Moss – PS VR Review



Genre: Adventure
Rating: PG
Release Date: Out Now

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- Amazing animation
- Adorable protagonist
- Solid adventure, puzzle and combat mechanics
- Mysterious, immersive world


- Over too soon
- Limited enemy types, a lot of time spent breaking empty boxes

Posted March 2, 2018 by

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I’ve recently been getting stuck into my backlog for PlayStation VR titles, with the last week filled with the 1:1 motion tracked high-intensity violence of Farpoint and Doom VFR. Heading straight into the quiet and lush world of PS VR’s latest release, Moss, was like a bout of intensity whiplash. However, it’s to developers Polyarc’s great credit that Moss is such an incredibly unique experience in VR, and showcases a completely different, yet still extremely successful, type of experience that’s possible with the technology.

Moss is presented as a storybook, both explicitly in the game’s narrative, and in the way its presentation is designed. You, as ‘the Reader’, sit in a great library reading the picture book with the story of the world of Moss. Here, an adventuring mouse named Quill recognises you in a meta-sense as a helpful spirit bound to her, as she sets off from the comfort of her village to rescue her uncle from dark forces. As ‘the Reader’, not only do you observe the game’s cutscenes as static pages in the storybook, but your perspective over the game’s levels is like viewing a diorama. There is no camera movement, as Quill advances from one area to the next the dioramas simply fade into each other. You’re encouraged to examine each screen in detail from your perch, peering around corners for secrets or hidden details.

It also does wonders for the game’s immersion. By inviting you to examine the game’s detail, it rewards you with some beautiful and memorable design. While Moss’ world takes place on a small scale, in the villages and ruins of mouse-sized civilisations, those critters are still part of a larger world, and frequently you find the two combining in beautiful ways. One area takes place in the flooded and forgotten remains of an ancient battlefield, presumably fought by human-sized beings, with their emptied armour and abandoned weapons informing the world and story through implication, rather than explicit mention.

I also have to give props to the wonderful animation behind Quill, who moves so smoothly it’s like watching a high-quality children’s film at times. While she is voiced as part of the storybook in cutscenes, Quill is silent during gameplay, which actually worked vastly more effectively, as she tries to draw your attention through pointing, or even offers you a crisp high-five upon completion of a difficult puzzle.

On the surface, Moss is a simple platform and adventure game, far more simple than many other non-VR alternatives. Using the DualShock 4, you control Quill as she runs around each level, scrambling up ledges and leaping across small gaps. Beyond controlling Quill, you also have to control yourself, as the Reader, using the DS4’s motion sensor and light-bar. Moving around a cursor on-screen, not unlike the idea behind the Wii U’s Rayman Legends interactions, you can grab onto certain arcane objects to push and pull them around to help Quill navigate. Much of the game is spent on these puzzles, and while none are too taxing, they do ramp up in difficulty by the end. At first, controlling Quill and the Reader are separate concerns and can be handled one-at-a-time, but as the game goes on this changes.

Quill packs an adorable tiny sword, which is put to good use in a handful of combat encounters with wind-up robots she encounters throughout the adventure. While Quill is nimble and able, and gets a fair few badass moments in Moss, she stands the best chance with the Reader’s assistance as well. Using your ‘grab’ powers, you can manipulate enemies to stun them, direct them or force them to fire on each other, and success in Moss’ combat situations only comes when you’re able to combine Quill’s swordfighting with your motion-c0ntrolled help. It’s a pretty great idea, and works wonderfully with the VR technology. You don’t realise until you’re inside the headset how valuable having a sense of depth is to motion controls, and eventually being ‘twofold’ with Quill and the Reader becomes second nature. 

While care and attention has been put into the game content in Moss, the experience does feel unfinished, by design as the ending reveals this is only ‘Book 1’ of a larger project. There are only three enemy types, which are re-used to just about breaking point by the game’s end, and a single boss. The combat wavers from feeling stretched by the end of the game between waves of these same enemy types, and areas with no combat at all where Quill’s only foes are pots and crates, which can be broken apart similar to Zelda. That said, there are some collectibles to find in the form of glitter obtained from breaking the scenery, as well as harder-to-find scrolls which encourage replayability.

Moss is an excellent family-friendly title for PlayStation VR, to the point I’d say that it should be any parent’s first stop in looking at a VR game for their child (although it should be noted PS VR has a minimum recommended age of 12). Even if you’re not on the younger side of the age persuasion, Moss will still make you nostalgic for the pint-sized adventures and derring-do of The Secret of Nimh and The Rescuers, albeit with its own beautiful and mysterious spin. Polyarc’s foray into virtual reality has paid dividends, and Moss is an unmissable experience for the young and the young-at-heart.

Adam Ghiggino

I'm Rocket Chainsaw's Owner and Executive Editor. When I'm not writing here, I work in TV and on short films, and fight criminal velociraptors.