‘Cocoon’ is worth getting excited about

Cocoon is a game that makes perfect sense while you’re playing it. That would be an unremarkable achievement if it wasn’t also a game that forces you to use its levels to solve themselves. At Summer Game Fest 2023 I had around half an hour to play through the game’s opening, and it has stuck with me more than anything else I saw at the show.

Cocoon is the debut game from Geometric Interactive, a studio founded by former Playdead employees Jeppe Carlsen and Jakob Schmid. Carlsen was the lead gameplay designer of the award-winning puzzle platformers Limbo and Inside, and Schmid the audio programmer of Inside. The pair also collaborated on 140, a minimalistic indie platformer, and have been working on Cocoon with a small team in Denmark for over five years.

As in Limbo, Inside and 140, controls and interactivity in general are pared back to a minimum. On an Xbox controller, that means movement with an analog stick and interactions confined to a single button. The complexity comes from the environment, the narrative from exploration. It’s reminiscent of Tunic or Hyper Light Drifter in its lack of dialogue and tutorials.

Orbs are everything in Cocoon. They’re assets that open doors, trigger switches, reveal hidden paths and solve puzzles, but they’re also levels themselves. Remember that scene in Men In Black where there’s an entire galaxy in a little marble on a cat’s collar? Geometric Interactive has taken that idea and made it a core mechanic. Each orb is a distinct world with its own vibe, original puzzle mechanics and a boss fight. You can hop in and out of these worlds by placing an orb into sockets dotted around the game, and can even bring orbs into other orbs, which, given the abilities they unlock, will likely be critical to finding paths forward.

I say there’s a “boss fight” in every orb, but there is no conventional combat in Cocoon – there is just a single interaction button, after all. You defeat bosses by using something in the environment like a water spout or an exploding mine. These fights are also forgiving: I took a “hit” once, and it revealed a delightful mechanic: Instead of dealing damage or killing me, the boss booted me out of its world. I then had to traverse back to the fight to finish it off. Defeating the two bosses I found granted new powers of sorts, in classic Metroidvania style, which allowed progression to new areas and the discovery of more orbs.

There were other simple environmental puzzles to solve. One involved ascertaining the order in which to hit some switches, another had me pulling towers around to open a door. A slightly trickier one involved some doubling back to navigate a hidden path. Given this was the very start of the game, I’m sure the complexity will ramp up significantly. By the end of my playthrough, I was already jumping in and out of worlds in order to get orbs to where they needed to be. 

A colleague who was watching my demo said that they could tell I’ve “played a lot of these types of games” — thing is, I haven’t. Cocoon is a game where everything makes sense, but you can’t explain why. I’m sure, as in other puzzle adventures, I’ll get stumped in some places, but exploring this world felt completely natural. After a while I stopped being surprised that everything I tried just worked. Solving puzzles became a flow state as I giddily wandered around carrying my precious orbs.

Cocoon is firmly at the top of my wishlist already, and it’s tough imagining anything overtaking it. It’s being published by Annapurna Interactive, and will come to Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles later this year.

Catch up on all of the news from Summer Game Fest right here!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/cocoon-is-worth-getting-excited-about-181529189.html?src=rss


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