I wish I could tell you which decision I was avoiding when I started playing Fotonica, but it's long gone, lost to the Vectrex light trails and the heavy pumping of unseen feet. Santa Ragione's one-button sprint is something of a shock at first, and the really big surprise comes from how tactile, how punishingly physical, this seemingly abstract game feels.
Maybe it's the hands - wire-framed blades of Neuromancer flesh that swing up and down as you run. Maybe it's the audio, with that suggestion of panting, of winded landings lurking beneath the buzzing, sliding soundtrack. Whatever it is, it lifts the game out of the confines of its endless runner formula. Or maybe it elevates the entire formula, giving a human weight to a game in which you hold down a button - any button - to build up speed, and release it to jump.
Aha! And you also press the button again to bring you down out of your jump, adding an element of target practice to proceedings as you shift from one rail to another, avoiding drops, moving up and down through stacked tiers of tracks, and collecting funny little pink spheres that probably count towards something but are so delightful to land on that you'd aim for them regardless.
All of which is to say: I thought I was bored with endless runners. But then they got really classy.
Fotonica's not alone. Elsewhere on Steam, Shawn Beck's Velocibox has been driving me mad all week - another tunnel-based endless runner in which you ride a small cube into the screen at terrifying speeds, dodging obstacles and collecting trinkets.
The twist here is straight out of VVVVVV - you can flip between the floor and the ceiling to avoid running aground. You can also move left and right, riding on walls, and the camera always corrects itself behind you - all of which provides just a little too much for me to think about and explains why I've only been able to get screenshots of the first level. It doesn't matter, though: restarts are quick - as they should be - and it's very rare not to have one failed attempt pancake into another and then anotherandanother until I've been happily crashing and burning all morning.
Avoid the trinkets: that's my advice for novice Velociboxers. Just focus on staying alive and the trinkets will come to you. As for wider lessons, I think there's something very satisfying about playing Fotonica and Velocibox - and Delta for that matter - in the space of a few weeks. I thought endless runners were over, and that the dove-clouded revolution Canabalt ushered in had burned itself out. I was wrong, and here are the games to prove it - all of them playing with the same basic formula in their own ways, all of them finding their own special aspects to highlight, all of them providing you with easy reasons to keep moving.
Shawn Beck recently entered the 7 Day FPS Jam, incidentally, and the end result is pretty special.