Developer: Geometric Interactive
After spending so long on a cute, cozy farming sim, I was feeling the itch to play something different and perhaps a little darker. Overwhelmed with choices, I saw Cocoon had just released and I ended up picking it up on a whim. Initially I didn't know a lot about the game from the trailer, but as a big fan of Inside and Limbo I thought it was a safe bet. Cocoon is a cosmic puzzle adventure taking place in strange worlds that are contained in orbs. Cocoon's worlds are strange but captivating and its puzzles are satisfyingly mind-bending, although I wouldn't have minded a bit more complexity and exposition.
Cocoon's subtle, dialogue-free story starts where you might expect - in a cocoon. The player character is a little bug (moth, I think?) who hatches from a large, strange-looking cocoon. You're just a tiny little guy dropped into a big, empty world. You can't jump, run, or even fight. Your ability to move forward lies in discovering secrets and learning to use the power of the orbs to traverse the world. Each orb has a different magical ability that you can use while holding it. Also, each orb actually contains a whole world within itself, appearing much like a snowglobe. By setting the orb down in a special pedestal, you create a portal in which you can enter that orb. As you collect more orbs, you have more layers of worlds to travel within and more powers to explore further.
Cocoon's art style actually reminded me a little bit of Tunic because of its cell-shaded style in a mysterious and desolate world. I really enjoy this style and I feel that even with the simplicity of it they were able to portray a planet that felt immense and full of secrets. The world is at times creepy and even grotesque, but in a really cool and interesting way. It feels barren and empty yet unnerving, as if there's something watching you. Your player character, the little bug, is sometimes hard to see in this very zoomed-out view of the world, so it really feels like you don't know much about who they are. Unfortunately, the soundtrack for Cocoon is not yet available, so I don't have it as fresh on my mind as I usually would when I write reviews. However, it was felt ethereal to listen to during the game, synth-y and alien-like. It made for a mostly relaxing experience, with occasional high-intensity boss fight music as well.
I would say that 90% of the puzzles in Cocoon were really intuitive, to the point where I didn't spend too long figuring them out. There's a few that I solved in more roundabout ways than I needed to, or where I had to try out a lot of different things before I succeeded. I really enjoyed those additional challenges, I would've actually liked for there to have been tougher puzzles overall. Funnily enough, having played through Patrick's Parabox not too long ago may have prepared me for the "recursive" thinking involved in this game. The boss fights were exactly the type of challenge I was in the mood for when I picked up this game. It was a puzzle to figure out how to beat them, but they weren't a grind. The fights can feel difficult at first since you can only get hit once before you get knocked out and have to start the fight over. However, once you've had a few tries to understand the way it works, you just have to perfect your process. It involves speed and patience, but not actual combat. The controls are actually incredibly simple - all you use is the joystick and one interact button. Some challenges involve precise timing, or setting up a a chain of events so that you can move through the obstacle.
I have a harder time talking in depth about games that are minimal on story and characters, but don't let the shorter review fool you - I was absolutely hooked while playing and had a great time with Cocoon. I love unique puzzle games like this one, and I only wish it'd thrown more of those tricky puzzles at me. Its environment and music create such an interesting but eerie environment that you want to explore to the fullest. I highly recommend this game if you like puzzle games or cosmic adventures that leave a lot of its story up to speculation. It's a game I'd think about playing again just to try to discover a bit more of its secrets.
Cocoon is available on PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Playtime: 6 hrs