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Centipede - The Atari Times


Welcome to the busiest, creepiest, crawliest garden ever!
by Darryl Brundage

September 8, 2003
Lets take a trip back in time, shall we?

The time: the late 1970s.
The place: Atari.
The characters: a high-powered Atari executive with a manager, overlooking the coin-op division...

Executive: (rubbing hands together): Look at them, Watson! A busy production line cranking out printed money! Go my minions! MuhaHHAHAHAHA!

Manager: Yes, maste--er, sir, it IS impressive. But aren't we only tapping into only 50% of a potential market?

Executive: What do you mean? Millions of adolescent boys all over the world are playing our machines! ATARI FOREVER!

Manager: Yes, but how many GIRLS frequent arcades?

Executive (freezes up like any computer running Windows today): You're right. I never thought of that. We must reel them in also!

Manager: But how?

Executive: Well, we DO have a female programmer on the staff that we could put to use...

Manager: There's a woman here who's not a SECRETARY?!

(Politically Correct Notice: please note that the above intro is just a pathetic attempt at humor, and not to imply that men and women cannot do an equal job, whatever it may be. I've temped and contracted with women for the years, so I mean no disrespect. Plus, I used to be a drummer, and all the "dumb musician" jokes are always directed at drummers, so I guess that makes us even.)

Yes, Centipede made all kinds of history when it was released, and not just for being the first video game ever that was designed by a woman, it was also very original: how many other games out there involve mushrooms? A centipede that, segment after segment of it, after being shot, TURNS into mushrooms? A scorpion that poisons mushrooms? A flea that *produces* mushrooms as well? And I think I'll leave an obvious joke out about what mushrooms were being smoked at Atari when this idea was thought up... (Oh, and also different in this game, by the way, is that you can maneuver around only the first 2 1/2 or so inches of the bottom of the screen.)

Centipede's setting involved the world of bugs, and it's up to you to keep the little critter world safe from those invading multi-legged freaks. The centipede starts at the top of the screen and is constantly in motion horizontally; once it reaches the edge of a screen, it drops a notch down closer to you. Meanwhile if you shoot a body segment, rather than the head of the centipede, you'll split the centipede up, plus a mushroom will appear in place of whatever centipede segment you hit, and that will cause the centipede to drop down another notch (unless you shot an end segment of the centipede, which won't make the centipede drop down yet another notch).

Also posing additional threats are spiders, who move very quickly and can be very dangerous, but they are worth a lot of points. Unfortunately, if you clear out too many mushrooms in your playing field, a fast-dropping flea will appear, and it will deposit more mushrooms (if there's five mushrooms or less in your area, he'll appear). And if you get through enough waves, a scorpion will charge across the screen, and any mushrooms he touches, they're poisoned, and if a centipede makes contact with those mushrooms, it will instantly drop down to the bottom of the screen.

This is a very hectic game. As you start clearing more and more screens, the centipede starts out less whole/is broken up into a lot of pieces, which makes it harder to hit. And once any centipede part reaches the bottom of the screen, extra heads start appearing if you don't quickly clear them out, and contact with anything that moves will result in you losing a life.

The graphics were good for back then, the sounds engaging, and the control was a total dream, thanks to the TRACKBALL! It just wouldn't be the same with a joystick, and ISN'T the same with all the tons of ports that was made with this game, but they're all still a bit of fun.

And yes, this drove the females into the arcades, rather than the majority of the better halves being moms looking for their kids in the headache-inducing places, babysitters who would rather be studying, and sisters looking for their dumb nerdy little brothers who are never going to have a girlfriend if they don't quit playing these stupid things...just where IS he anyway? Oh there's the little puke, I can see his zits from here! My sister liked the game, and so did I (plus a lot of other guys), since it WAS a shooter, after all. 

And in conclusion, I can't really say anything bad about this severely classic game. After all, not only do you get to kill gnarly bugs, but you don't have to scrape off your shoes afterwards.

Simple, fun, blasting action!
Create a channel for the Centipede to travel and it'll make the game easier.
The scorpion is always out to make trouble!
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 85%
Sound & Music Score: 93%
Gameplay Score: 95%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 92%

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