Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Geometric Interactive
Release Date: Sept. 29, 2023


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PC Review - 'Cocoon'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 28, 2023 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

Cocoon takes you on an adventure across worlds within worlds where you must master world-leaping mechanics to unravel a cosmic mystery.

In Cocoon, players are cast in the role of an adorable little insectoid guy who awakens in a strange land and sets out on an uncertain quest, the details of which are revealed through environmental storytelling. This type of game has become so omnipresent that it can be difficult to stand out, but Cocoon is charming and memorable in its presentation and mechanics. It doesn't break the mold, but it does a great job of setting the atmosphere.

Your only way of interacting with the world is by grabbing and moving orbs. Some of the orbs control doors, other orbs move objects, and in some cases, orbs can be used as "controllers" to move tiny robots around. You can only hold one at a time, and things get more complex when you get glowing orbs, which are entire worlds. You can pick them up and carry them around freely, but in certain locations, you can set them down and enter them. This takes you to an entirely new zone inside that orb, and with it comes puzzles and challenges. You can even take orbs with you into these world orbs and store them inside, so you can use a single orb to carry multiple orbs.

It only gets more difficult once you start powering up the orbs. Inside the world orbs are various bosses that you must "fight" with a puzzle, which can range from a spider-monster who fires bullets that you need to avoid while waiting for a bomb to charge to a completely different spider-monster where you teleport between two different spots to avoid its attacks. None are particularly punishing; getting hit forces you out of the orb into the previous world, so you start over.

Once a boss is defeated, that orb gains special powers. One orb causes hidden paths to appear. Another causes pillars of water to transform to solid objects and back again. The third is a bizarrely enjoyable one that creates a massive number of "copies" of the orb, and picking up any of these copies functions as if you'd picked up the orb itself. Each orb has its own distinct power, so figuring out how to juggle the powers to get where you need to go is key to solving the puzzles.

For example, a simple puzzle may involve you using one orb to create a pathway so you can find an autonomous robot that follows you around. You can use that robot to carry a second orb, so you can bring it across the hidden pathways. Then you use it to turn a solid pillar into permeable water to cross. It sounds simple, but a more complex puzzle goes way further and requires you to put orbs inside of orbs and move between multiple layers. Juggling the various orbs and figuring out how to get them past traps is the key to solving the puzzles. Sometimes, that involves adventuring in one orb for a bit to unlock a feature for another orb. Sometimes, it requires figuring out the correct pattern.

Cocoon is an engaging little puzzle game. It carefully "gates off" areas so you always have what you need to solve a puzzle in a relatively small space. If you can't progress, then you are probably missing something or need to poke around in one of the available orbs. It never gets too difficult, but it does a good job of making you feel smart when you figure out the exact sequence to advance. There are also hidden secrets that you can find to unlock bits of lore, and they can impact the game's ending, so there's plenty of encouragement to poke around.

A big part of Cocoon's appeal is in its visuals. The entire game takes place in a somewhat ominous biomechanical world where the living and machines seem intertwined. It isn't quite full H.R. Giger, where everything looks terrifying. There's a strange beauty to each world that you explore, and many are colorful and entrancing. A big part of the game's charm is in seeing what's around the next corner. The music does a lot of heavy lifting, with pleasantly atmospheric songs carrying just the right hint of menace to keep you satisfied.

Cocoon is a simple game, but for a game that amounts to shuffling orbs around, it does a fantastic job of providing a sense of progression and advancement. The strong visuals give the game a solid sense of identity, and similar to Limbo, it's the basic design that helps it shine. Overall, it's a solid indie puzzle title, and while there's certainly no shortage of those, Cocoon is one that's well worth playing.

Score: 8.0/10

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