I spend a lot of time looking at walls, spinning rooms, jumping and spinning rooms to little effect. There is little instruction doled out, and even your floaty companion is little help, as it is just as cryptic as the alien-esque hieroglyphics. You see things that may or may not be important, and you move on, promising to return when you have further knowledge. At one point, I came to the conclusion that I needed to take notes, and these scribbles did little to explain the way of Fez‘s world, but it felt important, felt necessary. At certain places, such as the bell or the clock, my note-taking just felt stupid and pointless and that I would never understand what was probably right in front of my face.
I started writing this blog post on Wednesday and then managed to “beat” Fez last night. I found the “kill screen” by using 25 cubes and 7 anti-cubes (as well as a handful of treasure maps, one unused key, and one single artifact). I have some thoughts on all that, but I think I’ll save it for a separate post. Guess that’s another difference between it and Metroid Fusion; the latter isn’t special enough to warrant further thinking.