Oct 10, 2023

On Cocoon — a Mind-Bending Puzzle Game

I usually write about software engineering stuff, mostly in web dev. This post isn't like the other posts. This one is about a videogame I played recently. It's called Cocoon and it's an awesome little game.

If you play videogames you probably have heard of 2D platformer games like Limbo and Inside. They're both great games that became very popular for their world design and puzzles. Well, the maker of Cocoon, Geometric Interactive, was founded by former employees of Playdead, the studio that made Limbo and Inside.

Cocoon has very similar elements from those previous games but it also is very different from them.

One similarity is the ridiculously simple controls. There's movement (which is the left stick in a controller or wasd in keyboard) and one action button. And that's it. Everything you can do in the game has been designed to work with that one key. And I love that simplicity.

But the game is in no way simple. It has beautiful art direction, mind-bending puzzles, and immerses us in its world. It does all that with zero tutorials on how the world works and one button to do everything in it. In the beginning, not having the game explain to us what to do was jarring. But that's only because games have conditioned us to expect a tutorial on how to do things.

Once I walked around with the protoganist — a cicada-like creature — I figured out what I'm supposed to do. And the things in the world(s) are designed in such a way that there's little to no ambiguity on what you can interact with. This is only one of several cues that the game gives you to make things a little easier for you.

The puzzles in the game are, like I mentioned before, mind-bending. That is for the most part is due to the fact that you're jumping between several worlds through these colored orb-like portals that you collect over the course of the game. Some puzzles make you jump between these worlds several times before you can solve them. So more than once, I felt like I broke the puzzle and thought I was stuck. I even loaded previous saves a couple of times to get out and retry.

But when you're on the right track, making the right moves, and close to finishing the puzzle, the background music swells. It serves as a cue to denote that you're close to solving the puzzle. Whenever I hear that swell, I get that satisfactory feeling of having figured out the puzzle.

After a few minutes into the game, we figure out that there are guardians for the worlds — giant creatures that we have to defeat. While the guardians themselves and the method to defeat them are unique, the way to get to the guardian of each world follows them same steps. By doing this, the game subtly tells us that we're getting close to a fight. And then we do meet the guardian, the game makes us do a trial run with the "weapon" it gives us.

Each world is varied in its environment and its mechanics. There are some common things but for the most part each world keeps us excited while we figure out how the world works.

After all that effort of solving the puzzles of each world and defeating the guardians, the game makes it worth it with a satisfying ending.

I might even do another playthrough just for doing some side quests and to see if I can finish the game faster. The game feels good for doing multiple playthroughs. If you like puzzle games, I urge you to try Cocoon. It takes only about 5-6 hours to finish the entire game. It's short, it's beautiful, and it's free with Xbox Game Pass if you have it. If not, the game is worth buying for a few hours of puzzle-solving fun.

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