We’re over a year into the PlayStation VR lifecycle and we’ve played some pretty varied games during that time. Outside of VR some of my favorite games have been third person action/adventure games that have a likeable cast of characters. Third person seems to be a little more tricky when it comes to making a VR game but the developers at Polyarc Games set out to show that it can be done and it can be done well. They revealed their first game, Moss, to the world last year at E3 and ever since then I couldn’t wait to join Quill on her Journey.
I began the game in a library and had to use the Dualshock 4 motion controls to open the book of Moss. I was then treated to the opening story of the game which was beautifully narrated. After flipping through the pages the game thrusts you into the world where you find yourself overlooking a forest and a small pond. Quill, the small mouse protagonist, runs up only to find a small glass relic. When she picks it up, it awakens some magical powers and she finds that she has awoken and bonded with you. You are known in this world as The Reader and it is up to you to help and guide Quill. One of the coolest things about this game is that in a way it’s kind of a first person game. I’m seeing the world through my eyes and merely just guiding this cute little mouse on her journey. That journey ends up being a quest to save her uncle who ends up being captured by evil forces. For spoilers sake I won’t say much else about the story.
As you guide Quill on her quest you’ll have to navigate different scenes by moving Quill as well as an orb that allows you to interact with the world. Quill is controlled using the left stick and can attack with the square button and jump/dodge with the cross button. The orb that you use to interact with things is moved with the gyro controls of the Dualshock 4 and you can grab onto things using the R2 and L2 buttons. It’s a pretty simple and intuitive control scheme that anyone can easily pick up and learn. There are several chapters in the game and each of them is broken up into several different areas and scenes. Each of these areas usually have puzzles to solve or platforms to navigate. Quill will even help you at times by using actual sign language to try and paint a picture of what you should do. When you solve certain puzzles Quill will even cheer or raise her little hand to give you a high five which you can actually do. You can lean in and startle Quill, pet her head, or grab onto her with your orb to heal her wounds. All of these little interactions showed that Quill knew that I was there and they really helped build that bond between Quill and myself, The Reader.
If you look at this game you might wonder why it had to be a VR game but after playing it I can say it just wouldn’t be the same outside of VR. The levels are designed in a way that you can actually stand up or lean into the scene so that you can see around walls and other obstacles. This is how I was able to find some hidden passages and track down all the collectible dust and scrolls. It’s such a cool way to interact with the game and it just wouldn’t be the same without VR. There are combat sections too where you’ll fight different insect like creatures. These range from melee enemies to ones that will blow up to another that shoots fireballs at you. What’s cool is that as The Reader you can grab these enemies and make them attack the other enemies or just move them to buy Quill some time. You’ll also have to use them to solve some of the puzzles in the game. For example you may need to move one of them onto a pressure plate in order to open a door so that Quill can advance.
At the end of every chapter in the game you are taken back to the library to hear some more of the story through the pages of the book. The game took me around 4 hours my first time through which ended with a pretty memorable boss battle. If you are a completionist and want to earn all of the trophies in the game maybe you add another hour onto that depending on how many collectibles you missed. While the game is $30 and kind of short the quality of the overall package makes it well worth it. I’m a believer in that if something is high quality then I have no problem paying a little bit more money for it.
Visuals and Audio:
Let me just say that Moss is hands down one of the most impressive looking PlayStation VR games that I’ve played to date. Just talking about Quill you have a a beautifully rendered mouse whose animations are so well done. As I already mentioned the sign language she uses is adorable and all the other little details are just top notch. The environments as well are all rendered with lots of detail and impressive scale. Things like little villages with other mice going about their business along with forests with various wildlife present. Then you have huge majestic castles and statues that tower above Quill. Sound effects are well done whether it’s the sound of Quill’s sword striking down enemies or the painful squeal of Quill being hurt. The soundtrack is awesome too and it ranges from soft fantasy music as you explore to more upbeat adrenaline pumping music when you enter combat.
Moss is such a wonderfully designed little package that shows what the VR medium can really do. Quill was such a likable character and I enjoyed every second I spent guiding her on her journey. Polyarc has shown that third person games can be done in VR and not only that but done in a way that just wouldn’t be possible without VR. The world of Moss simply wouldn’t be anywhere near as fascinating or magical if played on a flat screen. Moss is one of the best reasons yet to buy a PlayStation VR and, if you already own one, you owe it to yourself to add the book of Moss to your library.
*Moss is available on PlayStation VR. Reviewed on a PlayStation VR and PlayStation 4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher.