If you cast your mind back to E3 2017 and in the lights and drama of the Sony press conference there was an announcement for an unassuming VR game about an adorable little mouse, a game that was snowed under by the goliaths like God of War and Spider-Man. But this game - Polyarc's Moss - has just scurried its way from the undergrowth onto the PSVR, introducing us to Quill the mouse, who faces a big adventure in front of her, and what an adventure it's turned out to be.
Moss is a classic storybook adventure, and at the beginning we're delivered the story via an actual book where we manually turn the pages using our DualShock 4, a little like the opening of Shrek, except instead of Smash Mouth we're treated to a soft and soothing narrator who delivers us the narrative and all of the voices as if we're hearing a bedtime story. After we're told that an evil power has been awoken, Quill's uncle goes off on an unspecified quest, commanding us to stay at home, but of course that's not how our story goes, and we go off on an adventure for greatness.
It was after this exposition that we turned the page to be greeted by a blinding light that took us into the game proper. In Moss the player is simply referred to as the 'The Reader', a mystical power that watches over Quill after she discovers a magical artifact on her travels at the start of the game. We still control Quill just like with any other platformer, using square to attack, cross to jump, and both in unison to dodge. That's about the extent of Quill's own mechanics, but the great thing is that we can use the DualShock to reach into the world and interact with it to help our companion, so we work together to complete our journey.
None of this is too taxing, since this is a game for all ages (well, above the age of 12, which is the recommendation for PSVR), and so the bulk of the challenge is working out how to progress. There are light platforming and combat sections, sure, but the puzzles are the focus, as you'll need to manipulate the environment as the Reader while guiding Quill to the next level, sort of like interacting with a toy set so you can move a figure from one end to the other. This included moving blocks and activating levers, which is made simple by the fact that all moveable objects are clearly marked and never too far away from your reach, so you don't have to lean or fumble with your controller to awkwardly grab things. Everything is smooth and works as it should, making the experience flow that bit better.
The whole experience works as if you're witnessing a theatre production, as you sit facing what's effectively a stage. The world doesn't envelop you on all sides like with most VR games, instead you're in the audience watching the level, except here you can lean in, look around, and interact with it. In a total philosophical conundrum then, you act as both witness to Quill's journey and a part of it at the same time, and it's only in the fleeting glimpses of your floating face in water and Quill's recognition of your presence that you remember you're an active player in all that's going on.
Since you can't rotate the levels at all it'd be easy to anticipate some difficulty getting Quill to move around the various sections, but it's actually very clear where you need to go most of the time, and when your view of your friend is obstructed, her outline is clearly indicated so you can still manoeuvre her around. It means that everything is accessible and easy to explore, which is especially important if you want to discover all the extras like magic dust and pieces of stained glass, which are added to a jar and a template respectively when you return to reading the book.
Although the puzzles are light they'll still leave you scratching your head at times, as it's not just about moving Quill and yourself around but you can also take control of enemies as well, who can shoot, stand on buttons, and explode to uncover new areas and unlock new passages. It's only by using all of your skills together that you can get Quill to the next area and progress, and it's all about working out what needs to go where.
Combat doesn't take centre stage, but there are sections where enemies will come at Quill and you'll need to fend them off, making use of the few combos that she has. While it's incredibly intuitive, with Quill dodging automatically if you press cross after an attack, it'd be nice to have dodge on a different button other than cross and square combined, just for ease of access. This is only really a minor gripe since combat isn't the main focus, but it would've made those tricky situations surrounded by bad guys a little easier to handle.