It’s too bad Polyarc’s fantastic new PSVR game Moss ($29.99) is only playable on a PS4 using Sony’s virtual reality headset (or on PC with a pricier Oculus or Vive setup) because it’s pretty awesome and one of the best VR games on the console. Granted, the developer’s total commitment to making a solid VR experience is part of what makes the game so excellent. But I’m of the mind that really well-made games such as this may actually benefit from “flat” versions that, while missing the VR trickery, are just plain fun to play for those without a VR setup.
As great as any VR game is, one thing that needs to not be forgotten is not every gamer will be sold on the tech, can’t use it, or just wants to play good games without the financial burden of paying a few hundred extra bucks for the privilege. That said, if you’ve a PSVR in the house and want another excellent game to show off that just so happens to be family friendly fun, go grab this one and get ready for a fine storybook adventure that yes, can’t be done on the stock PS4.
The use of VR here is much more than a mere gimmick thanks to the developer going above and beyond the call in having the player multitask in mostly great ways. A cute mouse named Quill is the game’s heroine and your goal as the Reader is to help guide her along the way as she attempts to rescue her uncle. The game’s book-like structure is evident from the start as you flip pages to begin Quill’s tale. Puzzle elements come into play as Quill navigates the lovely environments with you helping her out by manipulating objects in the environments to help her reach new locations. Where this element soars over “flat” games is how wonderfully Polyarc has incorporated the VR experience so fully into things to the point of many smile-worthy moments as Quill’s tale unfolds. Yes, that means my non-VR version point above becomes a bit (okay, VERY) moot, but I’ll make a feeble attempt at a saving throw a bit below.
Being able to look around the richly detailed game world is a total pleasure thanks to every nook and cranny being worth checking out. You’re not limited to what you can see on screen because thanks to head tracking, your movements allow you to see hidden areas and items you’d never know to look for in a standard game. Peeking over or behind walls, checking out what would be unreachable areas only to find new areas to check out is incredibly cool and a nice proof that under the right development hands, a game such as this makes for an excellent showcase for the tech.
Another excellent (and important) point is Quill herself. She’s quite a lively character to interact with thanks to Polyarc infusing her with lifelike mannerisms (well, for an anthropomorphic mouse. It’s just plain cool beans to reach out to raise a platform for her to scramble up or otherwise aid her cause and get a high five for your efforts. As with the even more incredible-looking PC (and coming to console at some point) Ghost of a Tale, you get a mouse that’s not going to creep you out at all because you’ll just love controlling the character and watching them react to every situation. The sole sticking points are some combat sections that toss a lot of enemies at you and the method of healing Quill, which takes a bit too much time unless you’re out of combat and can breath a bit more.
As for the length issue, it’s a case of if you’re truly enjoying the game, you’ll spend a good deal of time scouring the beautiful maps with a grin going at every turn. Well, unless you’re surprised by enemies popping up where you least expect them. Fortunately, in addition to those excellent visuals, the sound effects and music score are equally special. With a decent set of headphones, this is one game where you’ll appreciate the solid sound design throughout. Sure, there are some minor technical issues that take you out of the fun (that PS Camera can wonk out at times and there are some clipping issues that aren’t game killing, but work against the immersion), but overall this is really a heck of a VR experience.
I suppose I could whine a little (but only a little) about the game being “only” about 3 or 4 hours long, but I won’t because your mileage will vary. In general, VR games really aren’t meant to be played for longer than about 30 minutes a stretch and yes, larger games such as Skyrim VR break that mold completely. While Moss isn’t anywhere near an epic, it’s made to feel like what could be the beginning of a great series that I feel would do well if Polyarc can try to find a way to get a followup onto the stock PS4. Why? Well, the main issue with VR is it’s never going to be as widely adopted as some think, so keeping as many gamers in the loop with future adventures makes sense lest this game (and other fine VR-only games) be consigned to discount bins once the fad wears out its welcome. Eh, we’ll see, I suppose. In the meantime, if you have a PSVR setup or are thinking of buying one, make sure to not let Moss gather any moss as you grab a copy at your local retailer or on PSN.
Score: A- (90%)
Review copy provided by the publisher