This year’s E3 showcased quite a few action games, ones which allowed us to play through some of the most transcendent sequences that gaming has ever had to offer. We swung through the cityscapes of New York as Spider-Man, hunted magnificent creatures as a Monster Hunter, and pushed through the beaches of Normandy in Call of Duty: WWII. However, throughout all of the gameplay demos we had the chance to experience at E3, none impressed us more than an intimately small and gorgeous game simply titled, Moss.
Moss is a PlayStation VR title, one which you may recognise from getting a quiet reveal during the VR showcase at the press conference. It’s a game which is produced by Polyarc studios, a studio that with Moss, has proven its drive and imagination in its first creation. Touted as a re-imagining of the action adventure game in VR, the title channels the likes of ICO and the Zelda series in ways which are considerably clever for the infantile medium.
One of the biggest hurdles for developers to face when creating VR games is the camera, as taking camera control away from the player can not only remove the player from the immersion but also make the game sickening. In Moss however, you play as a wispy blue figure which resembles No-Face from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Playing as this figure, you’re looking through their eyes, observing and helping a small mouse named Quill. It’s a 3D platforming action game, and with the inclusion of VR, it pushes this genre in a way that VR doesn’t usually generate with others. In Moss, you are the camera. The camera system allows minimal frustration when controlling Quill across the gorgeous landscapes, as you can tilt your head and gain perspective in ways that wouldn’t be possible with controlling the camera with just an analogue stick. It’s a component to the game which fully executes its potential.
You still directly control Quill as well, and the controls and execution are quite similar to Fumito Ueda’s aforementioned ICO. Quill’s tiny frame allotted a specific impression amongst her particular animation and tactility. The platforming isn’t floaty, but you can feel the fragility of the creature you’re controlling. This when juxtaposed the storybook aesthetic and poignant music, creates an emotional resonance from the player while controlling Quill. It’s not only a feeling of a need to progress which creates these feelings, but also a need to protect.
While the demo showcased a couple flashy combat sequences which were definitely fun to slash through, it was the quiet moments when solving a puzzle or observing how Quill would interact with her environment which creates a game with accomplished pacing. With many of the puzzles, you need to physically move your controller towards a door or pillar, interacting with it to allow Quill to move to the next area. Another note to add about the puzzles is that there is an agency with Quill. If you're attempting to solve a puzzle and get stuck, Quill will pantomime the solution to the puzzle in a subtle way through idle animations. It’s easy to see the perpetual scale these puzzles will inherit, as navigating Quill to a certain area of the environment while interacting with her surroundings will make an obvious case for great puzzle design.
Moss is a showstopper for PlayStation VR, proving that PlayStation is still very much supporting both indie developers and its VR peripheral. The world and story of Moss is one which you won’t want to miss when it releases this holiday season.
Are you looking forward to giving Moss a try with PlayStation VR? Are these the kind of games that will convince you to grab a headset eventually? Scurry like a little mouse in the comments section below.