By: Xander

On: September 1st, 2009


Adam Atomic and Danny B are at it again with Canabalt, a flixel powered one-button platformer. Your incredibly suave protagonist continually runs to the right and all you are required to do is hit the jump button, varying timing and length in order to avoid the obstacles in your path.

So it’s a simple game to play then, but so much of the game is executed gloriously. The atmosphere is fantastic, with the multitude of greys creating a distinct world that’s easily identifiable even when your hero is at his fastest. The scheme even flows into the browser window itself, which frames the game in a similar style, which is a great touch. The wide resolution of the game also helps with seeing the oncoming obstacles without having to slow the game down to help you cope with the pressure.

The sensation of speed throughout is intensely gratifying. It’s often been said about the classic Sonic games that the speed sections were simply rewards for careful platforming and beating enemies, but here the whole game feels rewarding. He doesn’t take long at all to build up speed and it just increases as he tears across randomly generated rooftops. I also love the feeling of being out of control of the character, which sounds fairly silly, but it conveys the feeling of speed akin to say a runaway train. There’s no way to stop him, the best you can do is use the one button you have to get the hell out of the way of anything that will put a premature end to your rush.

Sometimes that can be a giant robot. Just FYI

  • Anthony Flack

    I really want to love this. It feels really good, it’s beautifully stylish, and I really like games with simple controls. And hard, fast games. When it initially fired up I was totally into it.

    But after playing it for a bit, I didn’t feel like I was improving. Sometimes I’d get further than other times, but my death always seemed to feel more like sudden bad luck than any significant lapse in attention.

  • Hedenius

    The presentation is perfect. I love the visuals.

    But the gameplay is flawed once you figure out that running into small obstacles is actually helpfull, since it lowers your speed.

  • Eclipse

    same for Anthony, deaths are just random… It’s the fact that you can’t control your speed even a bit and most of the times you just have to do “blind jumps” and hope to land somewhere.
    Stunning presentation but a pretty bland gameplay

  • Turgid

    woo, finally made it to 3301. I like the smooth build-up where precision gets more and more important, both timing and height. I still find it difficult to control the height, especially for smaller jumps, but I guess that’s part of the challenge.

    The random objects can be frustrating, though the dynamic death messages are a really nice touch. I think of it like a roguelike. Some runs, you get YASD, and sometimes you get lucky and make it far without much trouble. Some more guaranteed landmarks like the one at 400 would help give a better sense of progress, IMO. (Although maybe I’m just not noticing the others.)

    Minor bugs: when missing the jump onto a crane, you smack into the open “side” as if it was a building. Probably a limitation of the engine, but still a bit strange. Also, if there was a crumbling building coming up soon, you hear it fall once you restart.

  • Turgid

    Actually the crumbling sound at the beginning seem to be on purpose, nevermind. >_<

  • Joe

    Try Hurdler by KNP Master (The Games Page).

  • JackUH

    I think the boxes/slowdown thing may have been a passive mechanic to control speed. I do agree there’s an element of chance. I feel the whistling of the bomb falling should have been longer to allow more reaction time. But since you can start really easily when you lose, I don’t feel it detracts from the game. I liked it.

  • Cooper

    As far as I can tell, the jump comes in two flavours – hop and a long jump, but the key press is very sensitrive.

    Given that two keys are maped for jumping, could one not be just a short hop, the other the longer jump?

    Often I’ve wanted to hop over an obstacle but held the jump button a fraction of a second and it’s flung me high into the air and I’ve plummetted below…

    Also, the randomness gets a little boring. A well designed ramp-up in difficulty would have been better here…

  • Cooper

    As far as I can tell, the jump comes in two flavours – hop and a long jump, but the key press is very sensitrive.

    Given that two keys are maped for jumping, could one not be just a short hop, the other the longer jump?

    Often I’ve wanted to hop over an obstacle but held the jump button a fraction of a second and it’s flung me high into the air and I’ve plummetted below…

    Also, the randomness gets a little boring. A well designed ramp-up in difficulty would have been better here…

  • Argh

    You can control your speed to some extent – just run in to non-fatal obstacles on purpose when you feel you’re getting too fast.

  • Orange Required

    Turgid’s point is interesting. I really liked this game, but I think it could have benefited from approaching it like a sonic-esque roguelike. Frankly I fell in love with the atmosphere and backdrop as soon as I saw it in motion; it reminds me of the best bits of Flashback.

    Unless I’m just piss-poor at the game and haven’t played far enough, there’s no new obstacles appearing the further you get into it. Which is a shame, because the backdrop provides all kinds of really neat ideas for obstacles you could overcome.

    Still. REALLY cool.

  • Orange Required

    Just got to 6,000. And interestingly, there’s background elements coming into view which were not before…

  • Duckmeister

    You forgot to say that he entered this in the new Experimental Gameplay Project contest!

    You need to give those guys as much publicity as possible!

  • Diverse

    Is there an end to this, or does it just keep going on and on?

  • splotki

    Love it. I love the story taking place in the background. The atmosphere in this game is amazing.

  • fucrate

    If this isn’t proof of the instant-awesome formula of adding screen shake, I don’t know what is.

  • YM

    I think it’s interesting that even at his starting speed, the man completes 100m a good three seconds faster than Usain Bolt. He is really booking it.

  • Gutter

    Gah! I’m tired of games without an end. Beating your own score is fun for the first four time I play.

  • cm

    @fucrate: Actually, I was about to say there was a little *too much* shaking…

  • JackUH

    Here’s some second impressions:

    1) Play with no music using the Esc button, then going back to the game. The reason is to *hear* the bomb. The bomb DOES have an audio cue. Before the bomb lands, you’ll always hear a thump on the BUILDING BEFORE the one the bomb lands on. So basically the order is: Building 1, thump, jump, Building 2, BOMB LANDS.

    2) The windows are the most annoying obstacles. Sometimes they’re higher, other times lower, sometimes it’s a large window, other times it’s small. Unlike the bomb, I don’t believe there is foreshadowing of when a window happens, which is frustrating. Even a warning would help. Maybe when the player is getting close to a window, he’ll have a search light focus on him, to indicate that someone on the roof of the window building is searching for him. I just need SOMETHING to show me that there’s a window up ahead.

  • Jay

    I love this game. It feels so cinematic. I feel for this poor guy I’m playing as. The most disturbing part of this game is that I’m pretty sure there is no end besides dying. This means he is always destined to fail at his escape. I also wish I could see what happens to him when he hits a wall and falls to his death. I wish I knew more specifically what he was running from. However, I don’t want a back story. It’s more fun to leave that up to the player since you can see the ships flying and the ominous things in the background. I just wish this guy had a chance at making it.

  • Nicholas Lee


    I guess presentation really is everything.

    Just another pointless browser game. Fun for a few minutes.

  • Mooseral

    Strangely enough, I had no problem with the gigantic explosive war-bombs, but could not defeat the evil civilian office skyscraper.

    Yeah, with the randomization, jumping in through those glass windows can be a real bugger.

    Excellent stylistically, though. I think that all randomized games will suffer from a certain lack of flow, which I believe is not so conducive to a game wholly dedicated to that flow. Perhaps more scripted building transitions thrown in? I dunno. I probably just have to play it a bit more.

    But yeah. Sound scape was awesome too. Although, in the background, I don’t understand why there are so many Siamese twin robots. They have eye lasers though, so it’s all good.

    Oh hey, I just noticed JackUH’s comment point #2. Yeah, pretty much.

  • Jad

    The glass windows are totally game-breaking, they’re always too low D: seriously, they’re only things that give me cheap deaths.

    Otherwise this game sure IS its presentation and I love it! Wonderful!

  • doctorfrog

    A nice game, but I found myself wanting more to look at the visuals than actually deal with all the manic jumping and smacking into things. Any way we can con these guys into making an Iji or Knytt-like game out of this? An urban robot apocalypse Knytt would be awesome.

  • Jad

    oh btw 5235 :D

  • Q

    great sound!
    damn windows (39xx meters)

  • Scott

    what game isn’t pointless

  • mots

    great visuals, great style, pretty fun too…

  • Adra

    7797m, just got lucky because there was only one office near the beginning, and it was high enough that a full jump let me in. Finally got going too fast and overjumped a short building.

  • CT

    A ton of fun for something so simple, loved the style/presentation.

  • Seth

    Great aesthetics, but terrible game. I can basically just keep going forever until I have to make it into a window instead of on top of a roof. I inevitably misjudge the jump and hit the side of the building a little too high or low and die.

  • Lemming

    I love the style, palette, character, robots, everything. I even downloaded a flash decompiler to extract the soundtrack, which is playing as I type! :)

    I found that running into boxes often saved me more than getting me to fall down. By jumping over them I often overshot the jump and fell down, but by running into them I could safely run to the ledge and jump. They often require quick tapping to avoid falling down right after.

    Also, running into one crate should in my opinion not get you killed, but running into multiple should. This often seemed inconsistent, though.

    Oh, and I didn’t want to post before breaking Jad’s score. I got 6613m (:

  • Marcus

    it’s a fun game and it looks great, but … would this be on the front page if this wasn’t made by AdamAtomic? I know this has been discussed before but yeah, I think TIGsource favours a few selected artists a bit much. It’s like nobody outside the TIGSource circle counts as “real indie”.

    I just want to say I’m really not meaning to criticize the game or AdamAtomic, it’s awesome for being mad e in only 5 days. But! I don’t think it’s anything particularly special, while I have seen many titles I personally found much more interesting never getting beyond the announcement forum.

  • Grawl

    I just reached over 10k. Anyone man enough to beat this? :p

  • Spassmarine

    Man, 11766m and still no end in sight!
    That thing in the background that starts to appear around 3300m was a nice touch, had me hoping something would happen if I manage to run past it…
    Seems like I need to run some more!

  • Xander

    @Marcus: Until I was researching the game’s creators after playing it and deciding to put it on the front page I didn’t realise I’d come across them before.

    Short answer? Yes. It would be on even if someone else had made it.

  • Synnah


    I got lucky; I think about 4 office blocks came up, but they were all at just the right height for me to jump safely into. In spite of some unfair randomness, a nice, stylish game!

  • oranda

    This game gets a lot easier if you make a point of running into every crate you can. They’ll keep you below ludicrous speed. I got to 7000 on the second try using this technique. There seem to be fewer of them as the game goes on, but it let me see that pretty cool robot thing getting built.

  • James

    Really pretty looking, great music, but the old Sonic games handled speed better.

    I didn’t realize there wasn’t a goal other than score until my 5th game. A personal best distance might be nice.

    I’d really love to see a full platformer developed out of this general premise and setting. The one-button thing sort of seemed to break down when I was running fast enough to leap over entire buildings in a single jump. It felt like I was loosing a lot of control as I got faster. Which is, of course, the genius of Sonic games; the fine-turned balance between risk and reward.

  • mots

    yeah,it’s fun and all but it strains your eyes too much .. contrast fix or motion blur might make this more enjoyable.

  • Jay

    I enjoyed this game infinitely more times than I enjoyed Mirror’s Edge. Put that into perspective. Two games about running from things along rooftops. One with a giant budget and one with a non-existent budget. One with a whole gamepad, the other with a single button. One costs $59.99 and the other is free. And the no-budget, single button, free one is more enjoyable. That really says something.

  • Joseph

    I got 1504 meters… Is there an end to this? Whats the point?

  • Lemming


    In some aspect Canabalt handled it better. A lot of people who didn’t *know* sonic found it unfair that you’d jump or run into things you couldn’t possibly see. Canabalt’s camera handles this better. And if Sonic’s camera would move forward so you’re in the back of the screen it’d handle the speed even fairer. I’ve been thinking about this, and a camera that places you in the back allows for greater speed and still remaining fair. :)

  • Mooseral

    I always found that the speed sections in the sonic games were basically non-interactive scripted sequences, quite different from what one might find in a jumping game like this.

    But then again, I didn’t really own any Sega consoles, and never played Sonic that much, so meh. I may simply be overly ignorant of the blue hedgehogs!

    But uncontrollable speed is always fun. Flatout 2 was an amusing game.

  • Lemming

    @Mooseral: This is true, but uncontrolling autoplay in incredible speed is fun. As you said. :)

    But there are some parts where you run into enemies or spikes without having any fair way of knowing…

  • Firesword

    This could be a good soundtrack for the game..

    Nice game and great work Adam, this time i didn’t send you an e-amil ;)

  • Bubba bo Ba Brain

    Durrrrrrrrrrrrrr its funnnns!!!!!!!!!!hiyo!!!!!

  • BMcC

    Check out the MEGA version, for folks with hi def monitors:

    The game is a blast. But I can only get to around 1000m before turning into a fine mist or tumbling to my death. :P

  • BMcC

    Nevermind, just made about 3000m! Man, I am good at this.