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The RPS Advent Calendar 2023, December 4th

Did you ask for marbles for Christmas this year?

A close up of Horace the Endless Bear looking at a big pile of presents with his name on, next to a plate of cookies with a glass of milk. It's the 2023 RPS Advent Calendar!
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

The fourth game in our 2023 Advent Calendar is really carrying the world on its back.

Solve puzzles with balls and bugs in Cocoon!

Insect lad watches as a strange alien deposits a purple orb in Cocoon.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Annapurna Interactive

Ed: Cocoon is a puzzler where you play as an insect lad who carries orbs that contain entire worlds. You can treat these orbs like big marbles to manipulate the mysterious alien realms you inhabit, by, like, plopping them down on receptacles or rolling them through pipes. This is where the biomechanical world responds in turn, as gigantic doors yawn open, or platforms form beneath your feet like a network of veins.

So long as you've got a marble on your back, you're also able to use it like a ticket in and out of that world with the slickest of transitions. Through careful environmental cues and subtle gating, the game steers you towards simple solutions through your orb dips. That's what I like about Cocoon, I think. For folks allergic to puzzle games like me, it doesn't snag you on loads of complicated bits or a trillion different ways to fix a problem, but opts for an adventure smoothed out by neat twists on your magic marbles.

I've heard some puzzleheads haven't clicked with it because it's not complicated enough, which is fair! But I don't think that's what the game sets out to do. Yes, it wants to prod and tickle your brain a bit, but I'd say it's more like a massage. As you roll over the metallic knots of the world with your marbles, it presents you with interesting little problems and, crucially, a sense you're undoing the wrongs of some corrupted, godlike insects. Unfurling the world is the real treat.

Insect lad runs with a green orb towards a funnel in Cocoon.
Insect lad pulls an orb connected to a giant hermit crab that'll act as a bridge in Cocoon.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Annapurna Interactive

And as you unfurl, the patter of your insect lad's feet and the plop of your marbles provide a soothing accompaniment to relative silence. What this means is when the synth soundtrack kicks in, it elevates whatever you're uncovering or about to uncover. Again, even little snippets of a tune or the odd jingle can help push you towards a new discovery.

If you're a fan of insects, not a fan of puzzles, or like both things, I'd urge you to give Cocoon a go. It'll add some nice relaxing energy to your Christmas.

Alice Bee: Cocoon is one of those games that's quite hard to explain, because conceptually it has a bunch of layers to it, but in the course of playing it you can hold those layers in your head like tissue paper and understand them all. It starts to get confusing if you think too hard about it. It's like looking at a magic eye picture, if a magic eye picture contained more magic eye pictures, and also there's a nice beetle.

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