“Immersion” is such a wanky term when it comes to VR. Everyone wants you to have an immersive experience but the reality is most don’t come close, but they’ll be marketed as so because it’s VR’s holy grail. There are a lot of reasons why most games aren’t there just yet, the tech for a start, limitations of the system powering head-units, developers not having enough experience with the new medium and so on and so forth.
It makes sense too, VR is still in its relative infancy as a real gaming medium for the moment, but somehow the team at Polyarc have seen all of that, completely disregarded it, and with one massive “fuck you” created the most immersive and joyful experience I’ve ever had in their new game Moss.
Exclusive to the PlayStation VR (PSVR), Moss is a unique combination of genres incorporating elements of platforming, puzzle and action. You play as the “Reader”, an omnipresent figure that’s sucked into the game’s narrated story. You also control the game’s protagonist Quill, a young mouse who’s on an adventure to rescue her captured uncle and defeat an evil, fire-breathing snake that’s taken over the kingdom.
The game itself plays out as a series of scenes that you control Quill moving through. As you pass through one, solving its puzzles and fighting its enemies, the next then loads with the one you’ve left seen in the distance. Starting off in a gorgeous and amazingly realistic forest you venture into other environments, each a living, breathing diorama that you can explore in amazing detail. Physically moving your head and body in the real world allows you to peer into the game’s giving you the ability to look around objects and under different sections to solve puzzles and find often hidden secrets.
There’s something truly magical about Moss
Controlled with the PS4’s DualShock, Quill can be moved around these scenes in typical platformer fashion. The miniaturised world she lives in is filled with rocks to climb, platforms to jump between and obstacles to avoid all whilst staying within the particular scene’s milieu.
She can see you too, completely aware of your presence and communicating with you as you play. Quite often she’ll point things out to you, or will mime actions that might help you solve a puzzle. Do everything right and she’ll hold up her hand and wait for you to give her the cutest of high-fives.
Moss’ biggest limitation is the system it’s exclusive to.
The DualShock has a second purpose too. It’s real world position is represented in game as a glowing orb of light. This is the Reader’s godlike touch within the game. Hovering it over certain objects allows you to interact with them, or if Quill becomes hurt can heal her as well as control or retard enemies too. It’s a truly unique combination of first and third person that has you playing two characters in this beautiful, symbiotic performance the likes I haven’t seen since “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons”.
Moss’ biggest limitation is the system it’s exclusive to. As stunning as the game looks its world can feel a little sparse at times and when other creatures appear they seem to do so in limited quantities as to stay within the PS4’s means. Try as it might (and it really, really does do well), it can’t escape the fact it’s running on limited hardware and suffers from the usual PSVR troupes of poor tracking and throttled resources.
It doesn’t really matter though, or it didn’t to me, as I fell deeply in love with this game. There’s something truly magical about Moss. Right from the word go in that beautiful, lush, alive forest where Quill scurries out of the brush with that amazing Pixar quality animation of her I was sold. I can honestly say I have never felt more like I was actually inside of a game more in my life. Finally there’s a reason to own a PSVR.
Moss is out now for PSVR and available exclusively via the PlayStation Store for A$44.95.