In memoriam, Donald Sutherland

Centipede

aka: Game Room: Centipede
Moby ID: 141
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Conversion (official) Conversion (unofficial) Included in See Also

Description official descriptions

In Centipede, the player is trapped in the Enchanted Forest. Armed with only a magic wand to ward off the forest's insect denizens, all of which are attacking the player in continuous waves.

The player must use the magic wand to shoot sparks at approaching insects to score points by pressing the controller button. Holding down the controller button will set the wand to rapid-fire shots. If the player is bitten by an insect, the player will be temporarily paralyzed and lose one of the three starting magic wands.

  • Insect Opponents and Mushrooms

All enemy insects have a distinctive sound before attacking, which may help the player identify which insect is attacking. Enemies and objects in the game are as the following:

  • The Centipede

The Centipede will attack in 12 waves. In the first wave, the Centipede will have a head attached to 11 body segments. In the second wave, the Centipede will have a head attached to 10 body segments, in addition to a detached head. The third wave will have the Centipede with an attached head, 9 body segments, plus two detached heads. These body segments will transform into heads and continue to do so until Wave 12. In the last wave, the Centipede will have 12 detached heads, independently attacking the player. Centipede heads are worth more points than body segments.

Attacks from the Centipede will come from the top of the screen, moving downward. If a spark hits any part of the Centipede, that particular body segment will transform into a mushroom, while the body segment behind it will become the new Centipede head. When the Centipede is destroyed, it will briefly disappear and re-appear from the top of the screen again.

  • The Spider

The Spider will attempt to distract the player from attacking the Centipede. It will destroy any mushroom it touches. Spiders will score more points if it is hit at closer distances.

  • The Flea

The Flea will appear if the player has destroyed most of the existing mushrooms. It will drop down creating a new batch of mushrooms where it falls. The Flea will disappear after two hits. After the first hit, the Flea will drop down much faster.

  • The Scorpion

The Scorpion will appear in the third wave. It moves slowly but will pick up speed, moving faster. While doing so, it will poison any mushroom it touches.

  • Mushrooms

Mushrooms fill the Enchanted Forest and may act as obstacles or cover for the player, with added effects to enemy insects. It takes four shots to destroy a mushroom. There are two types of mushrooms: Magic Mushrooms and Poisonous mushrooms. Magic mushrooms are the default mushrooms in the game and are also the result of the player destroying an insect or Centipede body segment. Poisonous Mushrooms are the result of the Scorpion touching a mushroom. Poisonous Mushrooms will prompt the Centipede near it to move straight towards the player through any mushroom. Losing a wand will restore any partially damaged mushroom.

Game Difficulty and Variations

The game offers four difficulty levels: Novice, Standard, Advanced, and Expert. Game Variations are as the following:

  • One Player
  • Two Player Alternating

Two players will take turns when the active player is bitten.

  • Dual Player Competition

Two players will appear on the screen at the same time. Scoring is separate. Shots fired from one player will paralyze the other player.

  • Team Play

Two players will appear on the screen at the same time. Scoring is combined. Shots fired from one player will not paralyze the other player.

Scoring

The player will win a bonus magic wand for every 12,000 points to a maximum of six wands. The game will end when all wands are lost. Scoring are as the following:

  • Centipede Head - 100 points
  • Centipede Body Segment - 10 points
  • Spider at close range - 900 points
  • Spider at medium range - 600 points
  • Flea - 200 points
  • Scorpion - 1,000 points
  • Restored mushroom - 5 points
  • Destroyed mushroom - 1 points

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Credits (Arcade version)

5 People

Designed by
Programmed by
Head of Engineering
Technician
Hardware Engineer

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 66% (based on 30 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 143 ratings with 5 reviews)

Nostalgia is great. But c'mon...

The Good
As a game with actual graphics, Centipede was a big surprise on the IBM. The gameplay is smooth and challenging, with the same rising difficulty level as the arcade version. Centipede puts your pulse rate through a series of hills and valleys as the creature gets lower on each level.

The Bad
Clearly it's unfair to compare Centipede with, say, Unreal Tournament. But try these, all pc conversions from 1983: Galaxian, Frogger, Moon Patrol, Lode Runner, Donkey Kong and PacMan. They're all better. As one of the first arcade games many people played, along with PacMan and Pong, centipede tends to inspire a certain virginal nostalgia among games fans. But even among pc games of the time centipede is limited and boring, the kind of game that you'll play a few times in between PacMan sessions.

The Bottom Line
If you're a student of computer gaming history, you should definitely play centipede, both in pc and arcade (MAME) form. You may even find you like it. But unlike other games of this vintage, from Galaxian to Zork to the utterly formidable PacMan, Centipede just doesn't hold up.

PC Booter · by Colin Rowsell (43) · 2002

Still a classic to this day

The Good
If you have been to the arcades back in the early eighties, you would have discovered a little gem called Centipede, Atari’s shooter where the object is to shoot the titular antagonist that makes its way down toward you through a garden of mushrooms, dealing with other critters along the way. I was too young to take a trip to the arcades, so the only way I got to experience it was to purchase the Commodore 64 home port made by Atarisoft.

The VIC-20 version of the game, also by Atarisoft, is still faithful to the original coin-op. The title screen looks good, and there is an option that allows you to go two player (each player takes turns), but not much else. Due to the machine’s limited resolution, the graphics are much larger, but this makes everything easier to see. The color scheme changes every time a wave is cleared. The sound effects match those of the arcade. Even though the spider sound is missing a note, this really didn’t bother me.

The Bad
When you lose all your lives and it is game over, you have to press the [F1] key twice to restart the game.

The Bottom Line
Centipede for the VIC-20 is a great port; everything is here minus the high score table the original coin-op has. The graphics and sound are nice, and it is a great little gem to add to your game collection.

VIC-20 · by Katakis | カタキス (43087) · 2021

A nearly perfect arcade conversion!

The Good
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.

The Bad
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.

Atari 5200 · by Servo (57069) · 2005

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Dan Van Elderen Freeman (65147) Feb 19, 2021
Monitor not working correctly Rob Holroyd Jul 19, 2017

Trivia

1001 Video Games

The Arcade version of Centipede appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Board game

In 1983, Milton Bradley adapted this video game into a board game.

Comic

DC Comics created a Centipede comic that was included with Atari's Centipede game. Here is that comic from AtariAge.com.

Launch game

Centipede was one of the "Fabulous Eleven" launch games for the Atari 7800.

Lynx version

As can be expected with an Atari game, Centipede was ported to the Lynx, but never released.

PC version

The PC port of Centipede is extremely small--the entire program code and graphics fit into 20k.

References to the game

Centipede was popular enough to have a song inspired by it on the full-length Pac-Man Fever album - Ode To A Centipede.

Awards

  • Retro Gamer
    • Issue #46 - #19 in the “Top 25 Atari 2600 Games" poll
  • The Strong National Museum of Play
    • 2020 – Introduced into the World Video Game Hall of Fame

Information also contributed by Игги Друге, Guy Chapman, LepricahnsGold, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual and FatherJack

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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Trixter.

Game Boy Color added by Charly2.0. TI-99/4A added by Corn Popper. Intellivision, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, ColecoVision added by PCGamer77. Lynx added by LordKraken. Plex Arcade added by firefang9212. Atari 7800, Atari 5200 added by RKL. Xbox 360, Windows added by Alaka. Windows Phone, Atari 8-bit, Browser added by Kabushi. Game Boy added by Freeman. Arcade added by Pseudo_Intellectual. Antstream added by lights out party. VIC-20, Apple II added by Servo.

Additional contributors: Jeanne, Guy Chapman, Nélio, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, ZeTomes, firefang9212, SoMuchChaotix.

Game added May 26, 1999. Last modified June 16, 2024.