When people think of VR gaming a few genres come to mind. First-person horror, flight simulators, first person shooters and adrenaline sports titles seem like the most logical fit. Surprisingly though, there has been a number of puzzle games that have worked quite well. When I first saw the trailer for Polyarc’s Moss for PSVR, I was interested but not excited. It looked like your standard platformer, made for VR which seems like a waste of resources. I mean, why would anyone make a platformer on VR?
Moss starts with you seated at a desk in an enormous library/hall with a closed book in front of you titled Moss. The book looks quite ancient and has a magical sort of appeal. You open it using the duel shock light tracking and trigger to grab the page. Unlike most VR games there is no hand viewed, simply a glowing blue light that reminded me for some reason of a fairy. The book opens and you are greeted with a female’s narrative voice, explaining the story of tiny kingdom that was overthrown by evil forces. As you turn the art filled pages you are informed that a hero sprite had given his life to vanquish the evil and save the rest of the forest. From here you are transported into the imagined world of the book, or perhaps your soul is.
You are greeted with a vibrant landscape that is nestled within a forest, and an unlikely hero appears before you in the form of a white, large eared mouse named Quill. On his arrival Quill finds a blue shard that belonged to the hero sprite of the past and senses another being accompanying him. This being is you, and your known throughout as the reader, obvious as you are reading the book. Although Quill can not see you he feels your presence and acknowledges your being. It is instantly a warm feeling, almost as if you are his guardian angel. From here the games basics are displayed.
The world of Moss is delivered via stagnant 3D stage pieces of which to work your way through, each one is incredibly well designed and most contain secrets and multiple levels within them. You take control of Quill with movement being available via the left analogue stick, the ability to jump or climb is found with the X button, attack by the Square button and a dodge can be actioned by combining X and Square. It all feels natural and familiar for platformers these days. However, as we are using the PSVR and motion tracking, we have the added ability to influence the world and aid our little companion.
The Readers light, a blue, transparent orb can be used in a variety of ways with the use of the triggers. We have the ability to break some items, heal Quill, move large objects, open doors, raise stair cases, light torches and even control enemies to do our bidding. It is a wonderful addition that adds greatly to the guardian angel feel I first had, making your relationship with Quill a strong bond. Quill even realises when you are aiding him, turning toward you and showing his gratitude, it’s a warm feeling that makes you feel special. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel like a god or at least some sort of magician.
The puzzles that hinder Quills advance are exceptionally well designed. The goal is always visible but the way forward can challenge the brain. Moss is an excellent example of what VR tech can add to a game, the ability to shift your position in the real world to find other ways and hidden secrets with different vision angles is superb. The variety of puzzles is also excellent, some are solved as easily as moving a few objects for Quill to use as bridges or raising stair cases out of the floor. Others have various touch pads or switches that have to be used either in a certain sequence or together simultaneously. This is where things get tricky, in a good way. You can’t activate switches with your light, however you can control an enemy and manipulate them into doing it for you, all whilst controlling Quill to activate the other object at the same time. It is tricky at first but works extremely well.
The combat system is quite basic but it also works very well. Quills attacks are simplistic, with combinations never getting over a few hits. Attacking and dodging all feels natural and when faced with a number of enemies the ability to aid Quill by control holding an enemy with your reader powers feels great.
The story is well written, feeling like a cross between of Animalia and Never-Ending Story. You can’t help but fall in love with Quill as you progress through the adventure, the bond you will have with him is strong. The game play does break up with revisits to your seating position in the library, reminding you that you are simply reading a book, and falling into the fantasy that is written.
Moss is visually stunning. The world is absolutely gorgeous, and its habitants are delightfully well crafted. When looking at each set piece you are greeted with a lush, vibrant, lovingly created environment. In the outdoor sections these set pieces feel like a forest inside of a forest. It is easy to forget that the world you are concentrating on is such a small area, but a quick look up and past you can see the world beyond. This word is littered with huge pine trees, elk feeding, birds fluttering and the far reaches of the skylines, stars and moon. Everywhere you look you are greeted with stunning graphics.
The character models are fantastically created and the whole game feels alive and natural. The animation is also terrific. The way in which the characters move realistic and Quill moves so eloquently that it is a pleasure to watch. You can see the love that has been poured into the production. Even the smallest details such as the movement of Quills tail and the bend of the grass as your light moves through it, seemingly like the touch of a ghost or single strange breeze, it just oozes quality. The grain look that plagues most PSVR titles may exist but it is unnoticed as your eyes are treated to the best-looking VR title available, it is simply pleasurable.
Moss is by far the best release on PSVR so far, it may even be close to game of the year at years end. I have loved every second I have spent in game, with Quill, my new delightful little friend. The bond with Quill is something special, and one rarely found in any game. I really can’t find any negatives to put towards Moss, it is a sublime production that captures your heart from the start, being built seemingly from love. A sublime journey that not only makes me anticipate what comes next on PSVR but one that everybody should partake in. If you have a PSVR you simply must buy this game, if your friends don’t have the tech, do them a favour and let them experience it. Simply brilliant!
Thank you to Sony for providing a copy of Moss for the PlayStation VR system for review.