Review: Centipede (Atari 2600)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we are going clear back again to the Atari 2600 era and giving the top down shooter game Centipede a try. This might not be a name that really sounds familiar to newer gamers, but what does this game have to offer gamers today? We check it out.

This version of Centipede is a port from an arcade game. It was ported to the Atari 2600 in 1982. It would also be ported to numerous other systems as well.

The game play is relatively simple. You are what moves around along the bottom of the screen. You shoot at a centipede until all segments of the centipede is destroyed. Destroying the centipede advances you to the next level which is a bit more difficult. Future levels are increasingly difficult as well.

You have three different enemies besides the centipede. There are spiders and fleas. Spiders zig-zag across the screen, impeding your progress in the game. The only good thing is that it eats the mushrooms on the bottom segment of the screen. The fleas, however, fall down vertically from the top to the bottom of the screen. The fleas leave behind mushrooms. Coming into contact with either the spider, the flea, or the centipede will cause you to lose a life. A third monster flies across the screen from time to time turning the obstacles into flashing obstacles.

The obstacles (fixed thick line segments on screen) on the field allow the centipede to move down the screen faster as it moves from left and right. If the centipede comes into contact with a obstacle, it will move down one row and change direction. So, a lot of obstacles on the field will help the centipede move down the screen faster as there are more obstacles it can come into contact with. If you shoot one of the segments of the centipede, that shot segment will turn into an additional obstacles. Obstacles can be destroyed with four shots.

One interesting element is the fact that you can only have one shot at a time on screen. So, if the shot misses everything and travels all the way to the top of the screen, it will take substantially longer to be able to fire again. If you are shooting something at closer range, though, you’ll be able to fire more rapidly. It’s probably easiest to simply hold down the fire button as that will automatically cause you to fire at the next possible second every time. I’d like to think of it as both a machine gun and a sniper rifle depending on the distance in a way. While it’s a huge advantage to fire at enemies at close range, there is, naturally, and increased risk of getting killed. So, strategy of how close you want to be and how much time you want to spend firing on enemies vs. the mushrooms comes into play here.

Graphically, I’d say this game is simple. It’s hard to make out what each item on screen is minus the spider. there’s a constant variation on the setting as the colors are constantly being changed up as you progress between each level.

There is no music, but the sound effects are a lot like the graphics – simple, yet effective. I actually enjoyed the sound effects in this game as I felt that it gave this game it’s own charm.

Overall, while this game doesn’t take long to get through, it is still quite an enjoyable distraction for an hour or so. I have no problem picking up the controller and giving this game a go again if I was ever asked to. A fun little distraction.


Furthest point in game: Beat 8 levels before dying. I guess that’s not bad, but can’t be sure.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 4/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 68%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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