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The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo review: from A(pples) to B(ugs)

The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo, video game, featured, box art

I wishlisted The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo after playing the demo in June 2022.

It would have been impossible to miss in the Steam Next Fest line-up for adventure game fans like me. With amazing artwork by Nacho Rodríguez, Gammera Nest’s project stood out thanks to its imaginatively surreal world and the ten-minute slice provided was enough to hook me in.

I don’t usually accept review keys nowadays as it can be difficult for me to play a title within a certain timeframe due to work and family commitments. But when I was contacted by Mark Allen on behalf of publisher Meridiem Games back in April, I decided to accept their kind offer. I’d forgotten about it until I returned from a long weekend away this week and an email was waiting for me.

Fortunately, I had another day off before going back to work so I decided to spend the afternoon with The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo. It’s hard for me to explain what its plot is however because it’s just as dreamlike as the artwork. It begins with the protagonist trying to obtain an apple, and then diverts to higher beings, strange old men with canes and hourglasses with the ability to reverse time.

These elements add mystery to Mr. Coo’s adventure but are likely to cause frustration for players who prefer concrete answers and a definitive ending. The story is told without text or dialogue and relies solely on the actions of its characters to get the point across. While this approach is perfectly in tune with the release’s artistic vision, I can’t help feeling I’ve missed the point. I know now that it’s better to go into this game ready to embrace the experience and accept that the journey is the reward rather than a traditional narrative arc.

There’s a chance you may be too mesmerised by the visuals to worry about figuring out the storyline though. The superb 2D animation used throughout The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo harks back to the golden era of classic cartoons and successfully captures the essence of old-school animated shorts. According to a Steam Discussions thread, tens of thousands of frames were drawn by hand to achieve the look and the amount of effort put into this by Rodríguez is clear. The result is a title which brings the bizarre to life wonderfully.

Having said this, it would be remiss of me to not mention the bugs encountered during my playthrough. There were several visual glitches, such as Mr Coo’s eyes remaining in one spot while the rest of his body moved to another. I also noticed a number of missed clicks in one particular area and jumps in scenes when a character-switching mechanic was introduced. While none of these issues were game-breaking, their increased frequency towards the end of the game became annoying and detracted from its quality.

As for the gameplay, it feels as though The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo is split into two distinct halves – which is appropriate when you consider the name of the release. The first unfolds though a series of interconnected but self-contained vignettes. Players click on hotspots and solve simple puzzles to progress. For example, to track down the prized apple in one area, a trial-and-error mechanic requires several buttons to be pressed in the correct order before you can proceed.

An unexpected turn in the second half sees a crocodile cut our protagonist into several pieces. The gameplay also shifts to a more traditional point-and-click format with puzzles of an increased difficulty level, giving players the ability to switch between Mr. Coo’s three body parts to solve them collaboratively. For example, directing his head to put its lips around the nozzle of a bellows allows his legs to jump on it and then kick the inflated appendage to a previously inaccessible ledge.

For me personally, these challenges were a bit of a mixed bag. They’re undeniably creative on one hand, and their surrealism fits the tone of the title as well as providing an interesting departure from conventional adventure puzzles. Each is a unique conundrum which fits seamlessly into The Pieces of Mr. Coo’s abstract world. But on the other, several objectives were little too obscure and I found myself randomly clicking the environment until something happened. This isn’t how an adventure should be played.

Although I didn’t end up having to use it, a hint book has been provided in-game in case you get stuck. I did however click on this accidentally at one point and discovered that the clues are delivered through images. Fortunately, the picture I was shown was for a puzzle I’d already solved and so thankfully nothing was spoiled. I also somehow managed to get the Without a hint achievement even though I’d opened the book, so I’m putting this down as a bug in addition to those mentioned above.

I completed the release in less than two hours, and this was despite having to take two phone calls during my playthrough. It’s rather short and, with an undefined ending and ‘to be continued’ screen, it almost feels like something is missing. It’s important to consider quality after quantity though. As mentioned above, the amount of effort put into the animation and visuals is obvious and I can only imagine how much the development time would have increased if a longer game had been produced.

This brings me to another important point. Author and animator Rodríguez posted a statement on Steam on 12 September 2023 to advise that The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo was released without approval. After partnering with Gammera Nest in 2018 and then finishing the artwork in 2020, issues started to occur: ‘Gammera’s programming got messier and messier. Eventually, they began to cut me out of the decision-making process, while continuing to promise that they would deliver on their end.’

Rodríguez also states that the release isn’t faithful to the instructions provided and has urged Gammera Nest to include all the content that has been left out. Perhaps this explains why the bugs mentioned above become more frequent as the game progresses and is the reason why the ending feels premature. I wish I’d been aware of this situation before starting to play, as it may have affected my decision to accept the offer of a review key.

I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo. But if you do decide to pick it up, I’d suggest going into it for the experience rather than for the game.

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