When first announced at E3 2017, Moss intrigued me. It wasn’t a port, a sequel, or a weird fishing spin-off. It was an original tale that looked cute but different, drawing inspiration from games like Zelda but also trying to do it’s own thing. I’d previously thought that VR was only truly effective when played from the first person, but Moss proves that this isn’t necessarily the case, but with some minor caveats.
In Moss, you’ll play as The Reader, a strange being who exists outside of the story but is able to interact with the characters and scenery within. As such, most of the games story is presented to you as a picture book, with you flipping the pages as a pleasantly voiced narrator sets the scene. It’s a simple yet charming story that sees a village destroyed by a fire breathing snake named Sarffog. As The Reader, you’ll guide a young mouse named Quill. Quill’s uncle was kidnapped in the attack, but she herself evaded Sarffog’s forces. It’s a very simple story with little to no surprises but there’s something oddly compelling about it. So much so that I finished the game in a single sitting.Perhaps the standout element from Moss is your interactions with Quill herself. A jolly little creature, Quill will look to you after you complete a puzzle and give you thumbs up. She’ll turn around and look for your approval and motion to give her a high five after a difficult bout or you can even lean in close to startle her. She’s by no means the most realistic character I’ve ever met in a game but the way she interacts with you through the journey really helps make you care about her in the short amount of time you’ll spend with her.
As a game, Moss is a third person platformer with heavy puzzle elements and some light combat components thrown in for good measure. Played exclusively in VR, you’ll take the Reader’s perspective and harness their strange power with the DualShock controller. Every location is presented as a sort of diorama – you’ll be able to interact with certain objects or even stand up and peek around to see any areas the camera may be hiding. It feels like a bit of a gimmick at first, a shoehorned reason to require VR, but it leads to some nicely designed perception-based puzzles as you progress later.You’ll directly control Quill herself, and she controls well. The analog sticks move her wherever you want, and she can either jump or shimmy across gaps not unlike Nathan Drake or Lara Croft. The platforming itself is fine, if not simplistic, but also frustrating at times. Falling victim to the same issues that games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted did, it can be hard to discern which ledges are grabbable and aren’t, leading to some frustrating deaths here and there. Thankfully, Moss has a checkpoint system that’s incredibly forgiving, so not all is lost if you stuff up a jump, even if it’s not necessarily your fault.