Moss is a joyous, delightful experience that is both captivating and enchanting. It’s one of those games that leaves you with an indelible smile on your face from beginning to end. In that way, it’s probably a good thing it’s relatively short. Not only does it avoid the pitfall of outstaying its welcome or running out of ideas, but it also saves your face muscles from cramping.
Quill is instantly endearing
The best games are those in which you as a player develop some sort of emotional attachment to the world or its characters. Moss invites that sort of connection by forcing you to bond with Quill, the hero of our story. A little mouse with a desire for grand adventure, Quill is instantly endearing, the sort of hero you’d find in an old, dusty book of fairy tales.
Incidentally, that’s where our journey begins. A single changing voice narrates as if you’re listening to a bedtime story, and after flipping through a few pages of a storybook housed in a vast, dusty library, you – the Reader – are magicked away to a lush, verdant forest. It’s beautiful; intricately detailed and dendritic. In VR it’s an old forested fable come to life that’s immediately captivating. It’s difficult not to be mesmerised, looking around at how alive everything is.
Then, from a rustle in the grass comes our intrepid hero Quill. Decked in adventuring garb, the inquisitive little mouse happens upon a magical artefact; a piece of glass that awakens an ancient magic and pulls you, the Reader, into Quill’s world. Moss increases your connection with the story by making you more than just a spectator. You become a guiding spirit represented in the game by a ball of light. When you look down into a pool of water, your Studio Ghibli-esque reflection stares back at you.
Aware of your presence, Quill waves at you – and the immediate, instant instinctive reaction is to wave back. Quill doesn’t speak to you, and instead communicates via gestures, chirps and pantomime, and within minutes of meeting Quill there’s an emotional connection. I know that I want to keep her safe through our journey through the forest and beyond.
Moss is a third-person action adventure with traditional platforming and combat, but it has a fixed camera system. Each section is like its own diorama, which you see from a fixed perspective. Moss’s magic comes in how you interact with not just Quill, but the world itself. You’ll have to lean your head in, looking left and right, up and down – sometimes even standing up to get the best perspective to guide Quill through each level. With a single controller, you control both the adventuring rodent and the Reader. Though it seems like it should be impossible to control two characters at the same time, it all becomes intuitive within minutes.
With the analogue stick and face buttons, Quill reacts as you’d expect any character in a third person game to, jumping, climbing and swashbuckling as adventurers do. By using the trigger buttons and motion controls, you’ll use your own phantasmal hands to manipulate objects in the world to help Quill make her way through. You’ll pull levers, open doors, turn clockwork mechanisms, and dials, figuring out each room’s puzzle while Quill gets on with bashing and dodging the mechanical bugs and beetles in her way while clambering up and sidling along walls. You can pet Quill during the adventure, feeling her heartbeat through the controller’s pulsing vibration. This not only cements the bond you have but also serves to heal Quill should she take a bit too much damage.
The game cleverly uses enemies – which you can manipulate as the Reader – in puzzles too. You may have to pick a mechanised beetle and drag it towards a pressure plate, setting off some other mechanism that you’ll use to further progress. Later, you’ll have to use exploding, poisonous bugs to set off trip switches, and other mechanical insects in interesting and inventive ways.
There are a couple of head-scratchers, but it never becomes too taxing unless you’re trying to find all of the hidden collectibles. If you’re stuck, Quill will provide some sort of clue by mimicking the solution. She’s never too obvious about it, so you’ll still have to do a bit of thinking. When you do figure things out, she’s there to cheer you on, occasionally raising her hand to give you a high five, which you’ll reciprocate because in VR she’s there. She’s your little mouse friend, and though the disparity in size between the two of you is apparent, you’re a team.
It ramps up to an intense finale, but the whole experience is over in just a few short hours, abruptly ending and teasing the possibility of more. I want more.
gentle, accommodating and accessible
The best VR games are ones that just wouldn’t be the same without that added perspective, and Moss is one of those games. Without feeling like you’re part of Quill’s world, without being able to poke your head forward, look around and grab at things, its visual depth is part of why Moss works. Sure, you could probably play some version of the game without VR, but it wouldn’t have nearly the same amount of charm. Moss is joyous, and wonderful. It’s gentle, accommodating and accessible, and is a perfect example of a game using Virtual Reality to shine.
Last Updated: February 27, 2018