Moss is an enchanting, endearing VR adventure

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Moss stole many hearts when it was quietly revealed at Sony’s VR showcase at E3 2017. From a small studio called Polyarc (composed of ex-Bungie and Dragon Age staff, as well people who’ve worked on games like Red Dead Redemption), it’s one of the most delightfully endearing and charming games that I played at Gamescom.

After strapping on the headset for a welcome seated experience, I found myself in a vast and dusty library. By opening the story book in front of me and flipping through its pages, I was transported to a lush verdant forest. It was immediately captivating, and I was awestruck sitting there, stationary, looking at the flora. The DualShock controller in my hands, represented in the game by a ball of light, let me interact with the ferns and flowers in front of me. I looked down, only to see my reflection staring back at me from the pool of water.

And then from a rustling in the grass comes Quill, the hero of Moss. A tiny little mouse dressed up in adventuring garb, she runs up and greets you, aware of your presence and your role as a guiding spirit. She waves, and that instant instinctive reaction is to wave back. She can’t speak (and you can’t understand mouse), so she communicates with you using gestures, chirps and pantomime. She’s been on screen for all of five seconds, and there’s already an emotional connection and I am utterly charmed. I know that I want to pet her (which I do almost immediately) and keep her safe through her journey through the rich fantasy forest.

You can pet Quill during the adventure, feeling her heartbeat through the DualShock’s vibration. This not only reaffirms the bond you have, but also serves to heal Quill should she take a bit too much damage.

The game is a third person action adventure with platforming and combat, but it has a fixed camera system. You see each area from a fixed perspective, like a digital diorama – but you can lean your head, look left and right, up and down. You’re both onlooker and active participant, controlling both the wispy and Quill with a single controller. You’ll control Quill with the left stick and the face buttons as she moves about each room, using the triggers to control your own phantasmal hands to manipulate objects in the rooms to help Quill make her way through each room. As Quill’s guardian you’ll pull on doors and levers, shift statues and rest them on trigger plates. You’ll turn dials and cylinders, press buttons while Quill fights enemies, jumps on platforms and clamber her way up them – gesturing to you all the while, letting you know that she’s happy you’re there to help. You’re a team.

And while it all seems nightmarishly complicated to control all of this with s single controller, it’s exceptionally intuitive and fluid. Quill moves, jumps, and fights as you’d expect a character in a 3D platformer to, while you interact with the larger world as you would given your relative size so that it feels like second nature.

Moss is delightful, accessible and one of the best VR experiences I’ve had to date.

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Last Updated: August 28, 2017

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