A Nightmare on Centipede Street
Take a Centipede, a humanoid head of sorts, a field of mushrooms and then throw in some fleas, spiders and scorpions and you either have the basis of a class 'A' nightmare or a smash hit arcade game from Atari.
Thankfully for the sake of this article Centipede was definitely a 1980 smash hit arcade game despite its slightly trippy premise.
The player controls a humanoid head at the base of the screen and is charged with firing off laser shots at the Centipede as it advances through a field of mushrooms from the top of the screen.
Hitting the centipede basically splits the centipede into two and the centipede continues to make his merry way towards you in a menacing fashion.
If Mr Centipede reaches a mushroom he then drops down a level and takes a step closer to Mr Head at the bottom of the screen.
Your track balled controlled humanoid head is also beset upon by fleas, spiders and scorpions all trying to make your task about as difficult as possible.
Then ultimately you lose a life when hit by the Centipede.........kapeesh?
As always with these super addictive high score chasing games the game itself is on the face of it a pretty simple sounding task but when you get going you realise the complexity of the task in hand through the use of clever mechanics and pesky adversaries.
Atari once again had pulled off a piece of genius in the arcade world and people couldn't get enough of this pick up and play colourful and addictive game.
Did You Know?
"One half of the dev team was Dona Bailey who at the time was one of the pioneer female game devs in the industry. Centipede was created with the intent of attracting more female gamers with the use of a colourful palette and this was a specific decision made by Dona and Ed Logg. This reasoning seemed to succeed as it was acknowledged that Centipede had a significant female player base alongside Pac Man"
This Game Had Legs
With a game this popular there just had to be a sequel and the 1982 sequel was called Millipede (of course!)
Millipede was very similar to Centipede but with a few additions to the enemy count such as Earwig, Bee, Inchworm, Beetle, Dragonfly, Mosquito and some good old fashioned DDT!
Millipede was a success but maybe not as successful as it's cousin Centipede.
In 1998 Atari Interactive (owned by Hasbro) released an updated 3D version of the game which received a luke warm reception from gamers and critics alike.
In 2011 Centipede Infestation was released on Nintendo Wii and 3DS. It was a run n gun style game that seemed to get a fair to middling response from critics
Did You Know?
"In the high-scores table of the arcade machine, the initials "ED" and "FXL" appear. These initials refer to "Ed Logg" who was designer and programmer and "Franz Lanzinger" who assisted in design and testing. These names had to appear in this way because at the time Atari didn't allow their programmers' full names to appear in the credits of the game"
Attack Of The Clones
As always, the success of such a great game spawned a whole plethora of clones from other game dev companies. These included (from Wikipedia)
Jackler/Jungler, released by Konami in 1982
Slither, released by GDI in 1982
Caterpillar by Aardvark Software
Exterminator released by Nufekop Software in 1982
Plus Many Others!
Did You Know
"There was a board game version of Centipede released by Milton Bradbury in 1983. A 2 Player Centipede race to the opponents base."
Centipede was indeed another arcade smash for Atari and it sits firmly in video games culture lore.
Centipede recently appeared In the 2015 Pixels film and managed to cause some havoc in London's Hyde Park.
It still stands up today as a great game and is one of those games that if you play an Atari today you need to play as a matter of urgency.