Moss Book II PSVR2 Review
As VR gaming is still stuck in a perpetual experimentation phase, many devs and publishers have refrained from creating direct sequels to their titles, instead carrying the concepts from their previous games and coming up with spiritual successors that utilize (and ideally improve upon) the same groundwork laid out by their predecessors. Instead of direct sequels, we tend to get spiritual successors, which also tend to be sequels in all but name. A recent example of this would be Switchback VR, a clear successor to the PSVR1 outing Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, sharing many of the same gameplay concepts, VR viewpoints and even staff.
This is partly what makes Moss Book II one of the more notable launch titles for the PSVR2; the original game released alongside Sony’s first VR attempt on the PS4, and now the numbered follow-up has arrived for the second outing as a PSVR2 launch game. The original Moss was released to critical acclaim as being one of the more unique VR offerings (though considering how many VR games still use the tired template of first person zombie shooting, this was hardly a high bar to climb), featuring a comfortable fixed perspective that harkened back to moving an action figure around a diorama set. Combined with the lovely visuals and adorable interactions with the main mouse protagonist Quill, the game proved to be a real charming adventure that prioritized the potential of relaxing VR experiences rather than overloading players with nauseating special effects.
Moss Book II replicates the experience to an exact, almost entirely unchanging copy, a true sequel in every sense of the word. This is not a critique, however, because the improvements to an already-great foundation immediately make this game a must-have for fans of the first outing, especially if they want to continue Quill’s adventure, which continues immediately following the events of the first; after defeating the evil snake Sarrfog and reuniting with her uncle, Quill must now make her way through the ruined castle of the former king in order to get the magical mcguffin before the forces of evil get it instead. Don’t think this means a single labyrinthine location, however, as the castle also contains portals to the outside world, where Quill and the Reader (who is technically the role of the player, although they will be directly controlling Quill for the majority of gameplay actions) will have to traverse in order to find new allies as well as new equipment to aid them in their latest adventure.
While not every mystical NPC is entirely convinced to lend their aid (it wouldn’t be much of a fantasy story if everyone played nice and banded together right from the start), their kingdoms will yield several key power-ups that will prove immediately useful, and further expand the previously-limited repertoire of abilities for both Quill and the Reader. For Quill, this includes new weapon power-ups, including a very cool Final Fantasy XV-inspired warp where her energized sword can have her dash across previously-unreachable distances, while the Reader can find new ways to pave the way forward for their tiny partner such as moving the virtual pointer around to breathe life into a patch of leaves so that Quill can climb up them. These are just a few of the fun new puzzle-solving elements brought into the sequel, in addition to returning abilities like taking control of enemies in order to force their destructive arsenal against each other (or more helpfully, certain destructible objects). There is also a brand new element of gameplay that this review will refrain from spoiling, but ultimately it all adds up to the tried-and-true adage of “more tools=more fun”.
On the visual side of things, not much has changed beyond a few minor nip/tucks to an already gorgeous presentation; the higher resolution of the PSVR2 headset does allow for better clarity, and some animations have been smoothed out as well, but these are barely noticeable and almost unnecessary, considering what a stellar job the folks at Polyarc achieved the first time around. Just as in the original, each area is divided into separate screens with a fixed camera angle in which players move Quill around to reach the nearest exit (or other alternate paths once the proper power-up is obtained, as is videogame tradition) while solving any puzzles and/or obstacles in the way. Also making a return is the control scheme, in which players directly control Quill and every action she takes while also being able to manipulate objects in the environment to help clear a path (or in make one, in many instances). While each screen is filled with lots of little details and multiple platforms, everything is almost always clearly visible without the need for players to arch themselves beyond their seated position; the game also has a great hint system where Quill will pantomime to the player when remaining stationary for a time, a nice touch that adds to the thematic bond between the player and the protagonist. Anyone who got a kick out of giving Quill a virtual high-five will no doubt enjoy the additional moments of celebration, and the more dramatic story beats might just deepen those feelings even further.
As stated before, not much has changed in Moss Book II, making it an iterative sequel that keeps all of its strengths along with a few more bells and whistles. About the only remaining weaknesses are the spare enemy variety and combat; though there are a few new bolstering additions for both, they still serve as hors d’oeuvres while the platforming and puzzles make up the main dish. Nevertheless, anyone who enjoyed the first game need not hesitate to continue the adventure, while newcomers may want to consider starting off with the first game as the sequel is more of a complimentary package rather than a replacement; in the olden days, we’d use to call this “Disc 2”. Regardless of order, anyone who opted early with Sony’s new VR headset needs to make sure their paths end up right at the newest entry in Quill’s adventures (and hopefully not the last).