Cocoon is a visually engrossing and mentally stimulating puzzle game. The setting stood out to me first. It is acutely alien, with fantastical flora, critters that are both cute and creepy, and environments that feel different from the classic video game biomes. The whole package is sold by a plethora of bespoke and fluid animations, in addition to sound design that is more atmospheric rather than melodical. Each "world" is contained within an orb, and the player can move in and out of these orbs, while also manipulating them inside each other, which forms the core of the puzzle gameplay. The pacing of the game felt unique too, as there isn't much of a clear structure to when you find new orbs or fight bosses, adding to the wonder and mystery of the world. Although there's not a clear story or narrative, I did find myself attached to each of my orbs in a very organic and funny way, much like the companion cube in Portal.
As the player you can only move and do a few actions: grab or release an object (you can also long press the button to activate some elements). Everything happens with one button, and with an accessibility option in the menu, any combination of joysticks and face/trigger buttons on a controller can be used for the game. (Sidenote: I love playing lazily with one hand and having the option to switch my grip whenever a hand gets tired. So few games are playable like this.) There aren't many actions, but each orb (and each world within) has unique mechanics so there ends up being a decent variety in gameplay. There are also boss fights which have you dodging in various ways and damaging a weak spot using a key object unique to that fight.
A single word I would use to describe the gameplay is "smooth". The puzzles slowly escalate, and never focus on one mechanic too long before moving on to the next thing. Some of the more mind-bendy twists of the world-within-world concept are only used once and then never again. The game is very strict about keeping the player on-track, and fail states are impossible (natural gates automatically appear at various stages to lock the player into an area, preventing needless backtracking when stuck). Once realizing this, it's easy to deduce solutions as every element in the area was necessary and nothing superfluous was kept. Because of this, and the fact that the possible actions are always quite limited, I never found any puzzle difficult and there's always exactly one solution for each one. This rigid approach to puzzle design eliminates a lot of frustration that can be present in other puzzle games, but also reduces the creativity and "eureka" moments. There are plenty of clever puzzles here, but I attributed that cleverness mostly to the designers for creating them, rather than myself for finding the solutions. This could have been a game with zero frustration, except for one late-game boss fight which tested my patience by requiring several sequences of precise timing and aim.
I loved this game mostly because of its atmosphere, fluid controls, and concise playtime. The puzzles were clever, and despite never truly testing me, it was a pleasure simply discovering all the twists the designers devised. The fluidity of the movement and animations made the game fun to interact with as well. I highly recommend this one, and due to it's friendly level design, it could be great for novices of the genre as well.
Reviewed on Oct 08, 2023