Review

Moss Review: Tiny Triumph

  • First Released Feb 27, 2018
    released
  • PS4

Small in size, big in heart.

Too often VR games seek (and fail) to replicate the feel of traditional games. Their inability to translate the smooth gameplay we’re used to--as opposed to working with the strengths of the hardware to create something new--often sours the experience. Moss, a new PlayStation VR exclusive from developer Polyarc, does the complete opposite. With its careful use of the hardware it's running on, Moss is a platformer that isn't just full of charm and surprises, but one that wouldn't feel at home outside of VR.

Moss stars Quill, an incredibly adorable white mouse with an aptly tiny sword and satchel on her back. Quill lives within folk tale, the sort of whimsical fantasy that comes to life from the watercolours of a story book and narrated over with a single personable voice. Due to a terrible war years earlier, Quill and an adorable city of similar rodents live on the outskirts of a castle that kisses the horizon. There's mysticism and magic at play around every corner, different factions controlling parts of the thick forests surrounding you, and dangers that have everyone keeping their heads down.

Quill doesn't seek to change this balance, but like in all good fantasy tales, fate doesn't share that opinion. It doesn't take long for her to stumble upon a magical item that introduces a second protagonist: you. You control Quill with a standard DualShock 4, but you also play the part of the Reader, a ghost-like figure with a mask that only Quill can see. You do double duty as an ever-present deity, actively observing Quill's adventure and aiding her where you can.

Your relationship with Quill and the investment in her journey are paramount to why Moss entangles itself in your heartstrings. Using motion controls, you're able to give Quill a little head scratch, which she reciprocates with an appreciative smile and wave. At certain times, Quill will gesture for a high-five after completing a difficult task or gesture toward the solution of a puzzle when you’re stuck. Quill is almost unbelievably animated; her motions give her personality and entice you to just watch as you control her scamping about. The way she kicks her legs at the end of a climb or communicates through sign are both contextually fitting and wondrous in both minute detail and fluidity, and never ceases to bring a smile to your face.

Moss is all about multitasking. You handle Quill’s platforming in small, bite-sized areas, with the thumbsticks and face buttons for control. As the Reader, though, you interact with objects within Quill’s world with the use of motion controls and single button holds. At the same time you're able to peer around every nook and cranny the space has to offer, manipulating your view to discover new routes, spy on well hidden secrets, and just keep up with Quill’s fast movements. Moss doesn’t feel like a game that would work without VR. It combines its many input options eloquently, using them to inform and drive the design of its puzzles instead of the other way around. It’s a joy to engage with in ways that so many other VR titles struggle to achieve.

Moss requires you to interact with specific objects in Quill's world. You can move large stones with small motion gestures to shorten a gap for Quill to hop over or pull staircases from the ground that lead to doorways above. You can even load a ballista for her to fire with a lever nearby. These interactions are enacted with simple motion controls and single button holds to grab onto items. Moss does a good job of gently increasing the difficulty of its challenges as you go but always understands the limitations of its control scheme. It's rare to run into puzzles where deft timing is the only way to succeed. Instead, Moss requires you to understand how to work together with Quill, and its challenges are designed around that rather well.

Often, puzzles involve moving elements in each area to create paths for Quill to traverse. Gates might be controlled by a pressure pad nearby, forcing you to keep it pressed down as Quill rushes to slink beneath it. Other times it's a simple matter of spacial awareness. Quill can scale ledges demarcated with white paint, but reaching them might involve moving a platform along a small rail of track and blocking it at just the right time to make the jump possible.

No Caption Provided

Enemies punctuate this in a clever way, making up what would in any other game be additions to Quill's inventory. Quill never gets access to anything more than a sword, leaving her with just a simple string of attacks and a useful dodge in her repertoire. As the Reader, though, you can take direct control of three distinct enemies. For example, one will simply rush Quill with dangerous swipes of its arms, while another will sit atop a ledge and fire off balls of energy in your direction. The latter just explodes in a fountain of green, smelly goo, with its blowback proving useful in making space during combat or knocking down walls impeding your progress.

Alone they are pieces to a puzzle: taking control of a projectile-based enemy lets you trigger switches from afar, while a well-timed explosion can remove a fragile wall blocking the way. In combination--specifically in the limited combat arenas you will find yourself in--it becomes a tricky dance of control. Quill is fragile, with only a handful of hits spelling death. It's up to you to keep her dodging around the battlefield while locking down enemies for her to strike, or better still, using their abilities against each other to level the field in imaginative ways.

It's a pity that you aren't given a lot of time to truly experiment with these combinations in more ways. Moss is almost criminally short. Quill's adventure abruptly ends after about three hours, with a tease that Quill’s story isn’t yet complete. It's heartbreaking in the way that finishing any good game is, but Moss could certainly have benefited from a little more finality after such an emotionally engaging journey.

Slight hiccups in performance also detract from what is otherwise an impressive VR achievement from a technical standpoint. Quick movements with the motion controls are difficult for the PlayStation Camera to pick up reliably and can often result in the wrong enemies being locked-on to. But while it's inconvenient, death is hardly punishing, so these stumbles are easier to swallow. As are the infrequent technical issues, which resulted in some enemies clipping through walls and being unable to move--a small fracture in what is otherwise a captivating and rich technical showcase.

Moss thrusts you deep into its whimsical world with a variety of different locales throughout Quill's journey. The sense of scale that VR affords lends the world a lot of weight. A stirring deer in the distance might be a throwaway movement in another game, but its tremendous sound and size in comparison to Quill make it an earth-shaking moment. Later in the game, glowing sentinels and a suffocating infestation of metal vines wrap around a city long forgotten, acting as a strong change of scenery after extended trips through damp catacombs and sandy beaches. Quill might be small in stature, but she takes you on a riveting trip through some truly beautiful scenery.

It's a testament to just how well Moss understands PlayStation VR and works with the device instead of trying to bend it to a will it was never designed for. Moss wouldn't feel right without it at all, and its many strengths are married to the interactions that only full immersion can manufacture. Unsurprisingly, then, Moss is easily one of PlayStation VR's best titles to date, even if it's a little too eager to get you in and out of its world.

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The Good

  • Quill is adorable, personable, and animated incredibly well
  • Puzzles make good use of both traditional platforming and motion controls
  • Moss' world is easy to appreciate, with varied locales and gorgeous art direction
  • Makes great use of PlayStation VR and wouldn't feel right without it
  • Memorable set-pieces with an impressive sense of scale

The Bad

  • Ends too soon, with little in the way of finality
  • Minor technical issues break its entrancing spell

About the Author

Alessandro and Quill explored every inch of Moss' world they could find over a period of four hours, taking in the sights and hunting down some collectibles during their adventure. A code was provided by Sony for the purposes of review.
27 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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patriotplayer90

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If this was a feature-length release, it'd be 10/10. It becomes nearly impossible to put down just as it ends. Fantastic experience.

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ahmetxca

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A great game... Nearly a VR masterpiece... Me, my 6 yo daughter and my wife all played in our own accounts.

Adorable game.

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EnochRoot69

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wow, still struggling with the controls. WTF goes through some developers heads is beyond me. A beautiful game that would probably rate a 10 is brought down to about a 7 for me due to the painful ill-considered control implementation, surely smooth non-frustrating gameplay control should be the primary consideration..sometimes I wonder if the QA testers are in a happy positivity bubble where they daren't speak the truth about a fundamental flaw.

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wswedin

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Anyone else think of Ender's Game when they saw this game? The mouse simulation game?

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JustPlainLucas

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Edited By JustPlainLucas

Despite the short length, I'm sold on this game. I need more great games to come out for my PSVR. Please Sony, don't give up on VR like you did the Vita!

2 • 
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gotrekfabian

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Yet another game to add to the wishlist. Moss looks like a real winner but a 3 hour experience just doesn't warrant £25 for me, I shall be waiting for the inevitable price drop to £15 or under even if that is a years wait.

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Spike1980

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@gotrekfabian: £25 seems like a good amount for the future of innovation within the VR landscape. Remember without spending the money now for games like this we won’t get the next logical progression of this kind of innovation.

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gotrekfabian

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@spike1980: Then feel free to buy it. I have spent in excess of £650 on VR and it's games so far and stand by my reservation of not playing a game that will likely not warrant more than one playthrough. This should have released at around £15.99 which would have likely guaranteed its success.

Prediction:At this price it will barely break even.

PS Are you from the UK?

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Spike1980

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@gotrekfabian: Yes, why do you ask? Did you guess from the £ sign ? :)

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gotrekfabian

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@spike1980: Merely wondering if it was someone who didn't know the value of Pound Sterling and the conversion rate to their own currency.

£8.33 is a lot of money to pay per hour of entertainment. Even cinema, which is a complete rip-off these days, is cheaper than that and I loathe paying the extortionate chain businesses much more than a hard working video game developer.

I think your chain of thought is flawed: if we accept 2-3 hour games as the standard then developers will think that they can continue this trend and probably try to charge more and more for that duration.

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Spike1980

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Edited By Spike1980

Makes me want a MARIO VR game!

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gfantini

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Moss, Sprint Vector, Ace Combat… This is the second wave of VR titles. It seems like devs are finally starting to get to grips with the tech. Considering these are all titles for first-gen hardware, it's hard to dismiss VR like many prematurely did.

VR was always supposed to be a slow burn. But just picture PSVR 2 for a moment: higher resolution, easier setup, improved ergonomics, much improved tracking/motion controls… Hell, it might even be wireless. Put that together with a much more mature ecosystem (devs, installed base, and so on). And yes, VR will blossom big time.

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WingChopMasta

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@gfantini: As a Vive owner for 2 years and a PSVR owner for the last couple weeks. I can say that all Sony really needs is higher resolution to really put the hurt on the other two. The tracking is also something that needs work but I am blown away by what Sony has done for VR. It's so damn comfortable, I've been crushing Skyrim in it and forget i'm wearing the thing. The Vive is totally different. It get annoying after a little while.

With the game selection currently out for PSVR, the ease of use, comfort and price point. Sony is really working to make this a proper platform. It's got everything that other VR setups have. This is legit VR and MOSS is just another example of what proper VR can do. ANYTHING, and I mean anything done in VR takes it up to 1000. 3 person games are just as viable and enthralling as first person.

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Spike1980

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@WingChopMasta: when I bought PSVR on launch I was also suprised at how much more comfortable it was!

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gfantini

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@WingChopMasta: That is nice to hear from an owner of both platforms as I've personally only tried the Vive. And whereas I found the experience as a whole to be fantastic, the screen door effect really bothered me. I mean, you kinda forget it is there after a few minutes using it, but it really feels like something we'll laugh about in the future.

With that said, I agree with you that Sony is doing a great job at approaching VR. And if I were to get a headset, PSVR would be the way to go. To be honest, you kinda convinced me to consider an immediate purchase. I'll give it some careful thought, thank you.

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WingChopMasta

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@gfantini: Do it. Just go buy it, set it up and enjoy. I'm still deep in my PSVR. As a first entry into VR it should be a no brainer if you've got a PS4. The price point can't be beat, especially when it's on sale. $200 is nuts.

I'm sure most people can find a cheap PS4 if they want to get into VR from the ground up. Get a cheap PS4 and a $200 PSVR. All in at like $400 or so. That's insane for VR right now. I paid $1400 CAD for my Vive when it first launched. JUST for the Vive package. Not including the $2000 PC I got to run it properly.

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xantufrog

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Edited By xantufrog  Moderator

@gfantini: I agree

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DonJuanCorleone

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This looks awesome, going to get it and The Inpatient to play when I am not hunting monsters in MHW.

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RicanV

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RicanV  Moderator

The adorable mouse warrants a 10 alone!

I held back on PSVR thinking that there may be a new version coupled with the future PS5. Hopefully I'll get to play this later on.

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timothySS10

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@RicanV: also hopfully a better camera with VR in mind. i waiting till now to get psvr because of sonys long history of dropped hardware and platforms (phones and vita) i was concerned it would just turn into a paperweight. hopfully their next VR is there is 1. will have a frount facing cam, it helps so u dont need to take the headset off to do something like takin a sip from a cup, or look at a quick text message on ur phone, or finding ur controller if u put it down to adjust the headset itself. i do hope the next ps5 will be backwards compatible with ps4 games and the vr headset but its Sony so not holding my breath with that 1. it would be awesome to have two price points for VR on the system, the platform needs as much penetration as it ca get.

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naz99

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Edited By naz99

@RicanV: Nah, i just cant agree. the adorableness award goes to the mice from a Ghost of a Tale :P

https://www.caffeinegaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/sWUtxHMZBeYjdHEiwX6p2W.jpg

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gfantini

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@RicanV: I'm on the same boat, but don't expect it anytime soon. PS5 will be out no sooner than by Christmas 2019, with PSVR 2 following the year after. A simultaneous release would be bombastic, but I don't think Sony could handle it.

In addition, don't hold your hopes too high on price drops. I wouldn't be surprised if PS5 launched at $500, and PSVR 2 probably won't be cheaper than its predecessor. The tech will be amazing, but there's a price to be paid.

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RicanV

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RicanV  Moderator

@gfantini: I wasn't hoping for any price drops on the new generation items. But I'd rather not shell out 300 dollars now for equipment that will be replaced within 2-3 years.

I do agree with your assessment of the PS5 timeframe (launching late 2019 with PSVR in 2020) and I am hoping that there is a combo package in 2020 with PS5 and the next gen PSVR.

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gfantini

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Edited By gfantini

@RicanV: Agreed. Although Sony just dropped it to $200 for a limited time. While it's tempting, it still feels too much like a first-gen, early adopters piece of tech.

And yes, a PS5+PSVR2 combo would be killer. If it's anything close to what I'm expecting, I'd be happy to burn $800 on it.

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WingChopMasta

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@gfantini: Don't let that mindset stop you. At $200 it's a steal. Seriously. Don't pass it up because you think something new will come out any time soon. It's pushing the limits as it is. They'll release a new console well before they release a new headset so just jump in at the $200. You won't regret it I promise you. I've been VR'ing since Vive release and just got my PSVR. It's so damn impressive for the price. You won't regret it.

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Brandsome

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Damn, had no idea this was releasing so soon. Sony should be marketing the hell out of this if they care as much about VR as they claim.

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DonJuanCorleone

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@brandsome: Yeah unfortunately they're busy marketing the Spider-man game which doesn't come out until 2019. Geniuses at that marketing department.

3 • 

Moss

First Released Feb 27, 2018
released
  • Oculus Quest
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4

Utilizing the PlayStation VR device, Moss is a big adventure with a tiny protagonist, as a mouse named Quill must overcome obstacles and perilous enemies in a lush environment.

8
Great

Average Rating

8 Rating(s)

8
Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Everyone 10+
Fantasy Violence