Since Cocoon’s reveal last year, I’ve been excited to one day check it out. Coming from Jeppe Carlsen, a former lead designer behind Playdead’s Limbo and Inside, its reveal trailer in 2022 made splashes amongst fans of the games Carlsen worked on. During Summer Games Fest this year, I finally got to play roughly 30 minutes of this strange, sci-fi puzzle game, and I don’t think it could have made a better first hands-on impression.
Immediately, Cocoon’s visual style is striking. Its minimalist sci-fi aesthetic feels right at home within the lineage of Playdead games, although it’s important to note this comes from Carlsen’s new independent Geometric Interactive studio. I control a metal beetle-like with no apparent objective: I try to explore the area I’m in deeper because that seems like what I’m supposed to do.
Quickly, though, I encounter puzzles built into the surrounding alien environment. In my favorite puzzle, I pull a geometric, prismatic sphere across a half-circle line and doing so rotated a spire nearby. On this spire are shapes, and I have to memorize the order in which these shapes appear and then walk through symbols planted into the ground nearby based on those shapes in that exact order. In another, I look out to the horizon to discover which shapes, in which order, I need to interact with.
I wouldn’t call these puzzles challenging, but their serene and simple nature fits nicely with the chill ambiance in the rest of Cocoon. As peaceful and chill as Cocoon is, it’s also mysterious and somewhat spooky, thanks in part to its excellent sound design. Sci-fi womps, siren-like pops, and drawn-out notes create a score that feels less like a melody and more like aliens speaking through music.
For most of my 30 minutes, I was transporting large, ethereal orbs from one place to another, and each time I place this orb on the designated spot, something new happens, allowing me to advance in my exploration. Walkways open up, horizontal platforms move left and right, and elevators activate. Sometimes, the orb on my beetle’s back reveals pinkish-orange crystalline walkways previously hidden from sight, allowing me to reach new areas. Other times, I complete a puzzle and receive a honeybee-like drone that follows me and shoots down barriers in front of me, another method to reach previously restricted areas.
The climax of the demo came in the form of a boss fight. After diving into the orb I’ve been transporting on my back, I reach a new area (and I dive into other orbs, too, to reach new areas elsewhere in the demo). After solving a few puzzles, a giant alien moth creature appears out of the ground.
Because Cocoon doesn’t have traditional combat, or at least this demo didn’t, my goal is to survive during the boss fight. The moth creature flies back and forth across the arena, releasing a deadly stream of pinkish-orange crystal below that I have to dodge. It also shoots a stream of metallic bugs at me, which I quickly shake off by pressing A. Every so often, I see the dirt below me shake, almost as if something is crawling underground. Tapping A over this dirt causes a purple and black bomb to appear, and I can smash this bomb into the ground to damage the boss.
Defeating the boss paves the way for me to reach a new swamp area, but my demo ends shortly after my exploration here began.
Cocoon is strange and mysterious, and I have no clue what’s going on narratively in it. Its world, ambiance, visual style, score, and resume of puzzles thus far are more than enough to ensure I check out the full game when it is released on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, and PC sometime this year.
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