During E3 2017, I got to check out the demo for the recently accounced VR title Moss, an adorable third-person VR game that has you control a tiny, warrior mouse by the name of Quill through puzzles and combat by both controlling her using the analog sticks and influencing the world around her with the use of motion tracking in the PS4 Dualshock 4 controllers.
The demo began with you sitting in an expansive library with a book entitled Moss resting in front of you. By moving the controller forward and pressing both R2 and L2 at he same time, you are able to grab objects in the world and maneuver them where you want. This can feel unnatural the first few times you attempt it, as interacting with certain items will have you stretch pretty forward in front of yourself to reach them, but after a few tries it become intuitive as long as you know there are no objects directly in front of you. This is taught in the first few moments of the game, by having you turn the beginning pages of Moss before you are dragged within the story itself and placed within a new environment.
After this introduction I was now looking down on a lush forest, as a teeny little mouse scampered out of the woods and waved upwards to greet me. Quill herself in VR is about the size of an actual mouse, and the effect of her attempts to interact with you are exceedingly charming. The environments are sectioned off and are accessed whenever you move Quill forward to a new area, and if you crane your neck and look to the left you can even see the area you just left as if they are all attached in one long lineup spanning from left to right.
At the beginning area, if you look directly downwards you see your own reflection in some water. Your face has been replaced with a glowing mask, making you a character within the game itself as the “Storyteller”. Since you are reading the story of Moss and thus within Quill’s world, this means you can influence the story much like a reader could by simply altering the words. This metaphoric relationship is visualized with the motion control ability, and does a fantastic job of positioning the player within the story itself rather than just a third-party participant.
The sounds in Moss are extremely circumambient, as Quill crunches over leaves scattered on the ground ambient noises from the forest give off a great sense of immersion and setting within the world. When you move to areas inside cave-like structures, sounds echo and bounce off the walls, furthering that sense of immersion VR needs in order to truly position you within a world, especially when dealing with the third-person perspective.
The main puzzle presented in the demo has you take Quill and a beetle (which you can control as the Storyteller) and switch places on two weight sensitive buttons. Polyarc Games CEO Tam Armstrong tells me that I completed the puzzle too quickly to notice, but if a player is struggling then Quill will wave at them to get their attention and make motions with her hands on what to do next. In lieu of adding more tutorial prompts if a player is lost within a puzzle, Quill herself becomes the hint-giver. This means that besides the first few cues that show you how to use motion controls, jump, and attack, the player is left within the world free from any sort of indication that they are in a video game, with Quill acting as a substitute tutorial screen that is way more engaging than any labeled image of a controller.
The moment that won it all for me was at the completion of the puzzle, I opened a small latch that allowed Quill to walk forward to meet me at almost eye-level. After pausing for a moment to look at her, she waved her hand above her head and pointed to a ledge that was just out of her reach. Despite my knowledge that I was sitting in a demo room at E3 with other people in the room, I asked “What?” to Quill and Quill alone. Quill herself was so engaging that I felt the need to verbally ask her for help, before I realized how ridiculous that was and spun the puzzle around so she could jump across the ledge and head to the next area.
The conclusion of the demo has a short cutscene where Quill walks into a dark and dingy ruin, with a massive black Snake emerging from the darkness ready to strike. Boss battles in Moss will work a lot like Zelda or Shadow of the Colossus, where the player will have to find the monster’s weak point and exploit it in a puzzle-solving way.
If more titles like Moss were making their way to PSVR, then a growing number of people might find new reasons to purchase the system besides blasting through enemies in a first-person shooter. Moss is able to give credibility to the third-person genre in VR by crafting a title that is both as aesthetically beautiful and mechanically sound, with a main character that is captivating and charming to a point that you’ll want to pluck her out of the game and take her home in your pocket. Polyarc has stumbled across something special with Moss, and I can’t wait to see more.
Moss is coming to PSVR as an exclusive in Holiday 2017.