Canabalt is a new interpretation of an early video game genre, the side-scroll runner, in which the player’s character literally runs for her life. In these games, the action is a balancing of speed and focus, centered on the ability to avoid obstacles. In Canabalt, a small pixelated figure runs across the rooftops of a city handsomely stylized in six shades of gray, avoiding crevasses between buildings and dangerous obstacles. The point of the game is clear—to run as fast and as far as you can without being crushed or falling to your death—but Canabalt is deceptive in its simplicity. The design of the obstacles and of the landscape is as essential to the appreciation of the game as the speed, position, and rhythm of obstacles—as is the auditory experience. Saltsman designed it in under a week, and the graphics and game only take up one hundred kilobytes of the three-megabyte game—most of the code is devoted to sound and music.
Gallery label from Applied Design, March 2, 2013–January 31, 2014.