Frank Zappa once said "Writing About Music Is Like Dancing About Architecture", Sega's Rez is a lot like this. It seems pointless to write about the game, as no matter how descriptive I get, nothing is like actually playing the game.
As one of Sega's final games for their defunct Dreamcast, Rez entertains the notion that video games can be more than a visual creation. Instead Rez enjoys a steady balance of interesting graphics and what might be described as interactive music. It uses elements of Panzer Dragoon, old school Vectrex games, and a rave, yet together makes something totally unique.
There's a strong argument on what Rez actually is. One could argue that it's a traditional shooter, with power ups, a linear path, and a number of interesting, yet unique, levels. On the other hand, somebody else could argue that the game is a music game, where interacting with the music, and simply enjoying the trance beats is the real enjoyment of the game. Both convincing arguments, so who's right?
Well, they both are. Rez is indeed a traditional shooter, but also features elements used in a number of high quality music-games. However, unlike PaRappa the Rapper, Frequency, and Bust-A-Groove, Rez balances the action with the music in a way where you CAN play without the sound (even though I don't understand why you would want to).
The graphics are a combination of solid polygons and vectrex like line art. Some of the game looks a lot like the old Star Wars arcade game, some of it looks like the recent Radiohead music video for the Pyramid Song, but in action the game is like nothing you've ever seen (or heard) before. The way the graphics work with the sound, though, is a style all it's own. The enemies, backgrounds, even you change as the music does, it's simply stunning.
Each of the five levels features a new color scheme, and a brand new song. Some of the songs sound a little similar, but they all are excellent, and some of the best songs I've heard in a video game. The songs sound even better when heard through a high quality set of headphones, it recommends this at the beginning of the game, and it comes highly recommended.
The game is extremely easy, you'll likely be able to beat it in a good night of playing. Thankfully Sega has included a few extra options to make the game last a little bit longer. Travelling (sic) gives you a non stop mix, where you get to play the game without the worry of dying. This mode seems to go as far as it can to promote the use of "self medication" without using the words.
It's a game like this that Sega does well. It's a small idea, though a good one, just like Jet Grind Radio, Crazy Taxi, or even Monkey Ball. Sega does these small little games extremely well. This comes off the best in when fighting the numerous bosses in Rez. I'm not sure I'd ever considered a disco mirror ball a menacing creature until battling them in numerous forms. I'm not kidding when I say that this game has some of the best uses of bosses I've seen in years. Seeing all five end bosses are worth the price of the game alone.
The game fits into a niche, no question about it. If you're not a fan of European techno and trance music, you'll likely be confused, perhaps even baffled by the appeal of a game like this. However, if you enjoy shooters, or you enjoy melodic music, you are definitely going to want to check this game out. It's a minimalist game that can wow just about anybody.