21 October 2010

At first sight, there is little to say about Canabalt: a little Flash game with greyscale pixel art for graphics, an odd aspect ratio and just one key for interaction! (It does have a catchy soundtrack, though.) But play a few times, and you’ll begin to notice all kinds of nice details that make it incredibly attractive.

First, there is the excellent characterization; between the protagonist’s wavy trench coat and the beautifully animated industrial backdrop, it’s pretty clear what the game is about, right from the first moment. Then there are all the little details: you jump through glass panes, startle pigeons, large aircars zoom past you… The gameplay is simple, but the randomly generated landscape makes for good replayability, and surprising visual diversity. All in all, I don’t expect to get bored of Canabalt so soon, and that’s a lot to say about one little Flash game.

(I’ve seen something similar attempted before in the experimental game Infinite Mario, but it doesn’t work so well there. I think there’s a lesson in that… oh yes! A game must be designed as a whole.)

One thing I’m yet to figure out is whether the crates are bad for you or not. They only seem to slow you down if you hit them. But is that desirable?