The adorable adventurer Quill has returned to virtual reality in Moss: Book II. In this VR title, you have to work together with this heroic mouse to navigate through puzzles and platforming.
The first thing that stood out to me about Moss: Book II, was that it’s absolutely intended to play after you have played the original Moss. It essentially spoils the story events of the first title within minutes and offers very little in the way of guidance that new players would appreciate. Fortunately, I’ve played (and enjoyed) the original, but if you’ve not, I’d recommend you go play that first.
In the sequel, the stakes are high. This isn’t a search for a lost family member anymore, but instead dealing with forces that want to unmake the world.
Much like the original, Moss: Book II stands out for several reasons, but primarily for its rare 3rd-person use of virtual reality in what looks like a standard platformer at first glance. The reason for this is you – the player, who Quill knows as ‘The Reader’.
We control Quill with some fairly simple controls. Analog stick to move around and a couple of buttons to jump, dodge and attack. To move forward involves some light platforming and more often puzzles. Enemies occasionally jump out to stop us too.
Quill can’t do it alone though. The Reader can use motion controls to interact with some elements of the world. Moving platforms around to give Quill a ride, dropping something heavy onto a switch, or even grabbing hold of an enemy to change its direction and create an opening for Quill to cut it up.
I found this mixed approach incredibly unique when I played the original and it’s gotten even better in Moss: Book II. This title adds new upgrades, giving us new ways to interact with the world and giving Quill new ways to move around. This adds to replayability for those who want to grab collectibles too, as some areas are inaccessible on the first visit. It also adds more complexity to the puzzles as the game goes on, as you no longer just have one tool for every puzzle.
In terms of gameplay, Moss: Book II is essentially Moss, but expanded and improved. One downside is that the combat hasn’t improved much. While there are more options than the original here, combat is still extremely simple. That said, much more time is spent solving puzzles than fighting.
There’s no word but amazing for the visuals in Moss: Book II. Using a storybook theme, it has some stunning artwork on the pages of the book that appears throughout as the narrator tells the story. More often the player will spend their time in the levels and with Quill though.
I’ve already referred to Quill as adorable and I’d put that partly down to her cute design and animation. The rest is down to how we interact with her. She’ll look at you, sometimes give you a little wave or other acknowledgment and you can even pet her with the motion controls.
The levels are set pieces. Each area is quite small, needing to be solved before moving on to the next one, but you can often see the next area and how it connects. There’s a mix of different types of environments, finding areas from an overgrown field, to a vault full of coins to more mechanical areas and more. The use of size is particularly interesting, with some aspects obviously created for animals the same size as Quill and some being more suited to a human. Just the use of color and how vivid the world is can’t be understated though. It’s one I’d love to explore not only in my overhead perspective as The Reader but from Quill’s view too.
The music and sound effects in Moss: Book II are used well, if often subtle. Instead, when it comes to audio, the voice acting is absolutely what stands out.
As with a storybook, a narrator often interjects to tell the story. Morla Gorrondona does this perfectly, creating a real atmosphere that this is a story that she is reading to you as you play. This is only added to by her not only playing the narrator but all of the characters in different voices.
I played Moss: Book II on the PlayStation VR (PSVR), though it’s also out on Meta Quest/Oculus Quest. Unfortunately, the tracking on the PSVR is not exactly great and Moss: Book II occasionally makes this obvious.
As The Reader, we need to grab obstacles, enemies, and whatever else is needed to help Quill. Unfortunately, accurate tracking really helps here. While it was normally not much of an issue, there are a number of times that we’re required to interact near the edge of a level. At one point I ended up moving myself and the camera around more than five times, just to try and do it without losing tracking completely.
I would suspect that the Meta Quest version will be far better in this aspect. Or perhaps playing it on the PSVR 2 if that is a future option.
If you enjoyed Moss, then certainly get Moss: Book II – it’s a true sequel, sticking close but making improvements along the way. If you’ve not played Moss, go and play that, then come back and play Moss: Book II. Just try and play them on a platform with decent tracking.
MOSS: BOOK II IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Polyarc Games for a PlayStation 4 review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.