The man in the mouse castle.
Moss won me over instantly thanks to its adorably cute and to-scale mouse heroine, DualShock-fueled precision controls, and charming world design that lets you exist as a human-sized guiding hand inside a rodent-sized world. And outside of minor technical annoyances with PSVR itself, it never erased that initial joy when its literal storybook ending came four hours later.
Quill, the adorable mouse heroine whom you control with the DualShock, can move, jump, attack with her sword, and interact with things such as levers. She even has a couple of timing-based attack combos that elevate the fighting above simple button mashing, though you’d never mistake Moss’ combat for Bloodborne’s. You’ll face a few different enemies during the adventure, and while they’re never particularly dangerous individually, things get enjoyable hectic when their numbers start piling up and the various enemy types attack you simultaneously. Most of the enemies are either beetles or super beetles, but the exploding guys who go boom if you get too close create a nice bit of tension. Figuring out the key to defeating them quickly and painlessly (hint, it involves using your Reader ability) is vital.
The combat accounts for about half of the gameplay, with environmental puzzles making up the rest. You, as the human-sized “Reader,” have an orb you can use to manipulate select objects like platforms and enemies. As Moss’ gameplay ramps up, you’ll eventually have to battle several enemies at a time while also using the right stick and trigger to puppeteer something else in the world as well, which is like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.
That difficulty progression is as steady as it is smart.
The same goes for the environmental puzzles, which start simple but peak at near head-scratching levels. In one example, you have to grab an exploding bug and move it to one switch post that triggers a moving platform while you ride said platform up to another switch up higher. I was challenged but never quite stumped. That difficulty progression is as steady as it is smart; you’re never thrown straight into a fire; you’ll always warm up in a frying pan first. If anything, I could’ve done with one more section of max-challenge puzzles, but instead you move right to Moss’s final sequence. At least it’s not guilty of overstaying its welcome.
Moss’ use of scale and 360-degree immersion is key to its charm and appeal. Sure, it could work on a television, but being able to look around its mouse-sized environments from up high or put your face right down next to Quill’s never wears out its welcome. Looking up at the forest’s tall trees and down at the tiny, medieval-style architecture makes me feel like a benevolent Gargamel peering down into the Smurfs’ village. Each area is different, from green village to misty pond to dark cave to brooding castle.
If anything, I only wanted to spend more time in more areas of this beautiful VR world than its short story allows. At least there are dozens of collectible scrolls to find, and they too utilize VR cleverly. Some are hidden behind a barrel or pot or visible but out of reach, while others can only be seen if you use your VR headset to look carefully around the play space.
Moss’ only real annoyances are technical.
Moss’ only real annoyances are technical in nature; I often had to reset my VR headset calibration, and the PlayStation Camera’s field of view is limited enough that I was sometimes unable to reach over to interact with something that looked accessible. Those moments were both frustrating and immersion-breaking; it’ll be interesting to see how Quill plays if it ever makes its way to other VR platforms that have better sensor arrays.
Moss’ simple story of rescuing Quill’s uncle from a tormenting evil force isn’t its most enjoyable aspect, but it works. I like that you’re reading a living storybook from inside a cathedral between chapters, and the audiobook-style presentation by a talented voice actress kept me interested. You won’t find a ton of world-building, however, and the story doesn’t so much conclude as simply assume there’s going to be a sequel to continue the tale. And I truly hope there is!