Why do we have another Moss Review?
In case you didn’t know, the creators of the VR platforming hit Moss, Polyarc, have recently released a free update, adding a new chapter called the Twilight Garden. This review will be a fresh look at the base game with a new section to discuss this new DLC, although we do already have a review of Moss if you want to take a look at our original review here: https://www.gamepitt.co.uk/moss-psvr-review/
Moss was originally released on Feb 28th 2018 for PSVR, with Oculus support a few months later, to critical acclaim. It was built from the ground up for VR and uses the hardware’s capabilities amazingly. You play as The Reader, a floating entity who must work in unison with the true hero of this magical tale, Quill. As the Reader, you control the movement of Quill and must physically interact with the environment whilst combining both of your abilities to beat all the obstacles and enemies in your way. I don’t usually like to give an opinion at the start of a review but this game is amazing, here’s why…
Dear Reader, our story begins when our hero Quill discovers a glass relic that was once held by the champion of the world Moss. The champion was killed in an attempt to hold back the forces of the arcane after they had driven the animals away from their peaceful castle. The arcane planned to use the glass relic for evil, and in defeating the King and his army, they brought in their evil army and took over the castle, led by the evil serpent Sarffog. Quill finds the glass relic and so is connected to the player, or ‘The Reader’, a sort of omnipotent being that is tied to her story and can manipulate the environment to help her in the journey ahead. Unaware of the meaning of the relic, Quill takes it to her uncle and shows it him, where in a panic, he takes off and gets himself captured, sparking the journey of the game.
It’s a very simple but fantastic and moving story that is gripping from start to finish. I couldn’t help but feel completely involved in this fantastical journey in an amazing world thanks to the magic of VR. The story is just like the fairy tales you can read to younger people and so would also make a very good game for younger players.
In general, the plot progression largely takes place between chapters, where you, The Reader, are transported to a great library of sorts and you listen to the narrator tell the story as you flick through the pages of what looks like an ancient tale. The voice acting is amazing, where the narrator takes on the role of each and every character as if reading out a children’s book to a young child and acting the scene out. Every one the actor’s portrayals are brilliantly distinctive and make the story feel fun and exciting. The emotional parts are just as impactful as well, thanks to some seriously impressive diversity between the characters – a great feat considering it’s all one voice actor.
Quill is a little star and I believe she could, and should, be considered for one of the best protagonists in a video game. She is so adorable that you just instantly care about her and feel like you need to be extremely careful to take care of her, which is exactly what you do. I was rooting for her the entire time and it’s charming how she celebrates little victories that you achieve as your “twofold”, as the game calls you. Despite only ‘talking’ during the cutscenes and the parts that are read to you between chapters, Quill has an amazing personality that also comes through her actions in-game. You can interact with Quill in a variety of ways that really reinforces her relationship with you and also just make you go “AWWWWWW” to yourself multiple times. You can pet her, scare her and even wave at her and she waves back which is just so damn cute that I spent more time doing it than I should (thankfully there’s a trophy for it though). My favourite interaction though is how she tries to mime to you how to progress. When you’re in an area for a long time, she will wave at you to get your attention. When you look directly at her she will point to a location and play a mini game of charades with you to try to tell you what to do. It’s innovative, helpful, but most importantly just too damn cute.
To put it simply, Moss is an absolute joy to play. Your time with the game will be spent doing three things: platforming, fighting, and puzzle-solving. Okay, I lied. Your time with the game will be spent petting Quill until she gets annoyed at you…
All of the above mechanics are smooth and fun to do. The climbing mechanics are largely tight and precise and only rarely let you down, where sometimes Quill won’t grab on to ledges that are seemingly easily in reach. You can shimmy along ledges, leap small distances and jump up to some slightly higher platforms. It’s all very basic stuff but the VR makes it feel so much more clever. You will need to use these movement abilities to explore the various areas to find collectables and puzzle solutions – what makes this so good is how you have to peer around the world (IRL) to find hidden passages. On a 2D screen, this would just be frustrating but in VR you can literally search the world with your head and turn, tilt and lean around exploring every millimetre of this mini paradise. As you explore, you will collect fragments and dust, which you can check your progress on by heading to the chapter select screen in the pause menu. If you miss any and want that shiny platinum, use the chapter select and go find that pesky pot you didn’t smash.
Fighting is simple and fun. The dodge mechanic is your best friend and will save you from some tight situations and is a great little addition. If you time it perfectly, you even get a context-specific animation sometimes which is awesome and makes it look a bit more cinematic. There are actually quite a few parts that look quite cinematic, especially the final boss which is amazing, if quite difficult. The cinematic parts are definitely there to take advantage of though, which thankfully you can thanks to the ‘secret photo mode’. It doesn’t have any specific features, but if you pause the game and click R3, you can pause time and move your head around the world as if it were a camera lens, letting you get those adorable little whiskers up close.
Also, as part of the combat, you as The Reader can control enemies’ positions by dragging them around and even use their weapons depending on the enemy type. While this is an extremely helpful and tactical mechanic, it’s sometimes frustrating because some enemies just refused to be pulled, no matter where I tried to move them too or from. I couldn’t work out why this is, as I played through the game twice and had it happen in the same areas while other areas would work perfectly so sometimes it’s best to just stick to controlling Quill as best as you can rather than juggle many things at once. The difficulty does ramp up quite a bit towards the end, where you will face waves of all enemy types at the same time and you will need to be aware of everything around you which thankfully feels great in VR as you scout the battlefield. I think for younger players, the sudden spike will be a bit overwhelming, but for your hardened platformer player, it shouldn’t cause any major problems.
I would have really liked for there to be an enemy that attacks The Reader just to add to the interactivity a bit more. Games such as AstroBot and even Playroom VR show how fun it can be dodging things thrown towards you in VR and with Quill and The Reader supposedly connected, I think it’s an idea that would make sense for the game as well. I’d also like a co-op mode as well but that’s just me getting excited about the idea of more Moss, it doesn’t need these things, I just want them! Fingers crossed for something like these in Book Two of Moss.
By far the best part of the gameplay for me though is the puzzles. The design of puzzles in Moss is close to perfect, with a great variety at just the right amount of difficulty. They aren’t so difficult to frustrate you or make you give up but they are hard enough to make you feel a bit smug when you figure them out. Realistically you shouldn’t need a guide for any of the puzzles, which is coming from someone who is terrible at puzzle games. Instead, with a bit of experimenting with switches and your abilities, the answer will eventually come to you. The puzzles also take advantage of a couple of features of the Dualshock 4, for example yanking boxes around to build platforms for Quill or to pull open doors. It doesn’t use everything the DS4 has to offer but there’s enough to still feel very immersive.
The Twilight Garden DLC
So what have Polyarc added to this already amazing game? The Twilight Garden is a completely free update which adds an area where you will meet a new character in-game, a giant frog who you may recognise from the main game who is the leader of the sprites. He isn’t too friendly but helps you anyway. The Twilight Garden is actually located the other side of the tree where you first meet Quill, you just can’t get there just yet. To access this new content, you must find the three colourful dust sparkles that are scattered throughout the main game and approach them to open a portal. They’re not difficult to see and should be found with no effort at all. You don’t need to have completed the game to open the portals either so you don’t need to trudge through it and backtrack. Instead, it fits nicely into the main game and adds about an hour to your adventure time in total, free of charge!
After talking to the hulking toad (and randomly beating him in a staring competition, because why not?) he will open a pathway for you to discover some new abilities and puzzle types. There are three paths in total and each time you enter the three portals a new path will open. Inside, there are new means to solve puzzles and defeat enemies which you learn by completing the sections inside. The puzzles inside, I would argue, are the toughest puzzles in the game for sure but they’re probably the smartest ones too. The new mechanics are very fun and add a whole new layer to the game. One of these mechanics is taken into the main game too, which can make certain fights much easier when used correctly.
While Quill’s sword is equipped, she can hold it up in the air and wait for you to touch it, when you do, the sword is now charged with a ranged attack which makes for some new interesting puzzle solutions and tactical choices in battle. This mechanic is the basis for how you combat a boss at the end of your time in the Twilight Garden which is a challenging but very fun boss fight. I did have a bit of trouble where the game felt a bit unfair though. You have to use the ranged attack to hit switches from afar but for some reason, the switch on the right just wouldn’t get locked on to by Quill, despite hitting the others with no problem at all. It’s unfair because you have to put yourself at risk to be in a position to hit it, so it can drag the fight out due to pointless deaths and respawns. That being said, overall the boss fight is awesome and I would like to see more of them in the next game.
There are a couple of new types of puzzles that are a bit more complicated including one puzzle which had me stumped for about 20 minutes until I had a eureka moment and tried something which seemed a bit daft, only for it to be correct. It only happened once but it’s a very unique and smart piece of puzzle design which Polyarc deserve a lot of credit for. You’ll know it when you reach it but I’m not going to spoil it because the moment you work it out is a proud one.
Setting and Sound
I’m not sure why but playing through Moss gave me some serious feelings of nostalgia. I was brought back to playing The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64, with that same awestruck sense of wonder I had at my tender ages. The world is delightfully gorgeous, with some amazing backdrops including woods, animals and giant monuments in the distance. The story and the setting just hook you immediately and you don’t want to step out of the world, as dangerous as it may be.
The soundtrack and the sound effects are so effective and powerful that they add so much to the game. Quill’s little squeaks and murmurs are adorable and really give her personality. The wind is strong and feels like it could take you away at any second (I played this with a fan aimed at me which was really weird when you can hear the wind in 3D audio, it was awesome, try it). You can hear birds flying around, water flowing and foliage swirling in the wind. Then there are the not so serene parts, where the robotic screeches of Sarffog and the security turret things are horrific and genuinely unnerving. It sounds incredible and just adds so much to this already very immersive experience. The soundtrack is beautiful as well, with some very melodic woodwind music played through the journey in its most peaceful sections and some harsher, louder sounds when things kick-off.
Official Trailer [Base game]:
Although the world of Moss is small in scale, Quill has a huge heart which makes the adventure even more magical. Polyarc has simply made the first game built specifically for (PS)VR that makes it an absolute must-buy piece of hardware. This game shows just how immersive the device can be, without having to make sacrifices in gameplay or visual quality but instead adding to the feelings that the game encourages with the interactivity that is only possible when you step into Virtual Reality. Sure, it doesn’t make use of absolutely everything the device can offer, but when the game is this good and still has a few ways to improve, to me that can only be a positive thing when looking forward to Book Two in the world of Moss.
Please, please, please buy this game if you have VR; if you don’t then you now have no reason to say there are no games to support it because not only is this one of the best VR games, it’s one of my favourite games, period.
Thus ends the tale of Quill and The Reviewer in Moss.