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Canabalt logo.gif
Publisher(s)Semi-Secret Software (Flash/iOS)
Beatshapers (PSP)
Kittehface Software (Android/Ouya)
Designer(s)Adam Saltsman
Composer(s)Danny Baranowsky
Platform(s)Flash, iOS, Commodore 64, Steam, PlayStation Portable, Android, Ouya
Genre(s)Endless runner

Canabalt is a 2009 side-scrolling endless runner video game designed by Adam Saltsman for the Experimental Gameplay Project.[6] It has been released on iOS, Commodore 64, PlayStation Portable, Android, Ouya and various Flash based online gaming websites, such as Kongregate.[7]

Canabalt has been credited with popularising the endless runner subgenre.[8]


Canabalt gameplay showing the minimalist graphics and lack of any on-screen controls.

The player controls an unnamed man fleeing from an unknown threat. As the game begins, the player character jumps from the window of an office building onto the roof of a neighbouring building. He then proceeds to run forward automatically, continually accelerating as he moves. The only control the player has over the character is through a single button, which makes him jump; either from building to building or over obstacles. Missing a jump to another building will cause him to fall to his death, while colliding with a crate or an office chair will reduce his speed. Bombs are also occasionally dropped into the player's path, causing death if not avoided.

Unlike many other platform games which have predesigned stages and can be played to completion, the landscape of Canabalt is procedurally generated and endless. The objective of the game is to achieve the highest score, measured in meters per run. Some version of the game feature online leaderboards, allowing players to compete for ranking.


In a 2013 interview with The New Yorker, developer Adam Saltsman said he had initially aimed for the game to be "fast, like a racing game." He also explained that the player character wears a black suit so that he would stand out from the greyscale background art. The name "Canabalt" was derived from a combination of phrases used by Saltsman's young nephew.[9]

When asked about the origins of the main character, Saltsman stated "I used to have fantasies at my old office job of running down our long, long hallway just for fun. And to literally escape. I'd forgotten about that until months after Canabalt came out. There used to be an intro cinematic that I was designing, where the character receives an email, but it was all getting in the way of the main thing".[10]

Originally released in Flash on Saltsman's own web site, the game has since been ported to many platforms including iOS, Android, Steam, PlayStation Portable, Ouya and the Chrome Web Store, and is also featured on online gaming sites such as Kongregate and Newgrounds. The official Android/Ouya port is published by Kittehface Software, primarily a publisher of live wallpapers, under license from Saltsman.[5][11] The PlayStation Portable version is published by Beatshapers.[3]

Reception and impact[edit]

Aggregate scores
GameRankings(iOS) 86%[12]
(PSP) 72%[13]
Metacritic(iOS) 77/100[14]
Review scores
IGN(iOS) 8/10[15]
OPM (UK)(PSP) 8/10[13]
148Apps(iOS) 4/5 stars[16]
Pocket Gamer(iOS) 7/10[17]
(PSP) 7/10[18]
Slide to Play(iOS) 3/4[1]
TouchArcade(iOS) 5/5 stars[19]
TouchGen(iOS) 4/5 stars[20]

Canabalt has met with positive reviews. The iOS version holds aggregate scores of 77 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 8 reviews,[14] and 86% on GameRankings, also based on 8 reviews.[12] The PSP version holds a score of 72% on GameRankings, based on 7 reviews.[13]

Bonnie Eisenman of 148Apps scored the iOS version 4 out of 5, writing "Canabalt is a gem that daringly mixes simple gameplay with an incredibly complex world, proving that minimalism doesn't have to equal minimal entertainment. If you're looking for a simple, quick-play game, this is one to buy."[16] TouchGen's Torbjorn Kamblad also scored it 4 out of 5, arguing that the iOS version improved on the original Flash version; "Tighter controls, and a better overview of your surroundings make the portable version a classic."[20] TouchArcade's Eli Hodapp scored it 5 out of 5, comparing the game to Doodle Jump; "I've probably sunk more combined hours in to Doodle Jump than any other game on my iPhone, and Canabalt has the exact same appeal. The pixel art graphics are great, the soundtrack is phenomenal, and [...] it's hard to find anything not to like about the game."[19]

IGN's Levi Buchanan scored the game 8 out of 10; "Canabalt is a wonderful twitch game that strikes the right balance between skill and luck [...] There is something really compelling in here -- a real desire to play again and again...and again."[15] Pocket Gamer's Keith Andrew scored it 7 out of 10, calling it "a fun little ditty, beautifully presented, but one where success is as much down to luck as it is any skill. That's no doubt all the developers intended, but the sheer addictiveness of play suggests any follow-up that adds a more structure [sic] could give it a serious run for its money."[17] Slide to Play's Andrew Podolsky scored it 3 out of 4, praising the game, but criticizing the $2.99 price; "The nearly-flawless execution of one simple idea makes the lack of a story or any other depth inconsequential, but we [...] think this game would be better priced at a dollar, especially since the original Flash game is still free to play as well."[1]

Pocket Gamer's Peter Willington scored the PSP version 7 out of 10. He criticized the lack on online leaderboards, but concluded that "Canabalt for PSP deserves a place on your memory stick. It has a hidden depth that the hardcore will appreciate immensely, and it's built in such a way that more casual gamers can dip into it quickly between games of more substance."[18]

The game was listed among the best of 2009 by numerous video game websites, including Rock, Paper, Shotgun[21] and Eurogamer.[22] It went on to spawn a genre of "endless running" games; The New Yorker described Canabalt as "a video game that has sparked an entirely new genre of play for mobile phones."[9] Game designer Scott Rogers credits side-scrolling shooters like Scramble (1981) and Moon Patrol (1982) and chase-style game play in platform games like Disney's Aladdin (1994) and Crash Bandicoot (1996) as early forerunners to the genre.[23] Derivative titles include Robot Unicorn Attack, which Kieron Gillen described in his "2010 Game of the Year" piece for Eurogamer, as a "shameless Canabalt clone."[24] Similarly, in Joystiq's review of Halfbrick Studios' Jetpack Joyride, Ben Gilbert argued that "Doom is to Halo, as Canabalt is to Jetpack Joyride."[25]

In May 2011, Lewis Denby of PC Gamer placed it at #13 in his list of "20 free PC games you must play."[26] In November 2012, Canabalt was included the permanent collection of video games at the Museum of Modern Art.[27]


The source code of Canabalt was released by Saltsman in 2010.[28] The engine specific code was released under an MIT License[29] and the game code under a proprietary license.[30] One year later, Saltsman concluded that commercially, this had proved a non-harmful step.[31]

In 2011, Canabalt was ported to the Commodore 64 home computer by Paul Koller. This official conversion became available as a cartridge in January 2012.[2] In March 2012, Canabalt was included in the Humble Bundle for Android 2.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Podolsky, Andrew (October 16, 2009). "Canabalt Review". Slide to Play. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Pereira, Chris (January 10, 2012). "Canabalt Now Available for Commodore 64". Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Canabalt (PSP)". GameSpy. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Caoili, Eric (March 19, 2012). "Canabalt HD, other indie iOS games debut on Android with new Humble Bundle". Gamasutra. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Grant, Christopher (March 28, 2013). "The Kickstarter darling comes home: Hands on with the Ouya". Polygon. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  6. ^ Lager, Craig (September 11, 2009). "Adam Atomic on Canabalt". Gaming Daily. Archived from the original on September 13, 2009. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  7. ^ "Canabalt". Kongregate. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  8. ^ Faraday, Owen (January 21, 2013). "Temple Run 2 review". Eurogamer. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Parkin, Simon (June 7, 2013). "Don't Stop: The Game That Conquered Smartphones". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  10. ^ Courtney, Timothy (March 11, 2016). "Game Talk: Developer of Games Like Canabalt and Overland, Adam Saltsman Interview with Timothy Courtney". Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  11. ^ "Canabalt HD". Google Play. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Canabalt for iOS (iPhone/iPad)". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  13. ^ a b c "Canabalt for PSP". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  14. ^ a b "Canabalt for iPhone/iPad Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  15. ^ a b Buchanan, Levi (October 7, 2009). "Canabalt Review". IGN. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  16. ^ a b Eisenman, Bonnie (January 11, 2010). "Canabalt Review". 148Apps. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  17. ^ a b Andrew, Keith (October 7, 2009). "Canabalt Review". Pocket Gamer. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  18. ^ a b Willington, Peter (March 19, 2012). "Canabalt (PSP) Review". Pocket Gamer. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  19. ^ a b Hodapp, Eli (October 2, 2009). "'Canabalt' – Run For Your Life!". TouchArcade. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  20. ^ a b Kamblad, Torbjorn (October 6, 2009). "Canabalt Review". TouchGen. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  21. ^ "The Games Of Christmas: December 2nd". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. December 2, 2009. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  22. ^ Meer, Alec (December 28, 2009). "Games of 2009: Canabalt". Eurogamer. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  23. ^ Swipe This!: The Guide to Great Touchscreen Game Design by Scott Rogers, Wiley and Sons, 2012
  24. ^ Gillen, Kieron (December 30, 2010). "Games of 2010: Robot Unicorn Attack". Eurogamer. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  25. ^ Gilbert, Ben (September 1, 2011). "Portabliss: Jetpack Joyride". Joystiq. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  26. ^ Denby, Lewis (May 3, 2011). "20 free PC games you must play". PC Gamer. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  27. ^ Antonelli, Paola (November 29, 2012). "Video Games: 14 in the Collection, for Starters". MoMA. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  28. ^ Hodgkins, Kelly (December 31, 2010). "Popular indie game Canabalt goes open source". Tuaw. Retrieved July 17, 2013. The developers behind Canabalt confirmed that the game's source code will be made available as part of an open source project. The game will be licensed under the MIT Open Source license, which will let other developers use the engine source code in its entirety for both personal and commercial projects. While the code powering the game is available for the world to use, the game art, sounds, animations and Canabalt game-specific code is still proprietary.
  29. ^ Saltsman, Adam (December 31, 2010). "Canabalt "Open Source" Details, Licensing and Extra Information". Semi Secret. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  30. ^ Johnson, Eric. "Game License Text". GitHub. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  31. ^ Saltsman, Adam (December 6, 2011). "Canabalt Open-Sourcing Your Game While It's Still Popular". Semi Secret. Archived from the original on March 27, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2013.

External links[edit]