Do yourself a favor and go play some Canabalt. It’ll be the best single-button game you’ve played today. Maybe this week. Or, if you’re anything like me (riddled by NADD and fond of pixel art,) you’ll think it is the greatest single-button casual game ever made.
I found out about this little gem thanks to BoingBoing’s rundown of best indie/iPhone games of 2009. The premise is simple enough: scurry across the rooftops, avoiding loose furniture and busting through buildings via plate glass windows.
You have one button. It jumps. Hit it lightly and you do a little hop. Hit it harder and you perform a leap. The further you go without hitting an object, the faster your little guy zooms across buildings and the further your leaps become. There’s a number of different sorts of obstacles to avoid (I won’t spoil them for you,) and as you speed up, avoiding them becomes harder and harder.
There are several things I really, really enjoy about this game. First: the aesthetic. You might not notice it the first few times around, but the ambience is full of detailed pixel-art. Your character’s legs wiggle in the air during jumps – fall from a far enough height, and he hits the ground with a roll. Doves (white pigeons?) litter the buildings and gracefully fly away as you hop on their rooftop. Giant robots destroy the distant background and zoom overhead, shaking the stage. It is a huge amount of work for such a simple game. And “simple” is a fantastic thing: you die, hit Jump and you’re back to the beginning, running. The buildings and obstacles are randomly generated, as well, so there’s no memorization, only reflex. There’s no ending, either, which is a bonus in a game like this: you’re not chasing any sort of goal except a high score.