Moss is the VR game I’ve been waiting for. I’ve had some incredible, unforgettable experiences with VR so far with games like Resident Evil 7 and Superhot VR, but I’ve had an itch that was yet to be scratched. This itch was brought on by The Playroom VR and its Robots Rescue game. This is a 3D platformer wherein you play as a big robot in first-person, controlling the camera with your head while playing as a little robot with the controller running around in front of your eyes. It’s a novel concept, but it also blew me away. The sense of scale and space playing in VR creates can, of course, be powerful in first-person, but having eyes on the player character and freedom to scope out their surroundings is incredibly powerful, too. Peering down a chasm to spot a hidden ledge or leaning around a corner to find a secret path satisfies the parts of me that love exploring in games so much but in an evolutionary way.
Moss is more puzzle than platformer, but it commits to these principles as its fundamentals. Like Robots Rescue, you play as a couple of characters in Moss. The main player character is Quill, an adventurous mouse who stumbles upon a mysterious object in the woods. This awakens our second player character; The Reader. As the player we share perspective with The Reader, seeing the world through its eyes and interacting with specific objects using motion controls. This is all to help Quill, who we control with the DualShock through the obstacles she encounters.
Quill’s newfound friend in The Reader troubles her beloved uncle, who sets off to face a once defeated enemy he fears may have returned along with The Reader. Disregarding her uncle’s instruction to stay safe at home, Quill heads out in his pursuit, and her adventure begins. From here a quaint tale unfolds, leading our delightful hero through a whimsical world of tiny critters who live in adorable villages carved through the woods, brilliantly imposing castles and ruins, and mouse warriors who ride squirrels into battle.
This world looks and sounds terrific, with a narrator doubling as each characters’ voice as if reading the story to a child. The storybook mythos of Moss is delightfully charming, while the story itself feels a little rushed. It does a great job of leading Quill through her adventure but often feels like it’s just trying to advance the player to the next section. The conclusion, in particular, is notably inconclusive, to the point of describing itself as “A Promising Beginning.”
The challenges Quill faces mix Zelda-style puzzle solving with some very light combat. Usually, this means finding a way to open or reach the exit of an area, whether it be a doorway in a castle or a path through the weeds along a riverbed. Co-ordinating Quill and The Reader’s order of operations while looking around to follow our little hero’s path is a simple pleasure, playing out like little dioramas. My favourite points in the game were the handful of moments wherein things required a little extra thought and planning, but their rarity relative to the straightforward dilemmas throughout felt appropriate, only forcing me to stop and think about it here and there. I’d have loved for these environmental conundrums to continue to grow more complicated, but, like the story, things wrap up pretty quick.
The slashes and dashes that makeup Quills combat repertoire are decidedly basic, but serve well to split up the puzzles with some action. Getting a couple of hits in on a menacing beetle before dodging away from its attack is fun, and outside of one or two instances, combat encounters are brief enough to keep the rudimentary move set from getting tired. The Reader can help with fights too, dragging foes around the place. Taking control of enemies with projectile attacks lets The Reader aim and shoot, which isn’t a particularly valuable combat approach, but helps facilitate some of the game’s most enjoyable puzzles.
Moss is a lovely little game that applies VR in ways I’m excited to see develop. The simple platforming, puzzling and fighting aren’t anything fantastic on their own, but together in a precious little storybook world, and elevated by a VR perspective, they’re a delight. It’s a shame Moss feels a little cut short, but what remains is an endearing adventure that’s a joy to take part in. A healthy mix of interesting puzzles and satisfyingly, simple combat make Moss a stand out PSVR game and a beacon for the potential of third-person games in the virtual realm.