When I first played Moss last June at E3 I had an idea that its final build would be something special, and now that it is available for the PSVR, I’m glad I can say that I guessed correctly. In fact, I can say with confidence that this title is one that makes a very compelling argument for owning the PSVR.
Up until now, like the other VR headsets, there really hasn’t been a must-play title for the PSVR, but that now changes with Polyarc’s polish on Moss. Hopefully you took advantage of the recent PSVR fire sale, because this game is just the experience you need to validate your purchase to yourself, or your skeptical VR friends.
What makes Moss so engaging to me are its VR visual presentation, and its gameplay mechanics, because its story isn’t compelling. In fact, its story is mediocre at best — you’re a little female mouse named Quill who sets out on a quest to save her squirrel riding Uncle — so it’s nothing that will engross your imagination, or compel you to keep playing the game. It’s not a horrible tale, it’s just generic, but it really has no lasting impact on the game’s experience as a whole, which is why I contend that this game excels due to its technical design first and foremost.
In terms of its VR visuals they’re hard to explain, because the presentation hasn’t been used much at all for the medium so far. While wearing the headset and playing Moss, the visuals make it feel as if you’re an ominous being who is sitting at a table and is watching a fully fleshed out world come to life and bustle with activity. It’s be like having your own holo-table from Star Wars, or like staring into a doll house that has come to life.
Being in the world of Moss is a surreal experience thanks to how the visuals are delivered. They make you feel like the magical faceless spirit you play in the game, who’s job is to help Quill — the protagonist — make her way past environmental puzzles en route to saving her Uncle. It truly is a magical looking world thanks to how the visuals are presented, so I hope more developers implement it for action/adventure titles in VR, because it works perfectly, and easily allows you to become a part of the virtual world without becoming the protagonist yourself.
The visual presentation also works flawlessly with the gameplay mechanics, which include platforming, melee based combat, and puzzle-solving. You play as the Reader, who in the story of Moss is a magical spirit that befriends Quill at the onset of the story. With a controller you control Quill’s movements with traditional joystick controls to get her through each level, while also fighting enemies with her sword, but you can also interact with the world as the spirit. To do so, you use the controller more like a Move controller, as you grab items to move around the world to clear obstacles, or enemy units to help Quill out when she’s in a pickle. You also can heal Quill with the controller, so you’re always working together, but in reality you’re working as one since you are playing both as Quill and as the Reader/spirit.
This may sound clunky, but it’s a perfect marriage of the two gameplay mechanics featured in Moss. You never feel like you’re passively watching the experience play out. You always feel connected — both to Quill and as the spirit — so your entire focus is constantly engaged in the experience. It’s like a symphony when you master controlling Quill while also pulling off moves as the spirit, so while on the outside Moss’s gameplay may seem just like another action-adventure puzzle game, it’s much more than that thanks to the how the mechanics play out in VR.
The only other knock I can think of for Moss outside of its uninspiring story, is its length. The game can be completed in under four hours, which for $29.99 isn’t a deal breaker at all. I guess I just loved the game so much that I didn’t want it to end that quickly, but it sounds like there could be more episodes, or a sequel, so we may get another chance to return to Moss for a fresh adventure, but as it stands you can get almost everything out of it in four hour or less. That’s unless you are a trophy hunter and go for platinum by making sure you’ve found every collectible and accomplished every challenge it has to offer.
If you’ve been wanting a new and exciting game to play on your PSVR, or if you’ve been on the fence about getting a PSVR, then you need to think about adding a little Moss to your life. While it’s a short game, it’s still the best VR experience I’ve played since I began dabbling in the medium, and it shows how VR titles can be more than just rail shooters and gimmicks. The visual presentation is mesmerizing to say the least, so this game works wonders for showing people why they should care about VR experiences in the first place. Keep an eye on Polyarc, because they have figured out the golden VR gaming formula with their debut title. You owe it to yourself to check this one out, because it’s one of those special titles that will be remembered for being an early VR standout, and one that helped shaped the future of the medium.
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Review Statement: The author of this review was provided a PS4 code by the publisher for the purposes of this review.