Moss: Book II review: The PSVR's last hurrah is as spectacular as its first

Quill is every bit as fiercely adorable as you remember

Moss Book II screenshot
(Image: © Polyarc Inc.)

Android Central Verdict

Moss: Book II begins immediately after the end of the first game, throwing Quill into the lands beyond the castle, giving her new weapons and abilities. The PSVR might feel a bit long in the tooth at times, but Polyarc has managed to hone Moss's gameplay mechanics into something that feels magical and transportive most of the time.

Pros

  • +

    Gorgeous animations and visuals

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    Charming storybook presentation

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    Genuinely fun combat system

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    Bigger and more complex environments

  • +

    Excellent variety of gameplay and puzzles

  • +

    Design is perfect for the seated experience

Cons

  • -

    Interaction is limited by the PSVR's tech

  • -

    The story feels a bit rushed

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It's not every day that you get to make friends with a sword-wielding mouse, but the second time is certainly just as charming as the original story of Quill, hard as it might be to believe. Once again, you'll be controlling Quill with the joysticks and buttons on the PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 controller, guiding her through battles and clever puzzles as The Reader in Moss: Book II.

It's been four years since the original Moss (opens in new tab) debuted on PlayStation VR, and the second outing is a timed PSVR exclusive that takes place immediately after the events of the first game. If you haven't played the original Moss, I'd highly recommend starting there first. It's one of the best PSVR games (opens in new tab) for a reason.

But if you'd rather just jump into the second iteration, don't worry; the wonderful storybook narration style will get you acquainted with the events of the first game before it throws you right into the fray. In fact, as soon as the intro recap story ends, you’ll find that you’re controlling Quill at the exact moment after she defeated Sarffog — the final boss of the first game, which ended on what felt like a rather cliffhanger moment.

While it’s an “old-style” seated VR experience, the charm of the world of Moss feels as fresh as the first time I’d played the original over four years ago. Making a sequel that’s just as good as the original game is a difficult thing to accomplish, but Polyarc has absolutely done it. 

What I loved

As was the case with the original title, there will doubtless be folks who would prefer to just play the game on a flat screen TV instead of in VR. After all, there’s little difference between that experience and Moss: Book II’s seated VR experience from a physical standpoint. In both scenarios, you’re sitting in a chair of some kind, staring straight ahead with a DualShock 4 controller in your hands.

But once you start playing the game, you understand what VR adds to the diorama-style level experience. Being able to physically peer into the world and pass weapons to Quill is utterly convincing in a way that’s totally unexpected from first glance. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who might have played the original Moss — or other similar VR experiences like Lucky’s Tale or Chronos — but it’s a mechanic that makes the bond between the Reader (the player) and Quill utterly convincing.

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The details
CategoryHeader Cell - Column 1
TitleMoss: Book II
DeveloperPolyarc Inc.
PublisherPolyarc Inc.
GenreAction adventure
PlatformsPlayStation VR
PlayStation versionPS4, PS5
Play time5+ hours
Players1
Launch price$40

If you’re a fan of The Tale of Despereaux, you’ll feel right at home here.

Part and parcel to that experience are the environments and the animations, all of which help transport you to this fabled storybook world in a way that a flat screen simply doesn’t allow. As is usually the case with VR titles, watching videos of Moss: Book II will only give you a vague idea of what the experience is like. You won’t truly understand how it feels until you’re transported through space and time the moment you put the PSVR’s headset on.

I, too, loved the entire story in Moss: Book II. It felt like something out of a young adult fiction book which, truth be told, is probably still my favorite genre of books to read even as a near 37-year-old because of their ability to appeal to such a wide range of ages. My son watched me play the entirety of Moss: Book II and was glued to the couch as we followed Quill through each of the six chapters of the story. If you’re a fan of The Tale of Despereaux, you’ll feel right at home here.

Between levels, you’ll be physically turning the pages of a giant book, each page covered in beautiful illustrations and narrated in a way that you might expect from a quality audiobook from a platform like Audible. If the story gets too dull, you can always just flip through the pages and get on with the action post haste.

Interacting with the world of Moss is as sublime as the original.

Interacting with the world of Moss is as sublime as the original. As a Reader, your DualShock 4 controller is presented as a blue bubble which can be used to interact with most things in the game world by pressing and holding the trigger buttons. Everything from smashing crates to helping Quill solve intricate environmental puzzles is possible and feels entirely natural from a story standpoint.

Every once in a while, I found myself getting a bit confused when moving enemies or puzzle pieces around the level, as I’d accidentally try to move them with the thumb stick instead of physically moving them with the DualShock 4 controller. This almost always resulted in Quill falling off a ledge or into some water, leaving me smacking my forehead (if I could reach it behind the PSVR headset) and reminding myself that I was the Reader, not Quill.

Moss Book 2 gameplay screenshot

(Image credit: Polyarc)

Moss: Book II’s new larger, more detailed environments are also a welcome addition to the formula of the first game. Both the new weapons and new powers Quill receives over the game make Book II feel more like a Metroidvania than a simple action platformer. It’s not quite as deep or intricate as something like Metroid Dread, but it’s a step toward that direction.

Those new powers and weapons also help change up the combat quite a bit. In fact, one boss that you’ll fight in chapter five is one of the best boss encounters I’ve experienced in recent memory. Everything from the situation to the animations, the attack patterns, and the way Quill eventually defeats said boss is mesmerizing.

Lastly, I just want to praise the soundtrack in the game. There are many good soundtracks out there, but few are as emotionally charged and on-time as this one. It’s gorgeous, always sets the mood perfectly, and often had me pausing just to listen and admire the work put into it. Bravo, Polyarc. Bravo.

What came up short

Moss Book 2 gameplay screenshot

(Image credit: Polyarc)

Now, I don’t want to give away plot points, so I won’t be specific when I say that the story feels like it was a bit rushed. The initial pacing feels nigh perfect, as the main villain isn’t even introduced until what felt like about the halfway point through the game (roughly in the third of six total chapters). But while the reveal of the villain is well done, you don’t see much of them until the very end of the game.

Similarly, Quill’s new weapons and abilities don’t feel like they are used to the full extent that they could have been. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a bunch of filler content just to show off some clever new gameplay mechanic that’s ultimately useful without bespoke puzzles, but I felt like I got the final weapon right as the story was coming to a close.

I felt like I got the final weapon right as the story was coming to a close.

Players can find and collect energy and scrolls throughout the game by smashing boxes, vases, and searching carefully through each environment for hidden nooks and crannies. I really enjoyed the way these mechanics were played out but would have liked to see some actual gameplay benefit for the time spent completing these activities.

As it stands, the suits of armor you’ll earn are only cosmetic and don’t offer any real added protection or new abilities. They’re certainly cute — and I preferred playing with the green armor set that matches perfectly with Quill’s blade — but further incentive is always appreciated.

Lastly, I found myself perplexed by the simplicity of the controls. I imagine this overall control scheme was probably designed more around the fewer number of face buttons on a split controller like the Quest 2 or PS VR2, but there’s no getting around the fact that two face buttons do absolutely nothing throughout the game.

I found myself perplexed by the overly simplistic controls.

Instead, everything is mapped to the square and X buttons, and the Reader (the player) acts as the inventory, passing weapons to Quill as the scenario sees fit. This also lends yet another physical connection between the Reader and Quill, but I can’t help but think it might have been simpler to offer a way to map the two additional weapons to triangle and circle.

So, too, you’ll sometimes find that you have to turn the controller at an awkward angle just to reach something in a level. That, of course, is due to the PSVR’s extremely limited tracking abilities. If you reach out of the camera’s view, the system simply has no idea what you’re doing. This won’t be an issue on other platforms that Moss: Book II is released on, and I can’t imagine how much better and grander the environments in Book III will be when the old PSVR isn’t the baseline for development.

Should you buy it?

Moss Book 2 gameplay screenshot

(Image credit: Polyarc)

Moss: Book II is a rare breed of VR game that keeps players seated the entire time, yet still encourages players to look around and lean into the lush environments around them. It's held back a bit by the PSVR's aging tracking tech but doesn't feel old at any point while playing it.

Fans of the original will find plenty to love here. It's the same game you remember, just with new weapons, powers, enemies, larger environments, and trickier puzzles to solve. Despite the seated experience, it doesn't feel like you're any less involved in Quill's world. On the contrary, the only time you feel pulled out of the world is when the PSVR's tracking limitations rear its ugly head.

At around 5-6 hours of gameplay — plus any additional time you might want to spend collecting all the suits of armor and hidden scrolls — the $40 price tag might feel a tiny bit steep if you were expecting something longer. While the story feels a tad rushed, there's really no filler content here to speak of, and your time in the world of Moss: Book II is well spent and feels like a wonderfully complete experience by the end.

Once again, the story of Moss is an intriguing tale that's told in a playful way via, you guessed it, a storybook. Fans of platformers and action-adventure titles will surely love it, especially if recent games like Elden Ring have proven to be too long or frustrating.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu