I’ve tried to write about Canabalt at least five times now. Every time I sit down to write my recommendation, I end up playing it to refresh my memory. Thirty minutes later, I’ve been so busy outrunning certain doom that I’ve completely forgotten my plans to write. Not this time!
You control a man trying to escape an alien/robot-invasion apocalypse. You must help him navigate the randomly-generated rooftops whilst avoiding crumbling towers, trashcans and boxes, and crash-landing robots. It’s all extremely epic, lent gravity by the silhouetted devastation occurring in the background.
Canabalt was recently developed as part of the Experimental Gameplay Project, which I believe is where developer Adam Atomic got his idea for a one-button control scheme. Seriously, you’ve only got one button: Jump. The running is handled entirely by the little man. He picks up speed as he goes, but eventually he’ll get unmanageable so it’s best to occasionally let him collide with some boxes and slow him down.
It walks (or runs along, I suppose) that fine line between immense frustration and satisfaction. Individual playthroughs can last mere seconds if you time a jump poorly or get squished by a flying mech. But the randomized levels help break things up. Plus, the driving techno soundtrack never stops playing once you’ve started, which makes it all feel like one seamless session. One you just can’t run away from.