In the two years since virtual reality emerged onto the scene in a mist of excitement and anticipation, it’s had plenty of good games to show off this sophisticated technology. However, there’s not too many that have stamped their authority and made their way into the upper echelons of must-have, game of the year contention.
Moss is a game that has all the potential in the world to reach those dizzying heights as it’s a delightful adventure with an endlessly enchanting protagonist.
Our dear mouse, Quill, is living peacefully in her village, until an evil snake by the name of Sarffog, incites chaos and runs amuck. Quill’s uncle is captured and whisked away to a place unknown.
This is obviously troubling for our delicate hero who rebels against her uncle’s wishes to remain safe, and goes off in search of her relative. Long story short, that is the story. It never gets any more complicated, and additional exposition is provided in the form of an interactive storybook inside of a spacious cathedral.
The narrative is played out on these pages that can you can turn using your controller. I always appreciate these little niche touches as I feel they enhance your overall experience It differentiates the gameplay from anything else whilst simultaneously engrossing the player.
So off Quill goes on a journey of bravery and self-discovery, with yourself as her loyal overseer to guide her to victory. Quill acknowledges your masked presence, which you can see in the reflection of water around you. It further strengthens the bond that you’ve already created and it’s moulded and shaped as the game progresses.
So, did you see that ludicrous display last night?
Polyarc’s art design is simply wonderful, from the initial village you start off in to dark, mystical forests and ominous castles later on in the game. It’s one of the better looking VR games I’ve had the chance to play too as it boasts some rather tidy graphics; a benefit of the PS4 pro.
The visual aspect is helped by the structuring of each chapter as the camera is fixed for each ‘segment’ you have to overcome. So upon Quill entering the frame, you are confined to this section of the level until you successfully cross the invisible checkpoint that sets Quill running off to the next section of the chapter.
It allows the game to place a greater emphasis on the obstacles you have to overcome, all the while showing off an impactful back drop e.g a dirty, ugly swamp on the horizon whilst Quill is tackling enemies in front of you.
As for the gameplay itself, you’re introduced to the platforming elements step-by-step. Moving, basic jumps, shimmying across a ledge etc. It’s not too long before you’re in your first fight either. The combat is simple enough as there’s no combos or any real depth, it’s simply mashing the square button and occasionally rolling to one side; Dark Souls style.
But that’s not what Moss is trying to achieve here, it doesn’t demand that you learn a whole host of stylish executions, the combat is merely a softer way of portraying conflict. The aim here is trying to boast a lovable character in a curious land. You’ll rarely fail a section in the game as the straightforward combat is something that I don’t believe a fly would have trouble mastering within half an hour.
But this is where the main problem for Moss begins; ironically. Just as you’re starting to get comfortable with Moss, just as you’re arching your recliner back and beginning to tenderly nibble on the succulent, greasy chicken wings by your side, it’s over. In about 2-3 hours, possibly even less.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s a glorified tech demo as that would be doing this game a complete disservice. However, I just couldn’t shake that gut feeling of disappointment when it clicked that I had moved all the cheese. There was nothing more to sample. I thought I was going crackers personally.
Don’t get me wrong, the time we do get is a treat and I enjoyed virtually every second of it, as easy as it was. But from a critical standpoint, the length sadly has to count against it with this being a £20-30 purchase. As I alluded to earlier, the foundation here is rock solid, I just hope the next adventure can be a bit longer than the average feature film.
Throughout the game, the puzzles evolve and lots of it requires precise use of the motion controls to pull objects towards you. Requiring you to rotate contraptions in order for Quill to make inroads.
Sometimes the gameplay blends puzzles together with enemies and they intertwine to create some slightly more tasking challenges later on, but again, nothing too strenuous.
Another example really of how lacklustre and bare the content is here is that there’s only two different recurring enemy types in the game: a rather harmless bug-type creature with a basic lunge attack, and a variation of this bug that can fire a projectile.
In fairness to the game, it does have some replayability due to its two type of collectibles that are scattered throughout the adventure. Each section tends to have a smattering of classic destructibles e.g barrels. Within these breakables are relic dust, so you’ve got a set amount of that to locate in each chapter.
On the other hand, you’ve got the slightly more obscure scrolls that can easily deceive you. There’s only about 20 or so, but some of them will take a bit more deduction and sleuthing to pinpoint.
An effective, and necessary method to finding some of them, is by cleverly using your environment to your advantage. By that, your first-eye view of each section is just a static frames essentially, but your vantage point is sometimes obscured by a pillar say.
If you lean in slightly, you’ll be able to peer around this obstruction and reveal tucked away secrets or otherwise inaccessible areas. Not only is this a fantastic way to keep you engaged, but a cheeky glance will uncover another opening that was impossible to see from your original position; ergo a secret scroll.
So if you do finish the game and you’re short some relic dust and a couple of sacred scrolls, then you’ve got the added incentive to go back and see what you’ve missed. You also get another chance to see Quill’s sheer delight at finding these collectibles. Cute.
Moss has an aura about it that is assertive in what it wants to accomplish; establishing a character that you care about and building an intrinsic world that you will have fun in exploring, albeit a fixed one.
There’s no real openness to the game, but there doesn’t need to be. Each section is filled with plenty of depth and layers to make it feel fuller. Quill handles smoothly and the gameplay is generally accessible to all-comers.
The length and general ease of the game does bring this gleeful story down a peg or two, which is a shame as the ideas here are so positive. Plus, with the open-endedness of the ending, it’s very easy to see a more gratifying and expansive sequel in the future.
I wouldn’t even be hesitant in expecting an idealistic follow-up as my brief time with Moss was really that enjoyable, and the flaws aren’t even that substantial.
If we Polyarc can just knuckle down on delivering more content, more enemies, npc’s and taking the platforming to new heights, then maybe potential game of the year status will beckon.
– Andy.H. –
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