2023 has filled us with quality games. So many that there aren’t enough hours in the day to play them all, and now, Cocoon has sneaked onto our screens with great success. Fortunately, if you’re really busy and can’t spare the time for a marathon game, this is a quick and enjoyable game. Jeppe Carlsen, lead game designer of Inside and Limbo, has teamed up with Geometrico and Annapurna to unleash this wonderful puzzler. Those who love a good mind.
stunned Buggler will enjoy snuggling in his cocoons for a few hours with him.
You play as an insect-like creature traversing an alien land and completing puzzles to progress. Sometimes you get a drone-like companion that helps take down fences, although certain monsters also eat it. Then there are the orbs: Cocoon’s point of difference. Each one contains a world that you can take with you, both as part of puzzles and containing puzzles inside. The land of one orb is filled with prismatic crystals, another contains puddles and reeds, another is a sticky, membranous underworld.
You might think this would break your brain, but we’re happy to report that our gray matter remains intact, if a little sore. The puzzles are challenging, sure, but the worlds within worlds aren’t as confusing as they first appear. The game is mostly linear and its creative UI blocks areas or retracts elements when they are unnecessary. The character’s small wings also flutter to signal to players that they can interact with something.
Controls are simple: left analog stick to move, ‘A’ to interact. The single but powerful ‘A’ button lets you push and pull things, enter and exit worlds, launch from platforms, and more.
You may find yourself a little bug-eyed from the start. Tricky puzzles require creative use of the orb or drone. You have to carry multiple orbs back and forth when you can only carry one (very wolf-goat-cabbage style without wolves, goats, or cabbages), memorize symbols, and use the world’s mechanics to your advantage. A puzzle often features a feature that you will use again, in different ways. This perfect logic remains constant at all times, immersing you in the world. Nothing is wasted and there are no red herrings. Of course, that doesn’t mean the answers are obvious.
Still, the puzzles are unique and satisfying to solve, especially thanks to the dramatic style every time something is unlocked. Thinking and solving is the hero here and takes more time than executing. There weren’t many moments where we found a big gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it.
There is also combat, although it is limited to the battlefields. In each boss fight, you are chased by a creature that looks like the monstrous sci-fi version of insects or sea life. They make creepy alien noises and want to stop you from moving forward. Combat is not difficult in itself, although it may scare entomophobes. Plus, it asks you to think on the fly, which isn’t a problem if your speed and reflexes are easy. You may have to try a few times and ignore the butterflies in your stomach or the frustration when you die (read: ejected from the orb with no lasting damage). If that’s you, we recommend viewing it as a fast-paced puzzler, because the rest of the game is well worth dusting off your wings and fighting again.
Crushing the bugs gives your orbs elevated powers. One allows you to walk on invisible bridges. Another activates elevators that take you up and down. Another one opens up a shooting mechanic that also takes you to a previous world.
As in Inside and Limbo, there are no written words or dialogue, just intuitive visual language, reminding us how much can be said without words. But Cocoon doesn’t have much of a story. We felt it would have been nice to understand a little more about our buggy friend and his goal on this trip. In Limbo and Inside, the lack of dialogue shaped a narrative that helped us move through the play, but that type of narrative is not present here. It’s a shame, as so much love has obviously gone into the formation of this intricate universe.
That love means the art style soars. The worlds are amazing, the details refined, and our character cute. Those orbs alone seem so real that we felt like we could reach out and hold them like they were marbles. The art also matches the gameplay: top-down 3D design and geometric shapes. Each orb’s world has its own palette, which helps with orientation and looks beautiful: peachy pinks, soft greens, pastel purples. These color schemes are quite different from the monochromatic ones of Inside and Limbo.
But that doesn’t mean Cocoon isn’t just as disturbing as its godbrothers. In fact, the music and sound effects set a decidedly horror/sci-fi tone. We’re talking violin squeaks, wind howls, and a low white hum. The music swells during dramatic moments, building tension, suspense and heart palpitations, and there’s a synth hum to say ‘getting warmer’ or ‘well done!’
Performance is very smooth for the most part. We noticed a slower frame rate when we reached an area where it was raining. Otherwise, Cocoon runs incredibly well on Switch, with no notable bugs. Except the game characters, of course. The controls are also very precise: things snap to where they need to be and you don’t need to aim. The game auto-saves but it doesn’t indicate that it’s doing so, so if you want a little more control over your saves, this may bother you.
A bigger problem you may have is its extremely fast playback time. While some puzzles may stump you for a long time, fast players will finish them in a session or two. For such a short run time, some may balk at the asking price ($24.99 / £20.99 / €22.99 / AUD36.95). If that’s the case, you’d be better off waiting for a sale and heading straight for it.
Cocoon is a fun and addictive puzzle game. Its unique mechanics and gameplay had us glued to our screens, and it’s gorgeous to boot. Its lack of story is a slight disappointment, but if you love puzzles and don’t mind fast-paced combat, this game will be an easy favorite, even if it goes by too quickly.