What do you get when you combine the most adorable mouse ever, a storybook adventure, creative puzzles and PSVR? In this humble reviewer’s opinion, an easy contender for game of the year 2018! Created by former Bungie developers, following up an MMO-ish first person loot shooter with an action-adventure VR game is a majorly new direction, but it’s certainly one that paid off!
In Moss, players meet Quill, a young mouse with dreams of greatness beyond the confines of her settlement. While exploring the woods, she finds a mysterious piece of glass and an ancient magic is awakened. With her uncle now in grave danger, Quill must embark on an epic journey—and she needs you there by her side. Together, you’ll travel to forgotten realms, solve challenging puzzles, and battle menacing enemies. Alone, no one can conquer what you’re up against. But united, you just may defeat even the darkest of villains.
It’s worth mentioning that Moss is my first PSVR title. I actually won a PSVR back when Taco Bell was giving them away, and it was the inspiration for me eventually buying a PS4 in the first place. Once I saw that Skyrim was coming to PSVR I knew it would be the game that would finally convince me to find space to hook it up and try it out, but then I discovered Moss at E3 2017 and suddenly Moss would be that magical game that would be my excuse to dive into VR. I was so excited about the game, in fact, that I was hesitant to try it; I was worried it wouldn’t stand a chance at living up to the excitement and hype I had for it.
Moss is perhaps the most unique game I’ve ever played in so many ways, and in the ways it’s not entirely unique it’s setting new bars for quality. I’ve felt like grand heroes and random people thrust into a world of adventure, but never once have I felt like I was right there ALONGSIDE a main character. Yes, Quill (the main character and star of the game) is fully controllable with the DualShock 4 controller, but you also use the controller to grab and manipulate objects, move enemies around, solve puzzles and even reach out to heal or high five her. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also spend a good amount of your time just looking around in amazement; Quill is a tiny creature, and it’s easy to forget that when she’s in her house or a small pub made for creatures her size, but when she goes outside and is dwarfed by deer, trees or even a discarded rusty axe, the world suddenly becomes a huge, wondrous place.
Quill’s story (and yours) is told both through the game and through reading Quill’s story. This story is told by one narrator, but it’s done in a way that’s similar to having a parent read a book to you – she changes her voice depending on which character she’s speaking as. You’re “the Reader”, but at the same time you are a part of the story, and as that quote from Moss‘s store page says it’s going to take the two of you to rescue her uncle as a team. Even the most simple puzzles require teamwork, whether it’s rotating a staircase so Quill can climb it and jump where she needs to go or holding projectile-firing enemies down and making them shoot switches while Quill runs and climbs. Quill is part warrior, part Tomb Raider with the way she climbs and moves along ledges, and literally everything she does is just dripping with cuteness. When you solve a puzzle she’ll cheer or even offer you a high five, and if you don’t high five her when you have the option you automatically lose the game, your PS4 explodes and you’re called out as the absolutely soulless monster you are. Okay, fine, nothing bad actually happens if you don’t high five her in the game, but you should realize you’re a soulless monster for not doing it anyway. She also hints at how to complete a puzzle if you take a while completing it; a puzzle that required using a projectile-firing enemy to hit switches at the right time had me a little stumped, so she would get my attention, stick her arm out and then pull it back like she had a cannon for an arm and was firing it herself. In gameplay videos I’ve also seen her do little twirly circles to hint at rotating something, and honestly I’m tempted to go through the game again and just idle at each puzzle to see what she does for each one. She also uses sign language and makes the cutest little eeks and oofs when she swings her tiny sword or rolls around, and if you try to climb a ledge when she has nothing to grab onto she turns and kinda shakes her head like “nope, I can’t do that!” IT IS SO DANG CUTE!!!!
The puzzles in the game are creative and take some thought, especially if you’re trying to get all of the hidden collectibles in the game, but they’re certainly not impossible by any means. It’s right in that sweet spot of making you feel smart and keeping things fresh without being frustrating. As for the collectibles, there are two types: dust and fragments. Dust comes from pretty much any barrel or box you destroy, whereas fragments are little scrolls that are hidden behind things or in hard to reach areas. What’s especially lovely about these collectibles is that they show up in the segments when you’re reading the book – the dust fills a vial to the left of the book and the fragments slowly piece together an image to the right of the book. This made me really excited to see how full each was getting as I progressed, and while I haven’t completed either yet I’m excited to see the full image or what the vial looks like totally full!
Perhaps the best thing about Moss, though, is just how perfectly it inserts you into the world. There’s a fragment hidden in a room that looks inaccessible? Lean forward or take a couple steps forward, then look left or right – you’ll find a tunnel, and you can follow it to where Quill can enter and grab it. There were countless times when the camera would be looking at a central area of a screen and I would turn my head and see down an elaborate hallway that I wouldn’t have even noticed otherwise, and when I realized that Moss has my favorite camera mode in any game ever because my face was the camera I was blown away. Often you, as the reader, are presented with a screen before Quill walks into it, allowing you time to study what the area looks like and wonder where Quill will come in, and then as she enters she may give you a little wave or nod or even an adorable smile like “hey you, you’re still with me? Good!” These scenes were especially amazing in the outdoor areas where Moss is shown for the tiny creature she is. I mentioned that deer dwarf her, yes, but you can also just look up into the sky and look at the stars or crouch way down and make Quill look like a giant. The sense of scale is phenomenal! Some of my favorite scenes, though, are ones where Quill has been walking or climbing for a few screens and you can turn around and look back at how far she’s come.
Moss is a delight. It was amazing how Polyarc’s use of VR made this feel like a real-life popup book instead of a game, with Moss and the settings feeling like clay figures that I could reach out and touch, and the robotic, technological enemies seeming like actual little (or sometimes huge) robotic creatures. Without spoiling anything, the end of the game is easily one of the coolest endings to a game I’ve ever played, and I actually said “THAT WAS SO FRICKIN COOL” out loud when I did it. Few games have made me feel anything close to what I felt on my adventure with Quill, it’s a feeling I can only recall with playing my very first video games, first discovering 3D games, first playing games on Wii or the first time I actually touched a computer screen to make something happen. If you’re at all interested in VR and looking for a reason to dive into PSVR, Moss is a perfect excuse. If you have a PSVR already, this should be in your game library ASAP. It’s something I not only enjoyed myself, I would move out of the way and yell “LOOK AT THIS!” when I did various things, or when environments felt especially amazing. It’s something I want my fiance to play, heck it’s even something I want everyone else in my home to play, even the people who aren’t gamers.