Cobalt is a game that’s been around for a long time, but now Oxeye Game Studio & Mojang are bringing it to the big leagues with a major release. This 2D platformer/shooter sees you starring as a little “alien” robot sent on a mission to find out what has happened to the human race many years ago. The campaign doesn’t drown you with laughter, but you’ll definitely get a good dose of humor during your adventure. On this mission you collect/buy weapons, explosives, and a large number of other helpful items on your quest for knowledge. You’ll come into contact with helpful citizens, in camps and villages as well as harmful enemies just living their lives or in strongholds just itching to ruin your day. And hamsters, because… Why not?
While the campaign mode has you searching for items to track down the mystery of the disappearance of humans, the biggest draw to Cobalt is probably going to be the arcade and multiplayer modes (online or local), to which there are a good variety of those ready to test your skill and patience right from the jump. You have your classic deathmatch and team deathmatch modes as well as score driven challenges, survival mode, and an #IDARB-esque mode where you try to throw a power plug into the opponent’s goal. You can sink quite a bit of time into these areas.
The first thing that comes to your attention upon start up is the game’s soundtrack. What they’ve created is quirky, catchy, and fits the game style almost to a T. I found myself whistling the main menu song (theme song?) while playing and even when not playing the game. The “voices”, bleeps, bloops, and sound effects work really well. This is a neat little audio world they’ve created here.
Graphically, it’s not incredibly impressive, which is not a knock on the game, but the overall presentation really works. The particle effects are really nice and the animations capture the little characters with all the right complexities. The sense of style they’ve created here, whether on your ship, in the wilderness, or in a lived-in area feel really nice to work through with plenty of deviations throughout.
The controls took me a long time to get used to. I feel like there’s a big learning curve here and you’ll do well to hone your skills in the tutorial mode before trying to show off to your friends – real or imaginary alike – so you don’t embarrass yourself. You’ll likely tackle many sections of the game numerous times like I did before being able to move on. There’s just so many trial and error areas littered throughout.. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to this style of platformer/shooter, but even a dozen hours in I still sometimes find myself hitting the wrong buttons. Not necessarily the game’s fault, but keep that in mind if you find yourself getting finger tied when in intense situations in games. This game has all that around every corner.
Bullet Time is a fun and major mechanic and this makes encounters intense. Hopping around, rolling through, and dodging grenades and bullets gave me a sense of accomplishment, even sometimes if only for a second before I inevitably rolled too hard into a deathtrap scenario. Speed, tactics, and precision are your greatest allies in Cobalt. Learning how and when to deflect bullets and explosives are vital to your survival. You really need to use all your skills in conjunction to earn every victory, big or small.
The multiplayer modes are a good bit of fun all on their own. Each mode has a very respectable amount of maps and none that I could see repeat in other modes. Even playing with bots over friends locally you have a bevy of options to choose from and can fine tune the AI to suit your style. They’ve done a really good job of giving the player everything needed to have a fun time. Online modes even include bots when needed (a la Rocket League) so you’re never waiting too long to get into the action. If you’re looking for a 2 on 2, 4 on 4, or every man for himself match, you have plenty to look to.
I mentioned earlier that the controls do take a good time to get used to, and while I don’t completely fault the game (and you can edit them to your hearts content), I do feel that the control can be a detraction on fun some of the time. I’m not quite sure what they could have done to remedy that, but I did find myself getting frustrated from time to time with the moment to moment in regards to that. There’s just a lot going on with what your character is able to do that sometimes in the hectic moments things can get a little more crazy because you can swap around so much.
Speaking more to the downsides,I want to point to the overall UI when it comes to the text, whether that’s with inventory count (re: bullets remaining), speaking with an NPC, or even when you’re reading documents. I’ve got a pretty big TV, and even on that sometimes, especially reading the documents on the computers throughout the campaign, the text is just way too small. If you don’t really care about the story stuff, I can see that as not being a big deal, but to me, that’s stuff I like to engage in. Speaking with certain NPCs can be chore as well, especially if they’re moving. The dialogue bubbles will often overlap each other and sometimes become impossible to read because once that happens it can be up so long that it either disappears or you have to choose a dialogue choice to move on before anything else can happen. It’s a minor grievance, sure, but still one worth mentioning. Finally, going back to the campaign, while it is a good length, sometimes can be quite monotonous. It’s still fun and can keep you engaged with the puzzles and enemy encounters, but there are moments where you just feel bored moving from one area to the next.
I know I like Cobalt, I just can’t quite explain why. I tried, and hopefully that came across in this review, but I feel like this is a game that you need to either get your hands on yourself, or see it in action to really understand what it’s all about. It’s just that kind of game for me. At $20, it may seem a bit steep, but there’s a lot of content available, especially if you fancy all the multiplayer mayhem inside. I would caution to wait for a sale if you’re only in it for the single player campaign. Though it is a good length, the overall package is what will bring you back, and I think the bigger focus is on the arcade and multiplayer as somewhere you’ll be getting the most fun, online, with friends, or with bots. If that’s where your heart lies with this I do think you’ll get enough bang for your buck at full price.
Cobalt is out now on Xbox One and Steam for $19.99. An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for this review.