Moss: The Twilight Garden DLC Review
Released in May to celebrate the launch of the Oculus Quest system, Polyarc’s expansion to 2018’s Moss has now made it across to other VR formats. A free download to update the main game, it introduces new areas in a self-contained side quest which enriches the lore of protagonist Quill’s world. Moss has benefitted from multiple updates over the years, but this is the first to introduce new gameplay instead of simple bug fixes and accessibility improvements.
When we think of DLC these days, the general idea will be of independent bolt-ons, new areas or stories to enjoy alongside the main game, such as those available for Spider-Man or Horizon: Zero Dawn, as two recent examples. The Twilight Garden DLC takes a different approach, and may disappoint those who have already completed the tale. The update scatters three glowing portals across the story, which Quill has to activate to enter the ‘Twilight Garden’, a hubworld for a series of trials designed to prove your worth to the elder spirits (begrudgingly guarded by a crotchety toad).
These doorways are signposted with green lights which you need to activate to open, and are pretty hard to miss — especially when knowing that you’re looking out for something new. However, you will need to play through the whole game to find them all, as the chapter select scene does not highlight where the new areas can be accessed, and even then, the different entrances to the Twilight Garden aren’t necessarily on the landing screen for each chapter. That aside, The Twilight Garden levels are a treat, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t as drawn in by the new locations as I expected. Less a gripe than a passing thought, but they don’t have the same clear sense of identity or place as iconic moments from the core game — instead taking elements from previously familiar areas and twisting them in new and unexpected ways. Moss still looks beautiful (and the wholesome Quill is always as sweet as a sugar mouse as she waves and points directions to you, the VR player), but these levels are focused on larger spaces rather than the perfect miniature diorama-feel of building interiors found elsewhere in the game.
Each of the three new areas to explore lead you into caverns designed to further test your wits and reflexes, and also collect new items and abilities which can then be taken back with you into the main game. One of these new skills allows you to charge up Quill’s weapon, so that an energy projectile can be fired from the blade to switch levers or hit enemies. The levels increase in complexity for each new additional ability added to your repertoire, culminating in the final area’s puzzles and boss fight, parts of each which left me genuinely stumped for minutes at a time. It’s a credit to the thought which has gone into The Twilight Garden, as the power-ups you receive don’t completely break the main game (remember the unlockable Wumpa fruit bazooka in Crash Bandicoot 3?). Your new items can still be used, but are designed so that you have to complete the rest of the game the way it was meant to be beaten.
The Twilight Garden is a great addition to Moss for another reason: the story. I touched on it briefly above, and to be truthful there isn’t a huge amount more to tell on the surface — find your way to the Twilight Garden, be granted access to a puzzle dungeon by the great toad, and return with honour, a new item, and the hope of having your main quest supported by the elders once you’ve completed their three challenges. This in itself is straightforward and easy to grasp, but seeing characters onscreen who were previously only referred to by Quill’s uncle, or in the between-levels storybook of the main game, gives the rest of the story a more solid grounding. The ‘hero’s journey’ of Moss is more satisfying with these additional trials, to the point that it feels less like an extra bit of fun thought up a year on from the original release, and more a way of further fleshing out the Moss world.
For anyone returning to Quill’s delightful VR world, I heartily recommend diving back in to check out the new content, as long as you don’t mind second playthroughs. If you’re new to Moss then The Twilight Garden DLC represents even more bang for your buck when buying the full game, as it extends the short but sweet game’s original four-hour length by about another ninety minutes. It just might be the sign you were waiting for to pick up this charming and unique VR platformer.
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