FEZ "Two thumbs up!" —Wilmer Valderrama

WITH THE ADVENT of digital downloads, we've seen a massive surge in the number of independently-developed games that, as recently as 10 years ago, never would have had the kind of exposure they now enjoy. Games like the recent Journey that, though lacking massive marketing budgets, attract huge, devoted audiences purely by virtue of their quality. Thank god for that, because without this shift in market dynamics, a game like Fez would have no chance at success.

Superficially, Fez appears to be a pixelated 2D platformer, not unlike the quirky would-be Mario titles that plagued the 8- and 16-bit consoles of the early '90s. Spend some time with the game, however, and you'll discover one of the deepest, most charming adventures to hit the industry in the last decade.

Fez hinges on a magical hat that allows players to shift the entire world on its axis—thus revealing hidden routes through each puzzle-like stage. It's a simple idea, but a combination of colorful aesthetics, charming (if lo-fi) characters, and deviously clever level design allows this concept to create a wildly addictive experience. It's possible to play through the title quickly, exploring only the bare minimum of what the game offers, but the real appeal lies in playing and replaying Fez's areas to uncover every single quirk they contain: Even the most devoted players have yet to discover all of the title's facets, and relying on the internet for assistance won't reveal everything that developer Polytron packed into this deceptively simple game.

"Deceptive," actually, is great descriptor for Fez: Though the game's plot centers around the end of the universe, the experience is light-hearted and playful, and while Fez is primarily a puzzle game, it also offers brilliantly designed platforming elements. In short, there are very solid reasons why people are so in love with Fez, and you simply can't grasp them until you've played the game yourself.