Cobalt: a gorgeous 2D blaster published by Minecraft creators, Mojang

Richard Cobbett at

Cobalt - splooode

Mojang isn't just about Minecraft and The Elder Scrolls any more. This autumn, Team Notch is dipping its toes into publishing with Oxeye Game Studios' quirky platformer Cobalt. We had a chat with studio head Daniel Brynolf to find out what will make his little robot star so attractive* to the indie world.

(* Beyond ferro-magnetism, of course.)

The basic idea behind Cobalt is to offer 2D platforming with 360 degrees of freedom, but no mouse. You roll around the maps, deflecting non-explosive projectiles, with the character aiming in all directions as you move. Taking out enemies isn't simply about precision, but careful timing, with a little bullet-time and auto-aiming thrown in to help smooth things out on the move.

A practical example may help. Brynolf offers this one: "You're running towards a small cliff with two enemies patrolling below. As you jump out into the air, you enter a roll, and as your roll aims you downwards, you time your shot to hit the first enemy with your matter gun. As the bullet hits the first enemy, the other crouches down and aims its missile launcher at you and fires off. As danger is detected, the game enters bullet time, with you rolling through the air with a missile closing the distance between you and it. As you are waiting for the roll to align you towards the missile, you switch to your fist and charge it. With the perfect timing, you release your fist and punch the missile so that it goes flying back towards the enemy that fired it, blowing it up as you land safely on the ground."

Put like that, it sounds simple, yes?

Um... what are you shooting at, exactly?

It's not however the run-and-gun platformer it looks like in the trailer - at least, not quite. For starters, it's all about co-op action, on maps that sound closer in style to something like Unreal Tournament than a classic platformer, or something more story-based, like Braid. "They could be short or long, encompass multiple levels with a central hub, or be single screen challenges."

Cobalt's specific modes are still being hashed out, but currently include races (with the option to attack your opponent) and 'loot' matches, likely revolving around collecting items around the map and converting them for points before another player frags you and takes them for himself. Like almost everything else, the exact details remain to be seen. One mode however is notable by its absence - a dedicated single-player mode. Don't expect to see one in the finished version - at least, not officially. "The cooperative is our single-player," explains Brynolf. "We have no plans for a dedicated single player campaign, but if someone in the future decides to create one, we would love to support it."

Like Minecraft, Cobalt is due to be released in alpha form (due later this year) and polished with the help of the community, with plenty of scope for third-party mods. Most of the game is written in the Lua scripting language, making it relatively easy for players to crack it open and implement their own ideas. There will also be a regular map editor for non-programmers to sink their teeth into.

Your first chance to play Cobalt will be at this week's PAX event, with invitations to the closed alpha due out in a couple of months. The finished game will, of course, be out when it's done.