From Cocoon debuted last year, I was excited to test it out someday. From Jeppe Carlsen, former chief designer behind Playdead’s limbo And Inside, its 2022 reveal trailer was a huge hit among fans of the game Carlsen worked on. During this year’s Summer Game Festival, I finally got to play about 30 minutes of this weird sci-fi puzzle game and I don’t think it could have made a better first impression.
Immediately, Cocoon’s visual style made a strong impression. Its minimalist sci-fi aesthetic makes it feel like home in the Playdead series, though it’s important to note that this comes from Carlsen’s New Independent Geometric Interactive Studio. I control a metal bug like a metal bug without a clear goal: I try to explore the area I’m in deeper because that seems to be what I have to do.
However, quickly, I came across puzzles that were built into the surrounding alien environment. In my favorite puzzle, I drag a geometric prismatic sphere over a semicircle and in doing so rotate a nearby tower. There are shapes on this tower, and I have to memorize the order in which these shapes appear, and then cycle through the nearby grounded symbols based on those shapes in that order. On the other hand, I look to the horizon to discover what shapes, in what order, I need to interact with.
I wouldn’t call these puzzles challenging, but their serene and simple nature fits well with the relaxed atmosphere in the rest of Cocoon. As peaceful and relaxing as Cocoon, it’s also mysterious and a bit spooky, thanks in part to its stellar sound design. Sci-fi sounds, siren-like pops, and lingering notes create a track that’s less like a tune but more like aliens speaking through the music.
For most of my 30 minutes, I’ve been transporting large, ethereal orbs from one place to another, and every time I place this orb in the designated spot, something new happens, for allow me to move forward in my journey of discovery. The passage opens, the platform moves left and right, and the elevator activates. Occasionally, the orb on my bug’s back reveals pink-orange crystalline passages that were previously hidden from view, allowing me to access new areas. Other times, I complete a puzzle and get a honeybee-like drone that follows me and shoots down barriers in front of me, another method of reaching previously restricted areas. .
The climax of the demo is a boss battle. After plunging into the orb that I was transporting on my back, I arrived at a new area (and I also dashed into other spheres to get to new areas elsewhere in the demo). After solving a few puzzles, a giant alien moth appeared on the ground.
Because Cocoon doesn’t have traditional combat, or at least this demo doesn’t, my goal is to survive the boss fight. The moth darted back and forth across the arena, releasing a deadly pink-orange crystal below that I had to dodge. It also shoots a stream of metal bugs at me, which I quickly shake off by pressing A. Occasionally, I feel the ground below shake, almost as if something were crawling underground. Pressing A on this land spawns a purple and black bomb, and I can smash this bomb to the ground to damage the boss.
Defeating the boss opens the way for me to a new swamp area, but my demo ended shortly after my exploration here began.
The cocoon was strange and mysterious, and I had no idea what was going on in there. So far, the worlds, surroundings, visual style, scores, and resume of the puzzles are more than enough to warrant that I’ll watch the game through when it’s released on Xbox Series X. /S, Xbox One, Switch, and PC sometime this year.