By Isaac Espinosa
In order to save the world from a dangerous force, you must travel through a realm of puzzles and… virtual reality? Moss: Book II is a VR game for the PlayStation 4 developed by Polyarc; it continues the story of Quill, a little anthropomorphic mouse on her quest to defeat the Arcane, a legendary dark force ruling the land of Moss. Along the way, a unique and delightful journey awaits you.
Our story begins after the events of the first book of Moss. After defeating the fire-breathing snake Sarffog, the player accompanies Quill as she ventures through the castle in order to find her captured Uncle Argus. Once reunited, Argus and Quill go deeper into the castle and learn that in order to restore peace to the land of Moss, they must defeat The Arcane. With that monstrous force ruling the land, it’s up to Quill to traverse the different realms of Moss and retrieve the glasses of all the lands. These are special artifacts that were shattered for the purpose of sealing The Arcane, in order to unite them and take down The Arcane. All the while, many dangerous foes try to take Quill down. It’s a simple story, but one filled with small details and intricacies that invite you to guess how events will unfold, and sometimes even to question who is truly on your side.
One of Moss: Book II’s greatest strengths is the formula of its gameplay. The land of Moss holds many different puzzles that you and Quill must conquer together, which are not only unique, but also make optimum use of the VR aspect of the game. Most puzzles require the player to manipulate something within a room and create a path for Quill to move on to the next area. These can range from simple tasks like moving a block out of Quill’s way to taking control of an enemy and making it press a button that Quill cannot access. Because you physically have to reach and move a lot of these objects, you feel like you’re poking into a tiny little maze, adding to the overall charm. Coupled with its cute graphics and the scope of the vast world Quill has to explore, I felt as if I was about to embark on a fantastical expedition.
One little quirk I found especially interesting was the glasses that Quill obtains, and the powers that they grant the player. Whenever you and Quill go through an area, that realm’s glass will soon make itself visible to you, which is when things get really exciting. The first realm takes inspiration from its forested environment and gives the player the ability to manipulate the surrounding flora. That means creating flowers on vines for Quill to climb on, or connecting vines to platforms to make a road. These abilities mean the game always feels open and expansive, even if you’re revisiting old rooms. You can also return to a room to find any hidden goodies that you were unable to find previously, which I found to be immensely satisfying.
The new offering isn’t perfect, though, and a lot of its problems stem from the VR aspect of the game. These weren’t game-breaking faults or unplayable glitch fests, but they did make the game a tad less immersive for me. Moss: Book II’s VR involves interacting with objects to help Quill solve puzzles, and that’s mostly all it amounts to. Sure, I could view the area around me and admire the scenery, but I felt less like an engaged player and more like an onlooker, an audience member looking down on Quill and the events of the story rather than a participant in those events. If the camera angles were in a position that conveyed you closer to the environment rather than looking on from above, that might resolve this issue for me. Then again, it’d probably require re-inventing a lot of the game’s puzzles and graphics to fit the new camera angles, which isn’t what I want.
Overall, though, Moss: Book II is an adorable, appealing game, from its storybook graphics to its fantasy-fueled atmosphere, an enchanting adventure that I think anyone would enjoy.
Bronx native Isaac Espinosa is a senior intern at the New York Videogame Critics Circle. Recently, Isaac was named the Circle’s first assistant mentor. He also published his first story in The Verge.