Moss Book 2 is as pure a sequel as you can expect, taking inspiration from the critically acclaimed first game, Moss. Developed by Polyarc Games, the sequel picks up right from where the previous game ends. The second iteration stays true to the first game, going for a more evolutionary approach as compared to other sequels that try and reinvent the wheel, an aspect we appreciated throughout our playthrough.
You play as Quill, a cute mouse that you help navigate through intricately detailed worlds, trying your best to defeat minions with the three new weapons available in Quill's arsenal. You still also interact in the game as the Reader, providing you with an isometric point of view just like the original Moss. However, you now do a lot more compared to the first game.
The gameplay of Moss Book II and the first game is what truly set itself apart from other VR games. With a focus on environmental storytelling, puzzle solving, epic voice acting, and a fairy tale setting, controlling Quill is now more fun than ever before.
This brings us right to the gameplay, generally speaking, the game remains relatively similar in terms of overall pacing. If you've played the original Moss, you'll feel right at home here. Instead of just the sword, you are met with two new weapons, each having their own special ability. They are the sword, hammer, and chakram.
The hammer deals the greatest amount of damage but is also slow. The chakram, on the other hand, provides Quill with a ton of agility at the cost of low damage. The sword acts as the perfect median between all three providing a mix of both brute force and speed. Thankfully, developer Polyarc hasn't really confined the weapons to only work for certain situations, allowing for much-needed flexibility in this satisfying sequel.
If you've played Moss before, you'll quickly remember that to solve puzzles; you really had to use your imagination. And Moss Book II certainly evolves on that front, with each weapon having different special abilities that you'll need to utilize as you platform your way throughout the game, allowing for greater versatility and more intricate puzzles.
You can activate these special attacks by holding the attack button down, charging the weapon in hand, and letting you unleash your special ability. A true sign of a great sequel is its ability to understand what made the previous game so special. So, developer Polyarc has paid special attention to ensure that these new mechanics don't interfere with the game's overall story and flow.
You can still interact with the game as a Reader. For instance, you'll be able to use the aforementioned special abilities alongside the new weapons giving Quill access to places she wouldn't be able to go without you. Plus, Quill is quite self-aware of you being there, allowing you to high-five her, create vines she can climb up, or drag various enemy types onto switches by using the DualShock controller's gyro (if you are playing the game on the PSVR version.)
From what we've experienced so far, you won't see a variety of different enemy types or new weapons right from the get-go. The story picks up after the first hour or so of playthrough. This probably is so newcomers who haven't played the original Moss can understand the game's basics before diving into Book II.
As soon as you clear the first hour, we quickly see unique puzzles being brought into the mix alongside new enemies that have made their debut in Book II. Our personal favorite was a minion that could roll into a ball. You can grab this enemy as the Reader and roll it around, causing it to knock other enemies in its midst, allowing for a fun break in your hammer-filled combat sessions.
In essence, the combat in Book II is much more nuanced than what you'd expect from a traditional platformer, which makes for a satisfying sequel. Plus, with the addition of new weapons, the PSVR version of the game truly brings in some challenging puzzles, as the hammer, sword, and chakram provide special abilities that you will need to use to clear certain areas.
We also felt like Moss Book II emphasized more on combat than the original, especially with Quill having new weapons in her arsenal. Thankfully, it never really felt repetitive as we didn't just have access to the sword. Plus, you can always interact with the environment as the Reader, which brings a welcome instance of change to the game.
A Fun VR Experience
We couldn't find a lot of boss fights when playing the game for our Moss Book 2 review. But boy, were they fun when we did find them. While they certainly added to the overall dynamism of the story, they also made up for some extremely cinematic moments that could only be best experienced in a VR headset.
Certain boss fights have you interact with the game in a truly spectacular and unique manner. For example, the boss fight in the clock tower had you pull down a church bell so the boss would eventually fly into it. Combine this with the intricate level design the fight had and the combat we've praised a lot already - it's quite clear to see why the game was truly captivating at certain moments.
We had one major complaint with Moss: the story felt lackluster at particular points. With Moss Book II, the game takes full advantage of VR with a gorgeously detailed world that really puts you in the middle of the adventure with an emphasis on the story and you, as the Reader, being placed in it.
Plus, we get to see more character building, with the Reader really feeling connected with the main protagonist, Quill as well. For example, you'll see her pretend to surf as you drag a platform along. You'll also be able to give her a hug and really use the motion controls to feel like you are a part of the experience.
In our opinion, the fact that the entire game is played in VR gives you a sense of immersion that no other medium can and is a testament to how VR games truly are the future of gaming.
It's no fun playing a VR game on the Oculus Rift, Meta Quest, or any VR headset for that matter, without truly feeling immersed. And the key to proper immersion is great graphics that can truly captivate and place you inside the VR world.
Suffice it to say; there were a lot of moments where Book II truly engrossed us in its detail. The game starts off in a castle courtyard, right where the original Moss ended, placing Quill right in the center of attention as she moves through mossy tiles with grown-out weeds emanating from the floor.
The part we liked the most about the world was that it felt believable and, perhaps most importantly, alive. Games often tend to feel dry and dreary in their textures and world design. However, the real world quickly melted away as we jumped into the meticulously designed world as we played the game for our Moss Book 2 review.
Surprisingly, you'll find this immersion carrying forward throughout the entire game as you pave through. The developers haven't also shied away from placing you in different environments that really are long distances away from each other. Throughout your playthrough, your adventure will take you through snowy mountains, mines, courtyards, jungles, and more. All of these places, though, are intricately detailed, with different enemies you'll have to use your weapon of choice to get rid of.
These environments often feel like self-contained stages, each with its own set of lighting, puzzles, combat sequences, different voices, and moments that can truly captivate you. Unlike Moss, the follow-up tends to have more open environments with gorgeous backdrops that feel larger than life. So, instead of placing you in small rooms and villages like the original, Quill is now in larger environments that still feel surreal.
In our Moss Book 2 review, we were most impressed with how Quill was animated. Even though she's a cartoon character, her animation and movement were almost Pixar-like in terms of quality and detail. Surprisingly expressive, the story did bring in a few cinematic moments that truly were gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.
Even though it is hard to resonate with a mouse, Quill really portrayed human emotions throughout the story, which made the overall experience that much more realistic. Couple that with the combat the game provides, and the story really picked up the pace in later stages, and it's no wonder that we were really wondering whether it was okay to cry inside a VR headset.
While avoiding any spoilers, Moss Book 2 follows the same ritual of conveying the story through beautifully illustrated sequences conveyed through different voices, albeit done by the same narrator.
The sequel goes into a lot more detail, discussing the unique relationship between the Reader and Quill. However, enough plot holes are left for later chapters to expand upon if the developers intend to do so.
The game itself has no real filler content; it'll take you about 5-6 hours to beat it, with it reaching its true stride around the 2-hour mark. The game does lose momentum at the 3-4 hour mark but gradually picks up as it reaches its climax. While the original Moss felt like it ended too soon, Book II feels more sufficient in that regard.
While the titular story is told through the guise of a storybook, we found it to be quite disheartening that the entire plotline was only conveyed through illustration and narration. A little bit of cinematics and perhaps a more hands-on approach would've definitely helped with the immersion especially given how well the developers pulled it off with the gameplay.
The game does have some emotionally charged moments that sink your teeth in. You'll often find yourself anxiously pruning through the illustrative story to figure out what'll happen next. Quill feels like a relatable character oftentimes, and the overall immersion of the game due to the epic graphics definitely helps with the storytelling.
All in all, Moss Book 2 has certainly set up a gold standard when it comes to narrative VR storytelling as it pulls you in at just the right moments and lets you explore on your own flexibility rather than keeping you reeled in.
Moss Book II is one of those games that define an entire medium. Whether you are a VR aficionado or a casual gamer who hasn't had the chance to play a narrative-based game lately, Moss Book II checks all the boxes of what a VR game truly should be.
As you progress, you'll quickly establish a relationship with Quill and immerse yourself in the beautifully crafted open world. While both the Moss games are relatively short, they more than make up for it in terms of their quality.
The sequel really does bring in new gameplay elements and evolves the series to a significant extent. With new weapon types, unique boss fights, excellent puzzles, and with you as the Reader allowing Quill to reach new heights (quite literally), it is clear that Polyarc has put in a lot of love and effort in the game.
With Moss Book 2 now finally out for the Quest 2, it is clear that while the game did initially suffer from being a PSVR exclusive, it more than made up for it with an eventual Oculus and Steam release allowing you to play it on virtually every VR headset.
So, yes, Moss Book 2 is a must-play for anyone who is into VR gaming. It is a ton of fun, and we can't wait to get back and jump into the next sequel with Quill obviously as the main protagonist. Thankfully this time around, the developers didn't leave us at a nail-biting cliffhanger.
However, it does seem that they've left a good foundation for the next sequel. While there's no release date out for it just yet, we can't wait to review it and see how the developers improve on Moss and Moss Book 2.