Cocoon is clever, gorgeous, and brilliant so far | Hands-on preview

by on September 14, 2023

Often these days, you can get an idea of it a game is for you before you’ve played it, with the final piece of the puzzle being the question: “but how does it feel”. After spending some time with Cocoon, the latest published title from Annapurna Interactive, I can confirm that it feels as good as it looks, which is to say: it’s pretty fantastic so far.

At first, the closest comparison I’d make for Cocoon is that it’s a game a bit like Limbo. You know the type: Inside, Little Nightmares, etc, and this makes a lot of sense given it’s developed by Jeppe Carlsen, lead gameplay designer on both Limbo and Inside. But on closer inspection, it actually seems more like Far: Changing Tides, because it just seems more involved. There’s much less meandering around atmospheric corridors, and it’s less about peril for your insectoid-like creature, and more about solving puzzles in a tactile, meaningful way.


Here, you carry each puzzle world on your back, leaping between worlds and manipulating objects to forge new paths. An early puzzle surprised me because I’m so used to games in this style feeling slightly automated, but here you are able to ride a lift and move off when need be to create a solution. It’s difficult to articulate without showing, but imagine those games where you move an object to a very specific set place in the world, to allow you to progress. You can’t jump on it unless it’s in that exact place? This isn’t that; it’s the opposite of that, and the tactile nature brings everything to life.

The universe here feels incredibly alien, and jumping from barren desert wastelands to industrial style spaceship designs is exciting and rewarding. There’s a beauty in every environment, though, and the audio design feels sparse, yet also incredibly correct for what is surrounding you.

Cocoon’s puzzles are sometimes easy, and sometimes mentally demanding. It’s been more than a few years since I last had to do it, but an early puzzle got me drawing symbols on a bit of paper in the real world. Unsure of the exact solution, I was sketching badly drawn glyphs onto my sheet of A4, hoping I wasn’t confusing myself further, and that my logic leaps were founded; and I was right.


And that’s the thing, while puzzles might be taxing, they don’t seem obtuse. Despite a world that is inspired by its genre-mates, and even the FromSoft style of show don’t tell, the actual puzzle solutions never feel beyond you. As you progress, you will gain new powers, but this is a game that starts out with a left stick for movement, and the A-button for action. It’s simple, and it really does just work.

For example, each “world” you carry on your back is an orb with a specific power. I won’t go into details as I’d rather you discovered it for yourself, but it’s not long before you’re carrying one world into another, because the orbs also power machinery, but also the powers they hold are solutions later in the level. Suddenly you’re world-hopping to make use of one power in another world, and vice-versa. It’s all masterfully done, and intuition is rewarded. Even within the first 30-60 minutes there are “wow” moments. And as if that weren’t enough you can go off the beaten path to find secrets, which is rewarding, too.

Then of course, there’s the boss fights. Each of these I’ve played so far is exciting and offers a twist on the world you are in. You still only have movement and the single action button, but you do have to damage the bosses. Honestly, if nothing else, Cocoon has left me reminded that you don’t always need a hundred buttons, deep lore, and ridiculously complex combat. Cocoon communicates what it is and what it requires you do without verbally needing to. There’s no tutorial text; no narrator telling you what to do.


Here, you’re alone in the world, working it out as you go, but the world is so clean and clear to understand, you won’t need any of the usual hand-holding. Every time I thought about stopping, I just wanted a little bit more. I wanted to discover what was around the corner,, what new power might come next, or what clever boss battle I’d have to beat to progress.

There’s already so many “moments” and things I want to discuss about the game, but I won’t, because it’s not out yet. But you’ll scratch your head and then find a solution, and you’ll feel brilliant and like a genius for doing it. The design is such that each new puzzle type gives you time to understand, then conquer it, and it just feels excellent.

Cocoon is a clever, tactile, responsive game so far that has ignited a fuel in me to it and unravel the mysteries it holds. It’s not often something comes out of left field, taking you by surprise and leaping right onto that “top ten of the year” list with new ideas and fresh thinking, but unless Cocoon somehow fumbles it’s landing towards the end, I’d be shocked if this wasn’t one people were talking about in the same breath as some of the truly big hitters of 2023, including those still to come. Make space for this one, folks, because this could be an incredible adventure.

Cocoon is coming to PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and Nintendo Switch on September 29th.