Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): PlayStation VR
I’m just going to go out and say this right now – Moss is an absolutely amazing game and anyone who owns a PlayStation VR headset needs to play it. There’s no point in starting this review by going on about the build-up or how expectations for the game for high, but rather just let you know that this is not only probably my favourite game I’ve played on PlayStation VR, but one of the most charming games I’ve played period. It’s that good.
Moss puts you in the shoes of both The Reader, a mysteriously-powered masked person, and Quill, the enigmatic little mouse that everyone has probably seen by now, as they go on a grand adventure through a fantasy fairy-tale world. It’s all because Quill has discovered a mysterious piece of glass which, when investigated, sees her uncle disappearing and an evil force from the past return. Daunting, right? Fortunately, through the help of a mischievous little Sprite, you’re able to work your way to him, and perhaps find out more about the history of the world on the way.
It’s a great little tale and one that’s told through the illustrations of a story book in-between gameplay sequences, which only furthers the whole ‘fairy-tale’ vibe it has going on. In that sense, it’s not the most cinematic of titles, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t nail the storytelling side of things – these illustrations are all animated and look great. Just don’t expect to see too much of the narrative action up-close.
It’s hard not to love Quill. Honestly, she’s one of the most adorable and heroic little characters I’ve come across. However, it’s how she moves and interacts with the player that really pulled me in. The character animation is spot on, whether you’re running, fighting, climbing, or tiptoeing across a narrow bridge – it blends together the hallmarks of a struggling little hero and a cute creature, and it looks adorable in-game. Wanna know what adds to the cute-factor? The fact Quill celebrates her little victories and asks for high-fives that you’ve got to physically give to her through the motion controls. Honestly, all these things might sound like small little touches, but when seen in-game they’re absolutely astounding and help add to the charm of Moss as a whole.
It’s not just the characters that make up the wonderful experience though, with Moss’ world proving to be absolutely stunning too. Honestly, every facet of its design is simply startling, be it the naturalistic intro where you’re heading through an enchanting forest or when Quill is fighting for her life through a selection of dark and grimy caves. You’ll have to excuse the cliché of referencing Dark Souls here (hey, at least I’m not referring to the game’s difficulty!), but the world design itself reminded me of FromSoftware’s hit series – sure, it’s ditched the gothic architecture for a more… erm… ‘mouse-like’ one, but the sheer scale of the grandiose surroundings brought the same amount of awe upon me that I felt when exploring the world of Lordran. Of course, the comparison is a good thing.
What was most impressive about Moss’ world-design though is how it really absorbs the player in to its fantastical side. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll see some sights that you’d never expect in the real world (there’s some full-blown miniature towns and castles after all), but then there are times when you’re venturing across landscapes that would actually feel familiar. Forest paths full to the brim with wildlife, falling leaves, and hundreds of trees? They’re here, except you’re looking at them from the viewpoint of a mouse, and boy is it impressive. Seeing everything from such a miniscule perspective is great, and not only does it look stunning in-game but it actually adds to its charm too – especially when you see Quill use the likes of a sword as makeshift bridge…
Add to that the fact that it might just so happen to be PlayStation VR’s prettiest game so far, and it’s hard not to be amazed at the job that the team over at Polyarc has done with creating this vivid and beautiful world. I spent a ton of time simply taking it all in, and with the full head-controls that are included, peering through every nook and cranny is an absolute joy. I think this is one of those games where it’d lose something if it wasn’t played in virtual reality, with the immersive exploration elements it adds to the game being one of the core elements in its fantastic world-design.
This stunning world just so happens to be full of puzzles for the player to solve too, so you’ll certainly have to get your thinking cap on. A lot of the puzzles simply depend on Quill’s platforming skills, though The Reader has to get involved too – you guide a strange little orb around through the motion controls of the DualShock controller, which can then interact with certain objects in the environment. It might be a case of pulling out a block for Quill to jump over or moving a staircase for her to climb, but you always get involved somehow.
You can also possess the different creatures of the environment too, with a quick flick of the orb in their direction seeing you take control of them. Now, this can be used in combat (more on that later), but you’ll also have to utilise their abilities (or sometimes just their weight) to solve puzzles too. I’ll be honest, it could be a little awkward controlling both Quill and the possessed creatures to begin with, but it’s something you get used to the more you play the game.
Whether you’re moving objects or possessing enemies though, each of the puzzles are varied and offer a decent challenge to the player. They’re all put together in a clever and constructive way that ensures that they always feel fun to solve, and whilst some might be a breeze to get through, there’ll definitely be a couple that will genuinely have you scratching your head.
The game’s combat is fairly simple in design, with it adopting a two-button process: one for attacking and one for dodging out of the way of incoming strikes. You’ll notice when enemies are about to unload on Quill, and all you’ve got to do is quickly tap the jump button and she’ll swiftly dodge out of the way. Attacking is easy too, with a few quick button presses seeing Quill unleash deadly combos on her foe. It’s all very simple and never over-complicates things.
Whilst Moss’ combat might not utilise complicated mechanics though, it more than compensates for it by sending a ton of enemies your way. It’s clear throughout that quantity is always at the forefront as far as combat is concerned, but never at the expense of quality – sure, it’s simple, but leaping between skirmishes with weaponised beetles doesn’t only make for gripping little showdowns, but surprisingly challenging ones too.
Of course, you’ve got the mighty powers of The Reader at your disposal – it’d be unfair to let Quill do all the work, right? In a similar vein to how you can take control over enemies to help solve puzzles, you can also take control of them to attack other foes. On the flip-side, you can just take control of them to make them vulnerable to attacks from Quill, with the game’s team-work aspects translating through to combat too. However you approach it, it’s intuitive, fun, and compliments the simplicity that comes with game’s combat mechanics.
Players should easily be able to beat Moss in around two to three hours, though that could be a bit less depending on how much of the world you decide to explore and if many of the puzzles perplex you. There are plenty of collectibles to find littered across the world too, so there’s certainly an incentive to explore or perhaps give the game a second playthrough just to pick up on anything you missed out on the first time around.
I couldn’t help but to feel a little disappointed in the game’s length though. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel short-changed or like Moss didn’t offer enough, because it genuinely was an enthralling adventure that kept me hooked in from start to end. Rather, the adventure just started to feel like it was truly beginning, when suddenly the end snaps in. I knew I was reaching the conclusion, but it was just so damn good that I wasn’t ready for it to end.
It does put forward the argument that maybe £24.99 is a bit too much for a short-lived adventure, though I wouldn’t look at it that way. Those hours you’ll spend with the game are so enjoyable and full of unforgettable moments that the entry fee isn’t a problem – just don’t be surprised if you want more when it’s all over.