A nearly perfect arcade conversion!
I thought Centipede was a particularly fun arcade game; using the trackball to blast the various bugs on screen somehow manages to provide endless entertainment! The 5200 version of the game is just as fun and amazingly close to the arcade version (probably more so than any other version of the game, even the later Atari 7800). Sound effects are top notch and sound nearly identical to the arcade version (probably since both machines are powered by the POKEY sound chip). The spider sound effect is particularly good and is still the sound I associate with spiders; I'm not certain what type of sound a rampaging spider would actually make, but I'm sure the game designers got it perfectly! The 5200 graphics are also put to good use (and are also very close to the arcade version) featuring different colors for each level and nicely detailed sprites. For some reason, the changing colors seemed to provide incentive to reach the next level; I was always curious what color combination would appear next. The game is best when played with a 5200 trackball; you move you blaster around rapidly or slower with more precision with no problems, not to mention it provides a pretty authentic arcade experience. The standard 5200 analog controllers can also be used, and they work fine but it's definitely worth finding a trackball for this.
There isn't much to not like about this game, though a few points come to mind; one minor complaint is that the spider sprite is only in a single color. It seems like it should have been possible to get the two or three colors found in the arcade version spider on the 5200. Gameplay could also become frustrating when only one or two centipede segments are left. When they reach the bottom, an extra segment will occasionally appear from nowhere. Usually this happened moments before I blasted the last segment which could be annoying after it occurred five or six times. Also, the game can be a bit repetitive; each level is pretty much the same as the previous only faster. (The sequel, Millipede
, actually improved on Centipede a great deal by having more variety, but was unfortunately never released for the 5200).
The Bottom Line
Centipede is a fast action shooter; simple but lots of fun. The 5200 version is extremely faithful to the original and worth picking up. Luckily it's pretty common, so it isn't expensive or difficult to find a copy.