Review – Cocoon

Juggling Worlds

Overview

Developer Geometric Interactive
Publisher Annapurna Interactive
Genre Puzzle Adventure
Platforms Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date September 29, 2023

A debut title from Geometric Interactive, a small indie company founded by former Playdead designers. Cocoon is an atmospheric sci-fi puzzle game with a unique gameplay mechanic. Set in a strange, alien world, you quickly find that even small bugs can do big things when you carry a whole world on your shoulders.

Content Guide

There is really no content issue with the game. The worst thing you can find is very mild cartoon violence, ie. small explosions, laser like mechanics, and stomping enemies. The one thing to note is that the art style and the music in the game does create a very haunting and alien feeling atmosphere. This may cause some players to feel uneasy or frightened, though there is nothing in the game that is meant to scare.  

Review

As a huge fan of the two games made by Playdead, Limbo and Inside, I was very curious to see what would be the resulting games made by the three “new” companies that came after the original Playdead team broke up. Either by coincidence or intent, all three companies are making sci-fi puzzle adventure games. One of the companies, Jumpship, released Somerville in 2022, and while it follows a similar formula to Inside, I felt it fell far short of the meticulous craft and polish that made Inside such a critically acclaimed game. Geometric Interactive, the second company to release a game, may have a leg up over their former colleagues due to the fact that it was co-founded by their principle gameplay and puzzle designer, Jeppe Carlsen. No surprise then, that I found the gameplay and puzzles in Cocoon to be exquisitely crafted. 

The main player character in Cocoon is a small bug-like person. In fact, all the creatures in the game are mechanical bug-like beings that exist in a strange, uncanny valley state of being both vaguely familiar and definitively alien at the same time. The art style, which I’ll describe as “fungus and electronics”, and the droning synth soundtrack, serves to pull you further into this somewhat unnerving yet beautiful world.

The main objective of the game is to solve mechanical puzzles using large, jewel-like spheres that you can carry around on your back. The spheres themselves are entire new worlds that you can jump in and out of using specific landing pads that are dotted around the map. Boss creatures have locked away the powers of the spheres which you can restore by defeating them and unlocking unique abilities that allow you to navigate to other areas of the different worlds. Similar to Limbo and Inside, the story is never clearly explained and while there is a “big reveal” at the end, you are still left scratching your head wondering what it all really means. But unlike the other games, Cocoon features several boss battles as you face giant creatures in unique arenas. With nothing other than your ability to lift spheres and activate mechanisms, you have to use your wits and the arena’s tools to help you defeat the fearsome monsters. 

The puzzles in Cocoon are definitely the game’s best asset. They have the perfect learning curve as each mechanic is introduced, learned, applied, and layered onto previous mechanics to achieve a balanced loop of challenge and accomplishment from beginning to end. The world exploration was also fun. Progress in the game is strictly linear, but there are some hidden places where collectibles can be found and secrets to be discovered. I was delighted to find that there are subtle hints placed in the game to help you with wayfinding to these secrets . I’ll let you discover those on your own though.

The boss battles, on the other hand, feel quite disconnected in comparison. These arena challenges boil down to “hit the boss with this mechanic three times as the situation gets more complex”. Any player of action-adventure games will be very familiar with these types of battles and the game certainly does not break the formula. To me, the main disconnect comes the boss battles being movement focused and utilizes mechanics that are only found in the encounter while the rest of the game is puzzle and timing based with mechanics that build on each other over time. Some people may appreciate the break from puzzle solving but I found the change to be rather out of place. 

In the end, I really enjoyed the six or so hours I spent completing the game. The atmosphere is wonderful and the puzzles kept me engaged throughout the whole game. While I did find the boss battles to be out of place, they were still well done and interesting enough. While the world jumping mechanic is certainly unique, the game doesn’t do much else groundbreaking. That said, fans of the puzzle adventure genre will surely delight in this little gem and I look forward to more adventures from this studio.

The Bottom Line

 

A short but delightful adventure through an alien world. With great puzzles and atmosphere. While it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors, fans of Limbo and Inside will definitely want to pick this one up.

 

8.5

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Anna Zhang

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