Moss on PlayStation VR
Moss has been on my radar ever since its gameplay announcement trailer at E3 last year. Aside from its incredibly cute mouse protagonist, Moss stood out in the landscape of VR games, offering something outside of the shooter or horror genres that have largely dominated the platform so far. During the four hours it took me to navigate its many platforming segments and enemies, it quickly stole my heart and the spot as my favorite VR title I’ve experienced so far.
The game tells the tale of a ridiculously adorable little white mouse that goes by the name of Quill. After stumbling upon an artifact that yields ancient magic, she embarks on an adventure with you – the mysterious figure looking over her known as a Reader – to put a stop to the evil extending across the land. It’s a classic good vs evil storyline. One that feels reminiscent of children’s stories, a sentiment only furthered by the storybook-style narration that plays over as you flick through the pages of the illustrated virtual book in front of you.
It’s not long before Moss thrusts you into Quill’s fantasy world. Birds swoop worryingly close to your head, the whooshing of air filling your right ear as they flap into view. Blades of grass bend daintily in the wind, and looking down into the water results in your round, plain face staring right back at you. Despite experiencing Moss from a third-person perspective, the adventure was just as alluring and immersive as it has been in any other VR title, if not more so.
With pleasantries out the way, Quill and I embarked on our adventure back through the forest and onward out of relative safety. Each of Moss’ seven chapters is made up of a number of puzzle levels, requiring you to manipulate the objects in the world with your special Reader powers to allow Quill to navigate her way to the doorway. Though never overly taxing, these puzzle sections are a real treat, mainly due to how VR opens up these environments. Rather than struggling with a funny camera angle that’s preventing you from seeing where you need to go, you just move your head around. Need to get a closer look? Lean your head in. Need a better overview of the entire segment? Lean back and you’ll soon see the path that you’ll need to guide Quill along. Once it finally clicks in your head and Quill stands at the end of the segment proud of what you’ve accomplished as a team, holding her tiny paw up for a high-five, you’ll find it impossible not to smile.
Of course, this adventure to stop the spread of darkness has its fair share of enemies that Quill will need to defeat along the way. There are a few variants here – basic melee, ranged shooters, and exploding ones – which helps keep the combat from feeling stale along the way, but once you’ve seen them all and worked out a solid method of defeating them, it can get a little too simplistic. Quill only has a fairly basic slash attack with her sword at her disposal, but as the Reader, you’re able to use some powers to assist her along the way.
Hovering your reticle over an enemy and holding down one of the triggers will result in them freezing up and slowing down, while doing the same over Quill will heal her up. Move your controller in a direction, and the enemy will follow. This not only means you can control a ranged enemy and have them blow up other foes, thinning out the crowd Quill needs to take down on her own, but it also allows you to move them onto and activate pressure switches, or shoot and activate crystals to transform the terrain around you. It adds another neat layer to the puzzle segments of the game, too. Sometimes you’ll need to move one onto a pressure plate, other times you’ll need to lure one towards a blockade to blow it up. There’s a co-dependency between you – the Reader – and Quill on this adventure, and it’s this that makes your bond with the darling mouse grow stronger as you overcome the challenges laid before you.
Polyarc needs to be praised for the level of presentation and design that’s gone into Quill. There are so many adorable moments between you and Quill that by the time the credits roll – which is far too soon – she’ll have stolen your heart. The rodent’s animations are sublime, both with the way she acts and reacts to the world around her. She’ll gesture a hint at you if you spend too long trying to figure out a puzzle. Lean into your glowing orb as you pet her, and roll in such a playful manner as she clambers up edges that just makes her feel so real. Oh, and she showed her thanks when I helped her out in a sticky situation by holding her tiny paws to her chest and gesturing them up to me. If you can’t tell, I’m a really big fan of Quill.
Unfortunately, Moss was over sooner than I’d have liked, wrapping up in just shy of four hours. There are some collectibles to help add an extra hour or two at most to simply playing through the story, but just as things were really starting to get going in the story, the credits come all too soon. During the single session I played Moss in, I never once felt motion sick or suffered from any headaches or discomfort that I’ve felt in other titles, and that largely comes down to the static positioning of your character as the Reader. Just in case you were concerned that this would send your stomach through the ceiling like other VR titles may have done.
Moss reminds me of why VR is so great. It can take the tried and tested genres we love and breathe new life into them in the simplest of ways. Peering around corners to check for enemies or using the DualShock 4’s motion controls to grab and turn objects to allow Quill safe passage to her destination feels natural and so satisfying. It’s not janky, nor gimmicky, but rather adds to the experience as a whole.
If you have a PlayStation VR, I cannot recommend Moss enough. Though its $30 price tag for a roughly four-hour adventure may still seem a little steep for some, it’s an adventure more than worth taking. Plus, you get to high-five a cute mouse, so there’s that, too.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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