Polyarc’s picturesque PlayStation VR platformer Moss is so lovely that you’ll want to snatch your duvet and snuggle up inside its fantasy world. A fairy tale starring the delightfully animated Quill, it reveals a pop-up book plot involving intrepid heroes and lush fantasy environments. Unfortunately, like so many virtual reality experiences, it very much feels like the prologue to a much more fulfilling adventure – and while there’s just about enough meat here to satisfy the appetite of insatiable headset owners, its slender running time prevents the title from being the absolute must own it otherwise deserves to be.
Because make no mistake, this is one of the most pleasant experiences you’ll find for Sony’s pricey peripheral. You essentially play as a character called the ‘Reader’, a Ghibli-esque sorcerer who through the pages of a magical tome can see into Quill’s lush forest home. Using the power of a magical stone, you’re able to take control of the cute mouse character, and the title plays out like a series of interactive dioramas, which you can “touch” using the DualShock 4’s motion controls. Puzzles require you to push and pull blocks around using a cursor in 3D space, all while simultaneously directing the big eared hero using buttons and the left analogue stick.
This setup does occasionally flag flaws in PlayStation VR’s hardware, as you’re sometimes required to hold the controller in front of your face, obscuring the headset from the PlayStation Camera’s view. For the most part, however, it’s supremely satisfying to play. The level design wraps around your entire body, and while almost all of the action takes place in front of you, it feels like you're present inside the most detailed pop-up book imaginable. The sense of scale is terrific in some scenes, as castles peer overhead, or even wildlife shuffles around in the background. And because it’s all presented in stereoscopic 3D, there’s real depth to each and every set.
The puzzles are pitched perfectly, too; they’re never too challenging that you’ll hit a brick wall, but they’re just difficult enough to give you that all-important “aha” moment. Sometimes you’ll need to twist and turn water fountains in order to open up new pathways for Quill; other times you’ll have to direct enemies to stand on pressure pads, and even encourage them to zap switches for you. The combat is serviceable at best, owing to a lack of enemy types and attack options, but the title largely de-emphasises this element in favour of its environmental conundrums. Collectibles add additional platforming challenges, as you work extra hard to reach hidden areas.
The problem, then, is that it just comes to a conclusion far too quickly. There’s reason to replay – you’re unlikely to find all of the title’s secrets in a single run – but it takes about four hours at most to reach the title’s sequel baiting ending sequence. In isolation it’s completely unfulfilling, but the bigger frustration here is that what’s on offer is simply so outstandingly good that it feels like there should be more of it. There’s obviously an argument in favour of quality over quantity, but at £24.99/$29.99 the title doesn't quite justify its price tag.
Which is a shame because it does feel absurdly polished from start to finish. Whimsical narration accompanies your quest in a Bastion-esque style, while Until Dawn composer Jason Graves turns in another delectable score, filled with sweeping strings and body rippling percussion. Quill steals the show, however, using sign language to communicate with you in order to help with puzzles, and looking over her shoulder inquisitively in order to ensure she’s moving in the direction you want her to. The game does an outstanding job of using motion controls, reflective surfaces, and the protagonist herself to make you feel present within its world.
Moss is sublime throughout, but it’s so good that you’ll wish there was more of it. Much more of it. Clocking in at just a few hours, the game feels like the prologue for a much bigger adventure, and it’ll leave you yearning for more. As a virtual reality experience, only minor technological limitations detract from its lush fantasy world and cunning use of the medium. There's no doubt that Polyarc's built the foundations for something truly special here; it now needs to write a few more chapters in Quill’s tale.