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COCOON Review - Butterflies INSIDE My Stomach


COCOON Review by SilentSigns

9/29/23

PC/XBOX/PS/SWITCH

Geometric Interactive/Annapurna Interactive


We’ve all gathered here for the same reason, right? What the hell is Cocoon, and will it be as peculiarly satisfying as LIMBO and INSIDE? Well, I played it and I’m still not sure, but let's try to break it down anyway!


It's pretty challenging to glean any sort of story points from the bizarre visuals of Cocoon upon first glance, and I don't want to touch down in spoiler territory, so just know this: you play as an insect-like explorer with the ability to leap between worlds to delve deeper into the mystery of what exactly is occurring in this universe. How does one world hop, exactly? Turns out, you just need some giant marbles and a platform that looks like a pool fit for Narcissus to get lost in.


gross landscape
COCOON has disgustingly beautiful visuals

The whole point of Cocoon seems to be gathering these marble-esque orbs that can instantly transport you to new locations and provide you temporary special abilities while they’re in your physical possession. These abilities can include revealing hidden pathways, creating marble clones from peculiar purple mushrooms and more. You can also transplant these orbs onto a set of legs, which will follow you through all manners of mazes. Along your travels, you’ll encounter bosses, each with a distinct pattern that must be learned and perfected in order to progress forward.


Cocoon has probably the most simplistic control scheme I've encountered this year (and possibly ever) for a puzzle platformer. Playing on controller, you have your left stick to guide our protagonist and a single action button to interact with literally everything. If you prefer options, you can also turn on a mode that enables you to control the trajectory of our main character with the right OR left stick. That's it. That's the entire game. There are no challenging inputs to memorize and no sophisticated platforming whatsoever. Hell, you can't even jump! What you do need to do, however, is solve puzzles and there is no shortage of mind-bending conundrums to contend with here.


When it comes to puzzle platformers, so many games rely on standards of the genre like finding the right code to unlock a lock, triggering switches by moving blocks, or locating a specific key to unlock a door. I probably just described the basis of countless games you've played before in the puzzle platforming genre and beyond. To some extent, all of these traditions live on in Cocoon. It still *feels* like a puzzle platformer in that it keeps the bare fundamentals of this genre alive, but there is very much a twist to everything. You'll retrieve codes, but they're cryptic symbols that unlock a pyramid-shaped drone that will follow you. Instead of locating a key, these same drones fit into triangular crevices in devices that look like space shuttles, opening up a door to another world. Those traditional "blocks" and "switches"? Replaced with orbs that open up new portals. Cocoon feels so familiar yet completely foreign at the same time. You can't shake the feeling that this is what it would be like if Martians made a videogame.


pulling a box
The puzzles in COCOON are very challenging

Cocoon is on the shorter side, though your mileage may vary depending upon how quickly you solve puzzles and adapt to new mechanics. While I sailed through most of the beginning with ease, I did find myself stuck on a few occasions and almost set the controller aside and called it a day. I didn't, and my quick step away for perspective allowed me to find the correct solution, but you will definitely need to think outside of your lived videogame experience if you wish to succeed with this one. A lot of puzzles can be solved by utilizing multiples of these marble worlds at a time. Storing worlds within other worlds and trying things you don't believe could possibly work are an absolute must. Cocoon is not for those that thrive on a deep narrative story to carry them through, as there will be nothing here to keep you afloat.


There is, however, an incredibly captivating art style featured in an environment so strange on the eyes, you can't help but want to know what will unfold around the next turn. Each world in Cocoon's universe is dramatically different from the last--some beautiful, others harsh and hostile. These locations have a graphically organic feel to them, making them appear alive and breathing. I hate to make this comparison (if you know, you know), but at times Cocoon reads like a less aimless and more beautiful Scorn. Don't get me wrong, it's far less violent and the puzzles are nearly as grotesque, but something about the way that hills appear as fleshy dumplings and purple fungus pulses below your feet has that distinctly "alive" quality. The bosses and even some of the set pieces have an otherworldly essence, appearing as biblically accurate insects, haloed in inky shadows and swirling rings with countless eyes. There's a beauty to it all, for sure, but that beauty is an acquired taste. First impressions may leave you perplexed, but the mystery of it all draws you in eventually.

green creature
The game can be completed in a short amount of time depending on your skill level

Music in Cocoon is just as cryptic as the game’s visuals, featuring distantly futuristic electronic murmurings that sound like what I imagine extraterrestrial creatures would listen to on their down time. Like "lo-fi hip hop beats to study the conquering of other planets to," except to our ears it comes across as droning winds and synth. While you won't find me listening to this soundtrack outside of gameplay, I fully appreciate the beauty in matching the soundscape to the game's design so meticulously. It's wonderfully terrifying in the best way.


So, what is Cocoon? After laying it all out on paper, I'm still not sure, but I certainly recommend you play it so we can figure that out together. What I can promise you are challenging puzzles in a foreign landscape that will bend your brain in all the right ways and force you to think outside the box, er, orb.


PROS

+ Challenging yet rewarding puzzles

+ Oddly beautiful and fluid visuals

+ Eerie soundtrack


CONS

- Some frustrating solutions

- Lacks any sort of obvious storyline

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