Posts with «author_name|aaron souppouris» label

Valve’s next game appears to be Deadlock, a MOBA hero shooter

According to a pair of content creators, the wait for a new Valve game is almost over: A third-person hero shooter called Deadlock is in closed alpha and an announcement seems imminent.

The game has apparently been in the works since 2018, with IceFrog, a developer synonymous with the original DotA mod, in charge. It’s reportedly what became of the Neon Prime project that has been rumored for a couple of years. Tyler McVicker, a veteran Valve reporter, and the content creator Gabe Follower, have this week both independently confirmed the game is in an advanced state of development.

“In terms of scope,” McVicker says, “this is meant to be Valve's next major competitive game. The next Counter-Strike. The next Dota.” He describes it as Valve’s attempt to bring the company’s various game communities together, with precise gunplay and the laning objectives of a MOBA. McVicker describes it as looking “like Valorant, Overwatch, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 had a baby.”

The new title is apparently based in a “fantasy setting mixed with steampunk,” a marked shift from prior reports on the project that described Neon Prime as sci-fi inspired. Gabe Follower posted four screenshots on X which show something a little more subdued than the Overwatch and Valorant comparisons might imply.

Since testers started sharing Deadlock screenshots all over the place, here's ones I can verify, featuring one of the heroes called Grey Talon.

— ‎Gabe Follower (@gabefollower) May 17, 2024

The images show six vs. six gameplay across four lanes — suggesting a mix of solo lanes and two vs. two action across the map. It also shows ‘transit lines’ that can get players back to lane faster, like League of Legends’ hex gates. McVicker says these transit lines are inspired by BioShock: Infinite’s Sky-Hook system.

Outside of Counter-Strike 2 and Half-Life: Alyx, it’s been a hell of a long time since Valve released an all-new, big-scope title, and it’s been even longer since the company launched an all-new IP. McVicker says Deadlock is currently in a closed alpha, with “hundreds” of people playing. Of course, this is Valve, so it’s never too late for the project to be killed. But with June traditionally being a big month for video game news, it's not impossible we'll hear something official soon.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Cities: Skylines 2's embarrassed developers are giving away beachfront property for free

Cities: Skylines 2 developer Colossal Order is unlisting and refunding purchases of its controversial Beach Properties asset pack less than a month after its release. It’s also significantly delaying the game's future DLC and console port.

Beach Properties was the first paid DLC for Cities: Skylines 2, and has an “Overwhelmingly Negative” rating on Steam, with just 4 percent of user reviews marked as positive. In a note announcing the reverse of course, Colossal Order CEO Mariina Hallikainen said the company had let its community down. 

“We thought we could make up for the shortcomings of the game in a timeframe that was unrealistic, and rushed out a DLC that should not have been published in its current form," Hallikainen said. "For all this, we are truly sorry.”

The asset pack itself worked as advertised, adding a number of zoneable waterfront-style properties to the game, but it was definitely thin for the $9.99 asking price. Most will admit, though, that the content itself wasn’t the problem: The DLC was largely derided because it was released at a time when players were waiting on patches for the base game. Cities: Skylines 2 was released in a poorly optimized state in October 2023, and although it’s in better shape now, many in the community feel there are fundamental issues with the simulation, and there is still work to be done to make the game run better. Mod support — perhaps the reason that the original Cities: Skylines had such a long lifespan — was also slow to arrive, and is still only in beta, with no support for custom assets.

In an FAQ accompanying the announcement, Colossal Order explains how the refund and compensation program will work. Essentially, if you bought the DLC separately, you should be able to get a refund. Those who redeemed a code as part of the game's Deluxe or Ultimate editions will not. Instead, compensation will come in the form of creator asset packs and radio stations which Colossal Order says will "total around $39.99 in added value." The beachfront properties will be added to the base game, free of charge, for all players.

To call Cities: Skylines 2’s launch messy would be kind. Since the game’s release on PC last October, developer Colossal Order has burned through the goodwill it built up over a near-decade of the original game’s lifespan. Things came to a head in late January, when many of the community's loudest and most respected voices broke rank to talk openly about the game's issues.

Another casualty of today's announcement is the game's console release. Cities: Skylines 2 was supposed to launch simultaneously on PC and console, but the PS5 and Xbox versions were pushed back to spring 2024 weeks before release. It has been clear for some time that revised date was not going to happen, and Colossal Order confirmed it's now hoping to have the console ports ready for October.

The final piece of bad news is that Bridges & Ports — the first expansion pack that will go beyond assets — is going to be further delayed to Q1 2025 to allow the developers to "focus on additional free patches and game updates in the coming months." The expansion pack was supposed to be released in Q2 2024, and is included in the game's Ultimate Edition.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Engadget is turning 20

This Saturday, on March 2, 2024, Engadget turns 20. Originally founded by Peter Rojas — you can read more about those early days here — the site has had eight editors-in-chief and, to my count, seven parent organizations to answer to. What started as a truly influential tech blog has morphed into a media organization aiming to break news, give no-BS buying advice and highlight the stories in tech that matter. We have written millions of words, we've won awards and we’ve somehow survived several media apocalypses. It’s been a ride — and if you’ve been with us since the start, we salute you.

To mark the occasion, our team has been thinking about how the tech industry has changed over the past two decades. At the heart of our anniversary package is a collection of over a dozen retrospectives of seminal gadgets and apps that did not exist 20 years ago, illustrated by the brilliant Koren Shadmi

Engadget, believe it or not, is older than YouTube, the iPhone, Uber, WhatsApp, Android, Tesla EVs and countless other things that are a huge part of our lives today.

We planned to open this month of celebration with a letter from the editor, but last Friday, Engadget’s parent company laid off several people from our small team, including our editor-in-chief, Dana Wollman, and our managing editor, Terrence O’Brien.

Though the site does not yet have an editor-in-chief, we do have a strong leadership team that has collectively been at the site for decades. There is no way for things to be “business as usual,” but we are committed to pushing Engadget forward.

While it’s a bittersweet time to be celebrating an anniversary, the show must go on. Having edited Dana’s letter before it was due to be published, I want to take the opportunity to borrow her main talking points, which are more important to the remaining team than ever before:

  • People who love tech are still at the heart of this website. Though our masthead is smaller, this is no less true than it was at any point in the last 20 years — you just don’t get into tech journalism without caring about tech.

  • All of the stories you see on Engadget are written by human beings. Like all humans, we make mistakes sometimes. If you see a typo or even a misstated fact, you can blame the person behind the keyboard, not a robot.

So, happy birthday to us. We’re kicking things off with a look back at how streaming video changed the fabric of the internet. In the coming days and weeks we’ll have many more articles, including a guest post from Tim Stevens, our editor-in-chief from 2011-2013, on the legacy of the Tesla Model S. Stick around through March for plenty more stories and a heavy dose of nostalgia.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Microsoft should exit the console business

After listening to yesterday’s Xbox Podcast, where the company announced it was bringing four older titles to non-Xbox consoles, a question popped into my head: Why does Microsoft, a software and services company, need a console business?

The same question was asked when The Rock announced the original Xbox console in 2001, but the industry has changed a lot in 23 years, and it’s worth asking again. Microsoft, after initially struggling to make an impact with the Xbox, firmly established itself as a top player with the Xbox 360, before settling for second place with the Xbox One and currently finding itself in a distant third with the Xbox Series consoles.

As much as the industry has changed, no company in it has changed more than Microsoft. It is now a mega-publisher of games, with over 30 in-house studios. Many of these development teams are world-renowned, with a rich, multi-platform history. It’s also the operator of one of the largest game subscription services in the world, Game Pass. Microsoft’s plan has been clear for all to see: Sell a console and upsell a subscription service filled with games produced at cost by in-house studios.

There’s just one problem: It doesn’t have the audience.

Diablo IV, released June 5, 2023, will be the first Activision Blizzard game on Game Pass next month.
Blizzard Entertainment

The pandemic years saw rapid growth of Game Pass, which rose from 10 million subscribers in April 2020 to 25 million in January 2022. Since then, it’s added just 9 million subscribers, with the current total standing at 34 million. Any thoughts that Game Pass could emulate Netflix’s decade of growth are long-gone, but there’s a crucial difference between the two services: Netflix doesn’t try to sell its customers $400 boxes to watch Netflix.

Microsoft has struggled with the duality of its gaming strategy: A subscription service requires a constant churn of content to feel worthwhile, but a console requires “system sellers” that attract people to buy it over the competition. Those are very different things, with wildly different budgets and timelines. Game Pass, no matter how attractive, is not a system seller by itself.

While Microsoft has balanced its dual goals of Game Pass growth and console sales, its competitors have stolen its audience. Nintendo and Sony are laser-focused on exclusive experiences for their customers, which they both see as key to selling consoles. Microsoft has once again found its hardware outsold 2:1 by Sony, and the Switch has likely outsold the Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles combined. While Sony is increasingly understanding the power of the PC market, and Nintendo is still maintaining at least a couple of its money-spinning mobile games, there is little chance of either company’s overall console strategy changing.

Pentiment, released November 15, 2022, is rumored to be one of the first Xbox exclusives coming to other consoles.

Microsoft’s pledge to bring four unnamed titles to “other consoles,” then, is intriguing. I subscribe to Game Pass, but I’m not sure I would’ve paid $30 for Hi-Fi Rush or $40 for Grounded, no matter how much I enjoy either of those games. From the way Xbox chief Phil Spencer described the company's cross-platform quartet, there seems a reasonable chance that those games, together with Pentiment and Sea of Thieves, are the subject of this experiment:

“We looked at games that are over a year old … A couple of the games are community-driven games, new games, kind of first iterations of a franchise that have reached their full potential, let's say, on Xbox and PC … Two of the other games are smaller games that were never really meant to be built as kind of platform exclusives and all the fanfare that goes around that, but games that our teams really wanted to go build that we love supporting creative endeavors across our studios regardless of size.”

Porting these four titles to other platforms is not going to do much to change Microsoft’s fortunes. Yes, I’m pleased that more people will get a chance to play Hi-Fi Rush and Pentiment, and I’m sure Microsoft will make some money from Switch and PlayStation owners. But from Microsoft’s perspective, why give your potential audience four fewer reasons to buy an Xbox?

Cloud streaming, and the ability to turn any screen into an Xbox, is clearly the long-term plan for Microsoft. There has been some progress in getting its app on more platforms, but few TVs or streaming boxes support Microsoft’s Game Pass app for cloud streaming, and Xbox Cloud still isn’t close enough to local play to be a viable option for many games. More expensive options like GeForce Now show some promise, but it’s clear that cloud gaming is not going to be a viable primary gaming platform for the masses for many years.

Xbox Cloud Gaming is available through an Android app or via a browser on iOS.

In the meantime, what does Microsoft do? We’re likely approaching the midway point of this console generation, and its current systems have a comparatively tiny audience. Game Pass subscriptions are slowing, and there isn’t a viable way for PlayStation or Switch players who don’t own a gaming PC to play Xbox games. It’s a lot like the Xbox One generation, except Microsoft now owns roughly $76 billion more game studios. In this landscape, it’s easy to understand the rumors of top-tier Xbox games being released on other consoles after a brief exclusivity window.

The economics of making big games for small audiences are tough. 2024 looks set to be a better year for Microsoft, with first-party titles like Hellblade II, Indiana Jones and the Great Circle and Avowed on the way. But even combined, it seems unlikely that these titles will grow Xbox sales or Game Pass subscriptions significantly. Few gamers are willing to commit to a second console, let alone a third.

As a third-tier player in the console market, there’s really no easy road to success. To release AAA titles on PlayStation would increase the sales of Microsoft games massively, but it could also erase the point of owning an Xbox. Microsoft could probably afford to go multiplatform while maintaining a console business if it had some true AAA franchises to hold back, but despite spending $69 billion on Activision Blizzard, it agreed to not make its new-found system seller, Call of Duty, exclusive to Xbox until 2034. Halo and Forza are not enough in 2024.

So… maybe it’s time for Microsoft to stop making consoles, and just focus on becoming the biggest company in gaming. I’d almost suggest that was the plan, were it not for Phil Spencer confirming future hardware was on the way. It’s obviously not viable to abandon this console generation, but it’s definitely viable to begin planning for a graceful exit from hardware by developing for rival platforms.

If Microsoft believes in the transition to cloud gaming, it should not be planning to release a next-generation console. Why keep losing a console war you believe is about to end? Stepping back from its competition with Sony and focusing on making the best games for the largest audience would put the Xbox division in the strongest position to capitalize on the post-console future. Publishers like Ubisoft and EA already sell subscriptions on the PlayStation store, and Microsoft could, too — a subscription with every Call of Duty and Bethesda game would probably go down well with PlayStation gamers.

While Microsoft waits for cloud gaming to become viable for the billions of active players around the world, the best place for its games, and Game Pass, might be PlayStation, Switch and PC.

Jessica Conditt contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II finally arrives on May 21

We finally have a release date for Ninja Theory's Hellblade sequel: May 21, 2024. It's been over four years since Senua's Saga was announced at the 2019 Game Awards alongside Microsoft's (then next-gen) Xbox Series X console. 

The first game in the series, Senua's Sacrifice, focused on the main character's journey to the realm of the dead, and her battle with mental health issues. Saga will focus on Senua tracking down the Vikings who have been raiding her home town. Expect more "perception puzzles led by her experiences of psychosis," along with some pretty standard video game combat, but this time, in Iceland!

As you'd expect for a first-party title, Senua's Saga will arrive on Microsoft's Game Pass service for Xbox consoles and PC on day one. For those without Game Pass, it'll be a digital-only release priced at $50. PC users will be able to buy it on either the Xbox store or Steam. 

Senua returns in a brutal journey of survival. Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, coming May 21 | #DeveloperDirect

— Xbox (@Xbox) January 18, 2024

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Sega is resurrecting its classics including Jet Set Radio, Crazy Taxi and Golden Axe

Sega promised a new era at The Game Awards, and it gave us five games to look forward to. Well, "new" is doing a lot of heavy lifting: The storied developer announced that fresh titles are coming based on Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Shinobi, Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. 

Depending on your age, those titles may mean various things to you. Golden Axe and Shinobi have their roots in the arcades of the '80s, while Streets of Rage is a Genesis classic. Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio were both released in the Dreamcast era (with Crazy Taxi making its debut in arcades first). 

Several prominent fighting game creators received physical invites from Sega to tune into The Game Awards, fueling speculation that a Virtua Fighter revival was part of the company's plans for the event. Unless Sega is holding another trailer back, it looks like those folks will be leaving a little disappointed. 

Sega’s parent company SegaSammy has been awkwardly talking about a "Super Game" project since 2021. The term was only really defined as a game capable of making hundreds of millions of dollars for Sega. Super! In the same investor presentation, the company openly contemplated reviving “dormant” properties like Virtua Fighter, Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi by way of remasters, remakes and reboots.

Other game series listed for revival, such as Space Channel 5, Panzer Dragoon and Streets of Rage, have seen some action. Space Channel 5 got a remastered VR port, Panzer Dragoon got a remake and Streets of Rage got an excellent new numbered release, Streets of Rage 4, developed and published by third parties under license from Sega.

Four of the new titles appear from the tiny glimpses in Sega's trailer to be high-budget 3D affairs. The Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio revivals seem to be glossy HD takes on the games they're based on, while the Golden Axe reboot in particular is unrecognizable from the 2D scroller it's based on. Streets of Rage also appears to be going all-3D. Only Shinobi looks somewhat familiar, using a 2D style close to Dotemu's Windjammers 2 and Streets of Rage 4.


The Sega of today is very different to the one that made the originals. The turn of the century saw Sega battle through a multi-stage midlife crisis in search of a new identity; The Dreamcast was in the process of being thoroughly outsold by Sony’s PlayStation 2, leading Sega to exit the console business in 2001. At the same time, the ‘90s arcade revival that saw Sega become a technology leader was fading fast.

After some missteps in the early days of third-party publishing, and an acquisition by pachinko manufacturer Sammy, Sega began to find its feet. The mid ‘00s saw the debut of the Yakuza series, and the company has made several key acquisitions since, such as Sports Interactive (Football Manager), Creative Assembly (Total War), Relic Entertainment (Warhammer), Atlus, (Megami Tensei/Persona) and, most recently, Angry Birds maker Rovio. It’s also seen success in cinemas with its Sonic the Hedgehog movies.

And here I am just waiting on a new Seaman game.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Netflix's new 3 Body Problem trailer reveals a delay to March 2024

Netflix’s new prestige sci-fi show is delayed until March 22, 2024. 3 Body Problem was originally scheduled to debut in 2023, before being pushed back to January 2024, and now March. Just as the initial delay was accompanied by a teaser trailer, so too is this one:

3 Body Problem is being adapted by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (who created HBO's Game of Thrones) alongside screenwriter Alexander Woo. The new trailer gives us our first look at the series’ key “video game,” Three-Body, which involves a nebulous and extremely shiny VR headset. According to John Bradley’s character Jack Rooney, the headset has "no screen... no headphone jack... not even a charging port." Donning the headset transports Rooney to a hyper-realistic world, before he’s swiftly ejected and the trailer ends.

The show's source material is The Three-Body Problem, the first novel in Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth's Past series. Originally released in the mid ’00s in China, it gained international recognition and a Hugo award when Tor Books published an English-language translation in 2014. Netflix’s ill-grammared take on the book was announced in 2020, and stars Benedict Wong, Eiza González and several Game of Thrones alums including Jonathan Pryce and the aforementioned Bradley.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Analogue 3D is a Nintendo 64 for modern times

With shipments of its Pocket handheld console finally under control, Analogue is turning its attention to a whole new retro machine. The Analogue 3D aims to be the ultimate Nintendo 64, playing original cartridges on modern 4K displays. I’d love to show it to you, but Analogue is only releasing a teaser image and a few key specs today.

The Analogue 3D is the latest in a line of consoles from the company that emulate retro hardware. All of Analogue’s machines use field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) that are coded to mimic original hardware. Rather than playing ROM files like most software emulators, Analogue consoles play original media — in this case N64 carts — without the downsides that software emulation often brings, such as increased input lag or visual imperfections.


Analogue started out with boutique recreations of Neo Geo and NES hardware, before targeting a more casual audience with systems that mimicked the SNES and Genesis. Its most splashy release to date is the Pocket, which emulates a variety of handhelds. There’s also the TurboGrafx-like Analogue Duo, which was announced in 2020 and, after some delays, will apparently ship this year.

That may seem like a disparate group of consoles, but there is one thing that ties them together: they’re all pretty primitive. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll remember consoles being referred to as 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit and so on. A lot of that was marketing, but the hardware of 8-bit systems is broadly less complex to recreate than that of 16-bit systems, and so on. As the first true “64-bit” console on the market, the N64 is by far the most complex system Analogue has tackled to date. Its 64-bit 93.75MHz CPU was wild for a $200 console — even if most developers still wrote 32-bit code for it — and its Silicon Graphics “reality coprocessor” was the stuff of (extremely nerdy) playground legend. They made the T-rex from Jurassic Park with (better versions of) that thing!


The Analogue 3D is described as a “reimagining” of Nintendo’s console, and the company is promising 100 percent compatibility with carts from all regions. It will output at 4K resolution with Original Display Modes that target “reference quality recreations” of specific CRTs and PVMs. To translate, that means Analogue is building filters that might, for example, make a modern OLED or LCD display feel more like a dope mid-'90s Sony Trinitron TV. No word on whether they’re baking in a recreation of the weird LG TV with legs I played on for most of the ’00s.

Internals aside, the N64 has a small library of games and a mistake of a controller, but there are some classics in there. On the first-party side, The Legand of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask have both held up to decades of scrutiny, and Mario 64, some camera issues aside, is as fun to play in 2023 as it was in 1996. Then there’s Paper Mario, Mario Kart 64, F-Zero X, Star Fox 64, Super Smash Bros. and countless others. Rare also did some fantastic work on the N64 with the likes of GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Diddy Kong Racing and Conker's Bad Fur Day

Quality third-party titles were harder to come by, but Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Mischief Makers, Harvest Moon 64 and the Turok games are all worth checking out. (I personally spent more time playing Horse in an average port of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater than any of these, but there’s no accounting for taste.)

Analogue / 8BitDo

One thing very few people remember fondly is the N64’s three-paddled controller, which at the time felt fine but boy was it not. The Analogue 3D will have four controller ports, just like the original N64, but it thankfully also supports Bluetooth and 2.4G wireless connectivity. 8BitDo will be releasing a companion controller for the console, which is all-but invisible in the picture above. After some toying around in Photoshop, it appears to be very similar to the company’s Ultimate controller, but with C-buttons where the regular face buttons would be, the A+B buttons replacing the right analog stick and a big ol' start button in the middle.

There’s no word yet on price — early Analogue machines cost a lot, but its more recent efforts have been more palatable. The Analogue Duo, which has a CD drive inside, cost $250 when pre-orders went live, so it seems a fair guess to say it’d be in the same price range — though you’ll need to budget for a couple of controllers no matter the price, as Analogue doesn't supply them with any of its systems.

The Analogue 3D is currently slated to ship in 2024, and knowing Analogue, pre-orders will open some time in the next few months and sell out almost immediately.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Cocoon is a near-perfect puzzle game that everyone should play

A beetle protagonist emerges into a beautiful, lonely world. There’s no preamble, no text overlays; not even a hint of what you’re meant to do next. So, you walk. After finding your way to a small staircase, you descend, and the steps disappear into the ground — a silent cue that you’re on the right path. A few paces further, you discover a purple pad, and as you stand on it, your iridescent wings begin to quiver. Without thinking about it, you press a button on your controller, the pad turns green, and a nearby rock transforms into a new staircase. Progress!

After solving a couple of rudimentary puzzles, you’ll encounter an orb — these are the heart (and the body) of this game. You carry them on your beetle back, initially using them as keys to open doors and solve puzzles, before discovering that inside every orb is a new world of puzzles and challenges to overcome.

Cocoon is the first game from Geometric Interactive, a studio founded in 2016 by Jeppe Carlsen and Jakob Schmid. Both are alums of Playdead, the Danish studio behind Limbo and Inside, for which Carlsen worked as lead gameplay designer. If you’ve played either of those games, Cocoon’s quietly impressive intro may sound familiar. Both were side-scrolling puzzle-platformers that used their environments and challenges to simultaneously tell a story and guide their players. The story is much the same here, but Cocoon’s structure of layered, interconnected worlds showcases another level of maturity and artistry.

The game actually opens inside the orange orb, a gorgeous desert world, and expands out from there. Each world is protected by a guardian, which needs to be defeated in order to fully unlock the orb’s power outside of that world. Unlocking the orange orb, for example, allows you to walk on hidden paths while carrying it. Each orb grants its own powers, and all are critical to progression.

Annapurna Interactive

The guardians are the game’s “boss fights.” Though there is no traditional combat, each guardian is certainly combative, and there is a degree of skill and timing required to best them. One of the later encounters did actually trip me up a few times, which is as good a time as any to mention that Cocoon has absolutely no fail state. Getting tagged by a guardian doesn’t hurt, they merely throw you outside of their orb — hop back in and you’ll return to the encounter within a couple of seconds. Likewise, you can’t mess a puzzle up to the point that you need to reload.

In isolation, the guardians are probably the game’s weakest moments, but they do provide a nice break from the puzzle-solving alongside a bit of visual spectacle. This is broadly a beautiful game to see and hear, full of bright pastel hues and beds of synth pads, and in places it’s surprisingly gross. What starts as a tranquil walk through something approximating the American Southwest quickly devolves into goopy bio-horror, and I’m very here for it. I started playing the game on a little Ayaneo handheld PC, but about quarter-way through moved over to the Xbox — while it’s a fun thing to play on a portable, the art and sound design really does benefit from a big screen and some decent speakers or headphones.

I think the bigger screen actually helped me — though this is more a review of my eyesight than the game — solve puzzles faster. Toward the end of the game, you’ll find yourself truly disoriented as you jump in and out of worlds and portals, twisting the game’s logic on its head to progress. I feel like I would’ve missed some of the environmental cues — again, my old eyes — had I been playing on a 6-inch screen.

Annapurna Interactive

I only truly got stuck once, when I spent an hour wandering around, trying to figure out what exactly I had to do to solve a puzzle. (The answer, as you’d expect, was blindingly obvious.) Cocoon doesn’t hold your hand, but it is a helicopter parent — in a good way! — gently hovering over you and pushing you in the right direction. There are environmental cues scattered around, and you’ll notice throughout that gates shut behind you at key moments. This prevented me from trying to double-back to see if I’d missed something, an activity that represents half of my playtime in similar games. Subtly locking you in an environment is the game’s way of saying “you have everything needed to progress, so stop being so dense and figure it out.”

Cocoon is a game I can (and will) recommend to anyone that plays video games, and plenty who don’t. Perhaps my only complaint is that I want more. The game only actually introduces, to my count, six core mechanics, and each of those are mixed, matched and remixed in truly creative ways. I appreciate a game being as long as its developer wants it to be, but the bones here are so good, so satisfying, that I can’t help feeling it can hold up to more orbs, more puzzles.

That said, the seven hours or so I spent with Cocoon are among the most memorable of this decade, and I’ll definitely be returning to it in a couple of years, once my brain has purged all of the answers to its puzzles. It’s out today on PC, Switch, PlayStation and Xbox, and if you have Game Pass, it’s included in that subscription.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

‘Cocoon’ is worth getting excited about

Cocoon is a game that makes perfect sense while you're playing it. That would be an unremarkable achievement if it wasn't also a game that forces you to use its levels to solve themselves. At Summer Game Fest 2023 I had around half an hour to play through the game’s opening, and it has stuck with me more than anything else I saw at the show.

Cocoon is the debut game from Geometric Interactive, a studio founded by former Playdead employees Jeppe Carlsen and Jakob Schmid. Carlsen was the lead gameplay designer of the award-winning puzzle platformers Limbo and Inside, and Schmid the audio programmer of Inside. The pair also collaborated on 140, a minimalistic indie platformer, and have been working on Cocoon with a small team in Denmark for over five years.

As in Limbo, Inside and 140, controls and interactivity in general are pared back to a minimum. On an Xbox controller, that means movement with an analog stick and interactions confined to a single button. The complexity comes from the environment, the narrative from exploration. It’s reminiscent of Tunic or Hyper Light Drifter in its lack of dialogue and tutorials.

Orbs are everything in Cocoon. They're assets that open doors, trigger switches, reveal hidden paths and solve puzzles, but they’re also levels themselves. Remember that scene in Men In Black where there’s an entire galaxy in a little marble on a cat's collar? Geometric Interactive has taken that idea and made it a core mechanic. Each orb is a distinct world with its own vibe, original puzzle mechanics and a boss fight. You can hop in and out of these worlds by placing an orb into sockets dotted around the game, and can even bring orbs into other orbs, which, given the abilities they unlock, will likely be critical to finding paths forward.

I say there’s a “boss fight” in every orb, but there is no conventional combat in Cocoon – there is just a single interaction button, after all. You defeat bosses by using something in the environment like a water spout or an exploding mine. These fights are also forgiving: I took a “hit” once, and it revealed a delightful mechanic: Instead of dealing damage or killing me, the boss booted me out of its world. I then had to traverse back to the fight to finish it off. Defeating the two bosses I found granted new powers of sorts, in classic Metroidvania style, which allowed progression to new areas and the discovery of more orbs.

There were other simple environmental puzzles to solve. One involved ascertaining the order in which to hit some switches, another had me pulling towers around to open a door. A slightly trickier one involved some doubling back to navigate a hidden path. Given this was the very start of the game, I’m sure the complexity will ramp up significantly. By the end of my playthrough, I was already jumping in and out of worlds in order to get orbs to where they needed to be. 

A colleague who was watching my demo said that they could tell I’ve "played a lot of these types of games” — thing is, I haven’t. Cocoon is a game where everything makes sense, but you can’t explain why. I'm sure, as in other puzzle adventures, I'll get stumped in some places, but exploring this world felt completely natural. After a while I stopped being surprised that everything I tried just worked. Solving puzzles became a flow state as I giddily wandered around carrying my precious orbs.

Cocoon is firmly at the top of my wishlist already, and it’s tough imagining anything overtaking it. It’s being published by Annapurna Interactive, and will come to Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles later this year.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at