Canabalt

App review by
Jonathan H. Liu, Common Sense Media
Canabalt App Poster Image
Moody game makes running for your life fun to do.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Ease of Play

You use only one control: tap to jump. You jump to avoid falling and to jump over obstacles while your character runs automatically. It does get increasingly difficult but the controls are a snap.

Violence

Although your character is running across rooftops, you don't ever see what's chasing him (if anything). He can die either by falling off the bottom of the screen or running into an obstacle -- the descriptive text will say that you've "fallen to your death" or "turned into a fine mist" or other phrases, but there is no on-screen violence.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

The initial start screen has an ad for the developer's other game.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Canabalt is a simple side-scrolling action game where you try to survive as long as possible by jumping over obstacles and gaps. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and evokes a certain amount of dread, but nothing violent is really depicted on-screen. However, when you fail, you die. Sharing high scores via an online leaderboard or Twitter is optional.

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Is it any good?

What would possess someone to leap through a plate glass window onto a rooftop below? Since CANABALT never shows you what's chasing you, you have no idea. But it must be pretty bad, because you never stop running -- unless you miss and fall to your death, or run at high speed into a mysterious piece of machinery that fell from the sky. Canabalt is very simple: tap to jump, and the man runs as fast as he can. Avoid obstacles on the rooftops -- not because you’ll die, but because they may slow you down enough to keep you from making your next jump.

For such an easy mechanism, Canabalt does an amazing job of setting the mood: using pixelly grayscale graphics, it describes its world more by suggestion than outright depictions. You see giant robotic shapes in the far distance, but only in silhouette; jets fly past, shaking the ground; buildings crumble as you run across them. The sound effects are sparse but pitch-perfect, from shattering glass to the differing footsteps when you run across a crane. And the little details are amazing -- flocks of birds fluttering up as you run through, the way your jacket flaps while you run. Not that you'll have time to admire them -- you'll be too busy running.

App details

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