Cobalt Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

I’d be lying if I said Cobalt didn’t ruffle just about all of my feathers at first. And really, it did. At the time of writing this feature, I’ve got the honour of reviewing the latest Koei Tecmo title which is fiddly as all hell, and setting it up to run properly wasn’t nearly as excruciating as my first twenty minutes with Cobalt were. But hey, if you think this is going to be a rant on how god-awful the game is, you’ve come to the wrong place, because I believe it’s a mechanically-beautiful combat platformer everybody has got to play at least once. If you’re wondering how such a drastic change of heart came about, read on.

After a speedy download, I turn Cobalt on. It’s running in a borderless window, which is okay for the first run to see how it performs under duress. I kickstart the arcade mode and move around without much understanding of what’s actually going on, with the horrendous screen tearing poking my eyes. Back to the main menu, I go to the options and change some stuff up. Namely, I turned on Vsync and switched to fullscreen – nothing happens. I try to ALT-TAB and the game goes fullscreen, with the resolution defaulting to what it was in windowed mode. I turn it off and on again, only to be greeted by the sight of all of my graphics settings having been reset. Neat. The process repeats several times over, with various amounts of personal modifications being reset with each run. Controls, graphics’ options, customizations… Hell, not even turning on the Nvidia Vsync option helped with the screen tearing. That’s when I turned to the glorious Steam Community board and read that the options and customizations don’t save properly until you create an in-game character profile. Which is neatly tucked away under the ‘play’ sub-menu. After creating my own profile, everything worked smoothly, and I was finally able to enjoy the game.


You can own temporary bird pets. Best game ever.

It was paramount for me to mention my issues in detail simply to point out that there’s a period of potential annoyance to be had before sinking your teeth into Cobalt. And even once you’ve got all of that behind you, Cobalt is not your run-of-the-mill platformer you can quickly figure out. The basics are as simple as ever, but the mechanics of it all have a steep learning curve you’ll have to invest some time in to get a grip of how they fit together. Now, once that’s done, what you’re left with is a cool, non-linear singleplayer campaign with a persistent unlock/upgrade system, a cooperative survival mode versus bots and arguably the star of the show – the hotseat versus multiplayer mode. There’s an awful lot of ground to cover between these three, so let’s get on with it.

Cobalt is a side-scrolling platformer where the focus lies heavily on combat. Instead of pinning your character down to scenery and making you shoot in a straight line until either you or your adversary fall dead, Oxeye decided to feature an abundance of movement mechanics for the players (and AI, to an extent) employ. For example, there’s the slide function one might expect to find in your average third-person cover shooter. Then there’s rolling, all possible interactions between the two – there are plenty – then add wall-jumping, wall-latching and all kinds of possible dashes to the mix and you’ve got a very fast, very frantic and very visceral platform to build the rest of the gameplay atop of. Once you’ve mastered all of these maneuvers, you’ll be zooming around levels in no time.

Now, regarding the actual shooty-totty stuff, if you’ve ever played Cortex Command, you’ll be pleased to hear that hit feedback of Cobalt is actually really similar to what was featured there. Both player characters and enemies have various amounts of armour sitting atop a vulnerable skeleton, and to take an enemy down you’ve got to punch through the plating in one way or another. Featuring just a bit over eighty different armaments, Cobalt’s got plenty of tools for the job. And here’s where it gets really interesting – when a ballistic projectile (or a grenade, for that matter) launched by the enemy is in the immediate vicinity of a player-controlled android, the time-dilation mechanic kicks in, slowing the time down and allowing you to react properly to the oncoming threat. If this sounds like it would make the game too easy, rest assured that this is not the case. There’s just enough time to perform a potentially evasive maneuver or perhaps roll directly into the projectile, which bounces the bugger off of your armour. Describing the system on paper does it no justice, though, so I recommend looking into it via a gameplay video. What matters is that it works and that it works well. Especially when combined with the rich movement system I’ve described before.

The weapons themselves range from fairly standard slugger firearms to some really weird particle accelerator thingamajigs, but the one recurring trait they all share is that they’re fun. Whether you’re blasting mobs into pieces with a stielhandgranate or turning your friends into muck with a laser repeater, never will you find a weapon that would feel inadequate. The melee I’m not too fond of, but it might be that my playstyle simply doesn’t mesh well with it.

Now, the campaign I’ve not finished just yet, but it has you searching for the remnants of the human race, which has mysteriously disappeared sometime in the past. It’s an interesting and fairly expansive game mode with lots of challenge missions featuring online leaderboards and whatnot to compete in. While not on a mission, your character can lounge in his orbital command centre, where his armour pieces and weaponry are featured as well. There’s something awfully satisfying in seeing all of your collected weapons displayed on a wall. Brings me back to the days of the old Hitman games…


Those pieces of debris – that’s me.

Arcade, on the other hand, is all about getting into the heat of the combat immediately. Whether you’re interested in some cooperative mob slaughter, PvP or a mish-mash of both, Cobalt offers a really extensive list of options to edit. There’s a fair number of maps to enjoy as well, but this is a non-issue anyway due to the Steam Workshop integration. In the long run, I believe arcade will retain the most of the Cobalt player base because it’s downright fun. My personal favourite has to be ‘Capture the Plug’, which is CTF in disguise, but due to the way Cobalt plays, it’s a real blast having fun with this game mode. My gripe with online multiplayer lies in the fact that even slightly elevated ping easily ruins the game for everybody, but that’s not an issue with the game itself. Hotseat on a big screen with gamepads is definitely the best possible way to experience Cobalt, and as a big proponent of this feature, Oxeye have made me happy.

My biggest issues with Cobalt lies in controls, and the way they’re set up. The inability to use the mouse in menus aside, it’s kind of tough to swallow all the different functions the game features immediately, and the game is clearly more complex than most other sidescrollers. True, it’s fairly playable on a keyboard, but a gamepad works wonders when it comes to navigating the levels of Cobalt and quickly dispatching enemies you may come into contact with. I guess it boils down to personal preference in the end, but the fact remains that it will take a while for the controls to really ‘sit’ with an average player.

Visually, Cobalt is nice but definitely not a masterpiece. The flashy effects and pretty textures make it look great in most cases, but it’s the sound design that truly stands out. The soundtrack is downright perfect and sets the quirky tone of the game amazingly well, easily immersing you into its strange universe. The art design is top-notch as well, even though I’m sure some people will be displeased with the strange proportions of the characters. Cobalt is not taking itself too seriously, and the abundance of easter eggs scattered throughout the game can attest to that. It’s good to have a laugh every now and again, especially now with all the grimdark AAA releases we’re being exposed to.

In conclusion, I can only say that I’m very happy with how Cobalt turned out and recommend it to every sidescroller aficionado out there. If you’re looking for a new hotseat multiplayer to enjoy with friends, family and/or pets, it’s hard to mess up with Cobalt. As long as you learn how to play it first.