Cocoon Review

An abs-ORB-ing puzzler on Nintendo Switch

By Paul Hunter

Cocoon has been on my radar as a game I've got to play and lucky for me recently Nintendo offered me a chance to review this breakout indie hit of 2023. The game is the latest from Jeppe Carlsen, who previously designed the incredible indie sensations Limbo and Inside.

I'm a big puzzle game fan and while Cocoon has all the staples of the genre like triggering switches, moving platforms and unlocking doors, it does so with a wholly originally world-within-world concept that's easy to grasp but challenging to master. Let's hatch this review together as we explore four things I liked about Cocoon...and one I'm mixed on.

Liked: Top-Notch Puzzles

If you're looking for a puzzle game with a deep narrative and intricate plot points you've come to the wrong place. Instead, Cocoon presents an engrossing game world rich in aesthetic beauty with no dialogue, reading or UI whatsoever.

You play as a bug-like creature that hatches from a cocoon in a dusty desert land and must solve puzzles using coloured orbs. These orbs are actually worlds that you can dive into by placing them in the centre of special platforms that then ooze a shallow liquidy pool you can jump into. Diving between worlds sends you deeper into the mystery of what exactly is occurring in this universe.

The puzzles in this game are extremely well thought out and you'll learn to overcome challenges naturally through experimentation and observing the world around you. It's impressive how Cocoon doesn't give you any instructions whatsoever, yet with a little thinking it's fairly straightforward to overcome obstacles—at least for the first two-thirds of the experience. After that point, you'll really need to grasp more advanced strategies like how you can place worlds within worlds or even put multiple worlds within a single world.

Wrapping your head around some of the later challenges takes some real thought power but the satisfaction of overcoming said challenges is immense. You'll learn that you place worlds within words and then transport both worlds to new locations, which will help you solve new puzzles. Worlds can also interact with each other, such as taking an action in one world that has a downstream effect in other worlds. This is truly a one-of-a-kind puzzle game with some Matrix-y mind-bending puzzles unlike any I've encountered before.

Liked: Orb Powers

On top of physically exploring each coloured orb world, the orbs themselves provide you with some cool special abilities that also need to be used when solving puzzles. The orange orb can show you hidden platforms, the green orb can temporal phase platforms off and on, and there are other orbs with unique abilities to discover.

It's amazing how seamlessly you can transition from one coloured world to another, like how you might start in the orange world, but then need to visit the purple world before re-emerging back into the orange world. What's even more impressive is how Cocoon has the simplest control scheme of any game I've played in recent memory. You use the left stick to control your insect creature and all interactions with the world use a single action button.

Using your orbs' powers you'll eventually find a pyramid-shaped drone in each world that will follow you and lower barriers that create shortcuts and ways to progress further into the world. The drones eventually act as a key of sorts that fits into a triangular crevice in a device resembling a space shuttle, which then opens a gigantic door leading to another world.

The amount of thought that went into crafting all the puzzles you'll face is mind-boggling, but what impressed me, even more, is that there's no way to make a mistake that locks you out of further progress. Usually upon entering a new zone, the previous zone will become temporarily inaccessible to give you a big hint that the next puzzle's solution is staring you in the face, even if in the moment you can't yet see it.

Liked: Challenging Boss Fights

Though Cocoon barely has any gameplay that could be considered action-oriented, things change dramatically when you face each world's boss master. Each boss has their own unique attack patterns that must be learned and countered as even a single misstep will have the boss scoop you up and throw you back into the hub world. To defeat bosses you'll need to have a perfect run where you've mastered how to counteract all their attacks and whittled down their health without getting hit once. It can be a little frustrating at times, but thankfully the bosses aren't too hard (except for one late-game boss!)

Liked: Impressive Aesthetics

Cocoon is a gorgeous game with a captivating art style that seamlessly blends futuristic alien machinery with organic biomechanical components. To get across alien-like platforms you might need to extend a fleshy bridge, or you may need to pick organic berries that mysteriously become a marble-like orb upon harvesting. The game's vibe is thoroughly unique and I suppose the closest comparison would actually be Scorn as that game also blended organic material with advanced machinery, although Cocoon is far more mysterious than it is creepy.

Each world you'll visit has a distinct personality that goes far beyond the colour theme that permeates it. The green world, for instance, is like a moist, twisty fjord which provides a stark contrast to the orange world's dusty and dry environments. The purple world is the most organic of the bunch and also differs greatly from the white world, which is the most futuristic and alien of them all.

Cocoon's soundtrack and audio effects also help to immerse you in these mysterious worlds. Whether it's the far-off electronic murmurings, droning winds or unfamiliar hip-hop beats, I appreciate how the soundscape matches the game's design so thoroughly. I also admire the juxtaposition between the squishy organic sounds as you walk around or interact with objects, versus the harsh metallic sounds that emanate from the foreign alien machinery.

Mixed: Short Length

Cocoon is a short experience overall, lasting about five hours. I don't mind shorter games, in fact late last year I played through Jusant which can be beaten in a similar timeframe. But with Cocoon, the game really starts to get interesting in the latter half of the game when the puzzles get more complex and really make you think. Just as the game hits its stride the experience neatly wraps up, which is a shame as even another couple of hours could have brought out the game's full potential.

If you're the type that loves to dig deep into your games, Cocoon thankfully does offer a decent amount of replay value. Tucked away in each world are some ultra-tough secrets that when solved will unlock the game's true ending. To make things easier, you can instantly warp back to any checkpoint through the whole game to re-explore the worlds and uncover the cleverly-hidden secrets within.

The Verdict

In an era of derivative games offering similar experiences, Cocoon is a much-needed breath of fresh air. The mind-bending worlds within worlds concept is something I've never experienced before and racked my brain—with the payoff being worth the effort. It's a beautiful game with new ideas and I loved every minute of it.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Cocoon details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Geometric Interactive
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A key was provided by the publisher.