Finally back to after the cliffhanger ending of the original moss storybook world was a wonderful and long-awaited treat. Who wouldn’t want to help an adorable mouse in VR defeat scary bosses and complete platforming challenges to save the world? Moss: Book 2 wastes no time, launching shortly after the end of the first game and then building on much of what made it so memorable, even if the aging PSVR tech to which it’s currently limited can’t quite keep up.
While I’d suggest playing Moss first (it only lasts a few hours and is very good), Book 2 still manages to be a welcoming sequel for newcomers. Told like a fairy tale, you control both a mouse named Quill and the human-sized Reader, who flips through her story once again, this time while she’s being hunted by a winged tyrant named Tylan. As before, this isn’t necessarily the strongest story, but it’s a sequel that at least improves on other aspects like world building. You’ll learn about Cinder Night, the event in which arcane forces brought down Quill’s kingdom, and there’s an interesting but underdeveloped cast that bears emotional scars from the tragedy. Book 2 intrigued me with its late game revelations and once again left me wanting more. Developer Polyarc has obviously listened to previous criticisms, so at least this time it doesn’t end on a total cliffhanger, but there’s definitely room for a sequel as well.
Moss: Book 2 gameplay screenshots
Quill’s goal is to find the shards of glass she needs to stop Tylan by navigating through a ruined castle, conservatory, arctic mountains, steel foundry and more. Of course, we all know it’s never that easy. They are frequently interrupted by arcane minions blocking our path, which Quill and the reader must defeat in often drawn-out combat sequences. Book 2 adds new enemies to the previous roster of mechanical bug enemies, such as an armored grenade variant that can only be broken open with a special weapon. There’s also an unfortunate creature called the Ripper that the reader can throw straight like a pinball.
The fight will be a fairly familiar scene to anyone who played the original, but Polyarc added some new options to Book 2. Previously, Quill only had a sword, but this returning weapon is joined by two new options: a hammer and a chakram. Her hammer hits hard, but is slow and unwieldy like many heavy weapons in other games. The chakram offers a quick and light approach that’s better suited to taking out weaker enemies in large numbers. Your sword is somewhere in between. Aside from armored grenades and certain late-game bosses, combat doesn’t typically require the use of one weapon or another, providing welcome flexibility that suits different combat styles.
Polyarc also factored weapon abilities into platforming, giving Quill additional powers in alternative ways. Holding down the attack button will charge her currently equipped weapon, and then physically moving your controller to touch her will allow you to activate her reader special ability. For example, the sword Quill swoops across gaps that a normal jump would never make, cutting enemies in its path in the process. The chakram can be embedded in walls and then called back like a boomerang to hit otherwise unreachable obstacles. Finally, you can place a mirror image of the hammer over enemies or a switch and put it down as a reader if needed. I really enjoyed this fusion of platforming and combat. Not only does it elevate combat beyond just swinging a sword, puzzles make creative use of each ability so you can’t just rush through and hope for the best.
The Reader also has his own abilities that allow you to interact with Quill as a separate character in this world – one of which he is fully aware. Your path while controlling Quill is often blocked by puzzles that require the reader’s direct intervention to progress. These can be simple tasks like triggering Quill’s special attacks as mentioned before, or more practical tasks like moving blocks and dragging enemies onto switches by using the Dualshock controller’s gyro sensor to point at them. The reader also has a few new abilities, like creating climbing vines in certain spots or dragging others across the screen to build bridges, giving you inventive new ways to complete these challenges.
Puzzle solving is cleverly used to build your relationship with Quill as well. Book 2 focuses more on your interactions with her, such as It’s one of the most heartwarming aspects of Book 2, and I found an emotional journey here that I wasn’t expecting. Being able to expand the relationship between Quill and her reader, in part through level design alone, is a testament to his strength.
Book 2 doesn’t always feel fresh in these designs, however, as many of its new mechanics won’t arrive until you’ve completed at least the first hour. Thankfully, this is a longer adventure than its predecessor – it took me just under six hours to complete, and that’s without fully exhausting my quest for the collectible fragment scrolls, which are a compelling reward for thorough exploration. While the campaign is entirely linear, you can hop between chapters at will and go back to find any collectibles you might have missed, some even being inaccessible until you’ve secured those new weapons later.
Book 2 doesn’t take any unnecessary risks with its already successful formula, but rather takes an evolutionary approach, and that’s perfectly fine. This is as pure a sequel as it comes, with no major changes that could ruin what I loved about the original, or major innovations that could have boosted it far beyond instead. Crucially, book 2 didn’t have to reinvent the wheel to be great fun, and it gave me what I wanted most from the first game: more.
Unfortunately, this sequel also feels held back by PSVR’s aging technology. It might have been an insightful headset in 2016, but six years later with a successor on the way, it’s extremely outdated. Having played Moss on PC with an Oculus Rift S felt like a step backwards in terms of the quality of his interactions. Thanks to this controller’s light bar, a DualShock 4 is required, meaning there’s no option to use the PS Move controllers or the PS5’s DualSense if you’ve opted for backwards compatibility. The DualShock controls feel good moving Quill on each level, but direct interference with the Reader is another matter.
Using the DualShock lacks the immersion that offers full motion control, which is where VR thrives – admittedly, something the PS Move controllers are no longer comparatively good at even if they were available. The PlayStation camera’s field of view also proved limiting, as it didn’t always accurately track grabbing objects farther away, a rare but frustrating issue when it did occur. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still functional, but I just couldn’t help feeling that Book 2 had to occasionally compromise its design around these limitations. We hope that the PSVR exclusivity will come to an end soon, as it eventually did for the first Moss.
Book 2 still feels polished, at least, and Polyarc has clearly put significant detail into this world despite the limitations, telling its story through a mix of in-game moments and storybook cutscenes that you can flip through at your own pace. As before, Moss’ audiobook-like approach to voice acting is a delight, as the narrator gives different voices to other characters while still recognizing them. It’s a charming approach that got me interested and captures the mood of Book 2’s more emotional sections well.
This sequel also features a greater level of variety, both thematically and in design. Each world I explored was well-detailed and wonderfully colorful, taking full advantage of third-person gameplay to explore levels with a 360-degree view. This isn’t something that could be easily replicated in a non-VR game, and Polyarc encourages you to get off the couch to dash around with your VR headset and scour each level for hidden secrets. More often than not, the collectibles you will find are worth vouching for.
https://www.ign.com/articles/moss-book-2-review Moss: Review of Book 2 – IGN