After the success of Minecraft, anything connected with the people at Mojang is going to get a lot of attention. And that is the case for Cobalt--a collaboration between Oxeye Game Studio and Mojang. In its simplest form, Cobalt is a throwback to classic 2D action games of the '80s and '90s when gaming was all about action and crazy weapons. You take control of a robot that destroys its opposition with an arsenal of items.
Much like with Minecraft's early release model, you can purchase Cobalt in its current alpha state and help shape the game through feedback and interaction with its developers. Back at Minecon in November, Oxeye and Mojang were adamant that their game be released to the public before the end of 2011. While they met that goal with a few weeks to spare, the initial release content offers only a fraction of what is planned for the final game. Currently, Cobalt includes only one of the three key modes: multiplayer. The rest of the features (including a level editor and campaign) have no official release date, but even with only one-third of the game accessible, it's still more than enough to get an idea of what Cobalt offers before everything else is ready for full public consumption.
The alpha build has three multiplayer modes available. Capture the Plug and Deathmatch are your standard multiplayer modes, and they're easy to grasp and enjoy. The last available mode, Survival, is theoretically a solo affair, but one of its two maps lets you partner up with another player to see how long you can last and how much loot you can collect before you both die.
Currently, Capture the Plug offers three arenas, and Deathmatch has six. While the number of maps is nice, they are fairly small and can comfortably fit four players. You can have more than the suggested number, but as more characters are added, keeping track of what's going on becomes increasingly difficult.
Although Cobalt features a multiplayer mode, it's restricted to local play. If you don't have spare USB controllers handy, then playing with others is fairly limited because only one person can use the keyboard. Both Capture the Plug and Deathmatch allow for bot play, but currently, the bot AI is pretty buggy.
Of course, as its alpha state suggests, Cobalt is still very much a game under development. Oxeye is looking at ways to improve the final product, and the issues we've highlighted have been unquestionably called out by others playing the game. The Minecraft method of making a game available before it is ready worked wonders for Minecraft's development and popularity. And tracking Cobalt's progress should be interesting for similar reasons, even if it manages only a fraction of the same kind of community support.