This Game You Should Play: Canabalt

You ran 8953m before hitting a wall and tumbling to your death.

Canabalt is what Mirror’s Edge should have been–freestyle running that’s fun. It’s comparing apples and oranges, but there’s one other thing about the two games that must be mentioned. Mirror’s Edge uses a myriad of control schemes utilizing bumpers, triggers, and even a little bit of motion control. Finger-fu that leads to finger-flu. Canabalt uses one key.

Yes, it’s that simple. In the game you control a runner who is escaping from…well, something. Judging by the backgrounds it’s an alien invasion. However, the word control doesn’t describe it properly. Basically you tell him when to jump. The main character automatically runs the map, and his jumps are a few careful button presses that propel him from building to building, through glass windows, and over other obstacles.

Jump to retry your daring escape.

Not all obstacles are bad. Hitting some of them will slow the runner down. This can be a good thing because he progressively runs faster. (His stamina is amazing!). Play the game at a frantic pace or time the jumps by using the environment to control his actions. It’s a brilliant play scheme–one that involves only thought.

However, the difficulty is ramped up because the play area is randomly generated. It’s a new experience every time. Easy to learn, but a lifetime to master.

Surprisingly, the simplistic graphics make the experience enjoyable. It’s gray, white, and shades of gray. The smooth animations of the runner and the birds make it a pleasure to watch. Seeing the runner’s arms flail in the air never gets old. There’s also some nice narrative touches going on in the background.

For maximum awesome, headphones recommended.

The sound may be the best thing the game has to offer. From a great soundtrack to the beats of the runner’s footsteps on different material, it offers an immersion that one might overlook. Even the flapping of the bird wings is detailed.

Canabalt is available for FREE online as a flash game and in the App Store for $3. The iPod Touch version doesn’t have any buttons. Just tap.

Developer Semi Secret Software created this gem in five days for the Experimental Gameplay Project. This is an experiment that succeeded.

The game measures your progress by the distance ran. Give us your free-running record in the comments and become a legend.

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