When it comes to the relatively new world of VR there’s been a lot of titles that offer up an interactive “experience” more so than a traditional gaming one. Still, there are titles out there that are learning to strike a balance between the two styles of VR that are emerging. Moss is a shining example of a hybrid title that takes the best of traditional gameplay mechanics and an immersive storytelling experience to create what could be a modern classic.
Moss takes a lot of basic concepts and combines them into a fresh new package. At its core, it’s a platform puzzler with a moderate dose of combat that propels an intriguing, but familiar story forward.
Out Into The World
Storywise, Moss is one part Neverending Story and one part Secret of Nimh with a small dash of the Mice of the Templar comic book thrown in for good measure. Players take on the role of a nameless reader at a desk in a large library who has somehow become enthralled in the tale of Moss. Very quickly, you learn that the mice-folk that inhabit this world were driven from their castle and kingdom by a great evil.
After getting a brief history lesson, players meet the real hero of this tale, Quill, a young and impetuous mouse who’s lived her entire life in a forest village with her grandfather. When she finds a magical glass shard while exploring she becomes bonded to the reader. When she shows her discovery to her grandfather he finds it to be a foreboding omen and sets off to fight an impending evil. He tells Quill to stay put, but after a visit from a persuasive fairy, she finds herself on a journey to save her grandfather and possibly her "people".
Honestly, the tale is nothing horribly new, but it’s told in a compelling manner. Most of the story is narrated by one woman who does little voice changes for each character. It gives the whole thing a sense of a mother reading to a child or a teacher during storytime reading to a class.
The Great Mouse Detective
Gameplay is a mix of traditional platforming and the grab, push, pull, and turn mechanics of most VR games. Players control both Quill as she jumps and slashes her way through the world and the essence of the reader. In order to solve each area’s puzzles, players will do things like moves items in the environment or take control of enemies to use their skills. The VR perspective also allows players to peek behind corners or look over walls for hidden objects and adds a completely unique mechanic that wouldn’t work in a traditional game setting.
Making sure that Quill doesn’t get overwhelmed by dissuading her opponents and keeping her healed as the reader while also controlling her fighting maneuvers becomes a balancing act during some of the more intense combat areas. It’s very similar to the way players maintained their teams in Child of Light.
While there is a challenge element to it all, there wasn’t a puzzle or fighting sequence that I wasn’t able to overcome with relative ease. Overall, I’d say that the game’s challenge level is made to skew a broad age range.
Controls are for the most part sturdy, but there were some puzzles areas towards the end of the game that showed off its flaws. Mainly there are some issues with depth perception and the speed at which controls react to input.
Country Mouse In The Big City
When it comes to the world of Moss itself, it’s just flat-out gorgeous. I definitely got the sense of scale as I played and it only became more clear that Quill was a small mouse in big world as more of the world was explored. Objects in the environment also gave the sense that there was a tale within a tale going on as human-sized relics of some long ago fought battle were sprinkled throughout the world.
Quill herself is also the most adorable protagonist I’ve ever seen in a game. The team at Polyarc did a great job of making her personality shine through subtle little gestures and squeaks. Quill actually uses sign language at times as she throws in non-verbal clues when players appear to be having trouble solving puzzles and will sometimes want a high-five after completing a challenge. It’s just ridiculously cute and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Quill, she’s the type of rodent songs like Ben are written about.
Moss is, simply put, a delightful action puzzler that takes full advantage of the VR setting while still providing an approachable, more traditional control scheme. There’s so much to enjoy in this modern fairy tale that reminds of some of my favorite fantasy films from the 80s. Still, it’s not quite perfect and the issues I previously mentioned with depth and timing become very apparent towards the end of the game when there becomes more necessary immediacy to movement. I also felt like the ending came out of nowhere and left me wanting more closure and maybe a bit more fanfare after my journey.
Still, Moss is a fantastic game with a story that will draw players into its world and it has some great visuals to back it up. While there
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 PSVR download code provided by the publisher. Moss is available in digital stores now for $29.99.