by Dave Adamson
First thing’s first, Moss is possibly the cutest world on the Playstation 4, let alone the PSVR, and is brought to you by Polyarc.
In Moss, you play the little rodent Quill, an adventurous soul, as she ventures around the world of Moss to rescue her uncle and defeat a great evil. It’s a simple story, but it’s so beautifully rendered that you’ll be drawn into the tale and the world pretty much straight away.
Controlling Quill isn’t the most straightforward of experiences at first; it’s a combination of guiding Quill around the territory and interacting with the world to clear obstacles or make paths for her to negotiate the terrain, and you’re going to be doing it with the standard controller, instead of acting like a demented windmill with PS Move.
Ostensibly, each challenge is a single screen, as opposed to a scrolling world, and I guess it harks back to games like Machinarium, in places, albeit with VR allowing you to view the world from on high, manipulating elements of it, and Quill herself, to get to where you need to go. Being a 3D world, you can move around ledges and platforms and it’s even more engaging when you realise that you can look around, over and into many of the nooks and crannies, seeing the world from a different angle.
There’s a sense of achievement in playing the game, made better by the connection players form with Quill, a beautifully crafted little mouse, and the urge to protect her and care for her; you can even pet her, if you wish, and her response is adorably well rendered. The combat isn’t overwhelming, it’s not a pushover to defeat enemies as the game progresses, and it doesn’t feel like you’re having a relentless slog to get anywhere. The puzzle structure starts off gentle – moving blocks to allow passage and ramps up as you go along, you’ll end up using bugs, blocks and statues as tools to help Quill.
So much of the game’s charm relies on the wonderful character Quill who, very much Sackboy, manages to endear without speaking. There’s something heartrending about watching Quill fall into water, before the scene resets and she’s there, shaking herself dry. There’s plenty of deadly ledges and other threats too, and then there’s the creatures you’ll encounter en route. It takes a while to get used to not ploughing in with little forethought and the combat system can be challenging, not because of the way that you control Quill, but from the way that you, as The Reader, can influence the tide of battle using your glowing orb, giving you precious seconds to help Quill recover or distance her from attack.
Told as a fairytale, with you as The Reader, and narrated by a mysterious voice, Moss is the type of game that really does get the best from PSVR. The story is told via a book in the Library, with beautifully drawn pages and superb voice work, and then there’s the library itself, it’s all so beautiful! As much as the story draws you into a deep, engaging world, it’s not a particularly expansive experience, but PSVR probably isn’t the type of tech you should be wearing for hours on end (for reasons that escape me, I end up with jaw ache and my eyes go funny after half an hour!)
If there’s one criticism, for all its beauty, at £24.99 in the Playstation Store in the UK, there’s maybe three hours of gameplay, more if you take things slowly and you’ll feel slightly disappointed that you don’t get to experience more of the world.