Every now and then, a game will come along that takes me completely by surprise.
I was not aware of Cocoon until it was only a couple of days from launch, and it was at this point that I realized the talent behind the game was none other than Jeppe Carlsen, who, along with Jakob Schmid, founded Geometric Interactive, with Cocoon being this new studio’s first game. If you have not heard these names before, you have almost certainly heard of their previous games, Inside and Limbo, of which Jeppe was lead gameplay designer. Upon learning this, my interest was piqued, and, on the day of release, I downloaded and dived into the world of Cocoon.
It was obvious in the first minute that this was something special. As your character (a bug of sorts) emerges onto screen with no HUD, button prompts or guidance, you immediately begin learning how the game operates.Cocoon is a puzzle game, through and through, with the entirety of the experience driven by a single analog stick and a single button. As you embark on your adventure, things start pretty straightforward, with environmental and visual clues designed to get you past relatively simple puzzles and to intuitively reassure that you are on the right path.
Not long into the game, you find your first orb. This orb, that can be picked up and placed down on select pedestals, unlocks a new ability upon being held. These orbs play a fundamental role in the game’s design and increasingly challenging puzzles. The direction the game takes from this point is so unique in its concept and execution that I couldn’t put the controller down until I saw the end credits.
You see, these orbs are not just conduits to new abilities, but within each of them lies another world, along with a guardian that acts as a boss (and the only “combat” encounters in the entire game). Now, by placing these orbs in certain places, you can dive into them and back out to an overworld of sorts, at will. However, it doesn’t stop there. You can bring an orb into the world of another orb and thus open up new paths and solve new puzzles through what I can only describe as “orbception!”
As you get further and further into the game, its genius becomes more and more apparent. To guide you through a game with zero dialog or prompts is no small feat, yet Cocoon manages this in a way that is challenging but never cheap, and rewarding in a way that few games accomplish.
I won’t go into any more detail here but will end this by saying that this game absolutely deserves the relatively short 2 – 3 hours it requires to see it through to conclusion. Just go in without any guides and enjoy what is, in my opinion, one of the standout games of 2023.