Moss: Book II — Three Cheers for Little Ears

A proper sequel four years in the making, Moss: Book II continues right where our tiny hero, Quill, left off at the end of her first adventure. This new entry offers Quill new abilities, has her assisting new friends, and pits her against off some dastardly foes that will put her abilities to the test.

Quill is still the same adventurous, brave mouse we encountered in the first game, and you still assist her in a god-like viewing of her tiny, diorama-esque world through the eyes of The Reader, but this new quest has her facing off against an even higher power than the first book, and there’s a lot to do along the way. The new boss looks to collect five glass shards that will make him all-powerful, and it’s up to Quill to stop him.

Moss was all about discovering who Quill was as a character and interacting with her world to solve environmental puzzles, move platforms, stun enemies or hold them to activate switches, and heal her when she got hurt. This sequel continues this core gameplay loop with not much variation to your interactions, but the world has certainly become more detailed. 

Every room that Quill enters seems to be bursting with intricate foliage and props that beg you to explore by literally moving your head to peek around her miniature world. There’s also a constant reminder of the scale you are at by the inclusion of human artifacts through the set pieces that really puts it all into perspective. Your part, while limited, still feels purposeful as you help her battle through the waves of enemies and move parts of the world to allow her to traverse its beautiful settings.

While Moss: Book II grants players the opportunity to really dive further into Quill’s miniature world, it helps that she battles through this journey with a set of new weapons beyond her sword, including a hammer and a throwing weapon called a Chakram. The hammer offers additional strength at the sacrifice of speed, but allows Quill to bash through armored adversaries. The Chakram is a low-damage offering that is mostly used to destroy scenery objects that either offer a secret itself or provide a path otherwise untraveled, but the ability to fire off more than one at a time really balances out its usefulness. Each one of these weapons adds a nuance that really shows how much variety there is within her combat interactions.

Combat seemed to be mostly a chore to get through in the first game, but in Moss: Book II, it’s a requirement to not only master your arsenal but execute your attacks in a manner that is highly efficient, as any misstep will be met with Quill being overwhelmed by foes. Helping her out by charging up her sword for stronger attacks, executing dashes to dodge boss strikes, and using the additional weapons to creatively smash and slice your way through hordes of creatures makes each encounter’s end feel like a triumph.

Despite the appearance that could easily be mistaken for a heavy platforming title, Moss has always been about puzzle solving, and finding your way through the path obstructed. Each one of your weapons and abilities you’ll gain unlocks new ways to fight, but also new ways to interact with the environment. 

One of the first abilities, the dash, allows Quill to cover gaps in platforms and reach otherwise unreachable areas. You’ll find that some of The Reader’s new abilities are just as fun, including the ability to create vines for Quill to climb and run across that bring new, complex interactions that are sometimes more puzzling than you’d expect. That doesn’t mean that you’ll just be thrown into the world, expecting to pick up these skills that were taught over the entire length of the first game, however, Moss: Book II is very approachable to players that are experiencing this fairy tale story for the first time.

The puzzles and story are why you play a game like Moss in the first place, and thankfully, the puzzles are even better than before. While originally the entire complexity of a room’s traversal was bound to rotating a fixed piece in the middle of a room or switching the positions of platforms, Moss: Book II uses every tool in your arsenal to really make you think. 

The Chakram is particularly used often because its ability to stick into walls and then call back in a straight line can offer you the ability to move Quill to a new location and summon it, slicing obstacles or hitting scenery or unreachable switches along the way. Your dash ability, combined with timed doors activated by levers can lead to a mad dash across a room that requires perfect timing and aiming to get you through. You will often find yourself pondering the correct pattern or path to take, thinking about the abilities and switches required to achieve the proper setup to proceed, but it’s when you are thinking about the intricacies and arsenal you have to solve them that the puzzles really begin to leave you in awe.

Moss: Book II is not only an excellent action puzzler, but it’s an amazing VR game, to boot. Every scene is so finely detailed that it’s hard not to just pause the adventure, take it all in, and maybe give Quill a high-five during this down time. Stepping into a miniature diorama is nothing new as several VR games have done it now, but there’s something different about Quill’s lush, overgrown world that just makes it that much more magical as a result. 

Throughout the interactions with Quill, you end up caring for this little mouse and what happens to her a lot, and during your role as The Reader, you fight tooth and tail to see to it that you carry on to the next battle or head-scratching environmental puzzle. While Quill doesn’t speak and the narrator basically carries the story through, you can tell her personality and feelings through her impressive animations and nuances that make her essentially feel alive. There are moments during the story that really pull on your heartstrings, and sitting there watching it unfold really brings you into the emotional bond between you and this virtual character.

Moss: Book II does everything you’d want for a sequel while maintaining the strong gameplay and connection that players loved from the first title. Quill is more expressive than ever before, and with the additional tools at her disposal, it’s like watching a pint-size action movie with a front-row seat. While Book II manages to be a bit longer than the first adventure, it’s not an extended experience for the sake of filling it with padding. Every moment in Moss: Book II feels as breathtaking as the last and keeps you pushing forward to discover what awaits you next.

Moss: Book II was reviewed on the PSVR2. It is also available for the Meta Quest and on Steam VR.

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