Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Top 30 Vertical Shooters for the Atari 2600 #16


I'm one of those.  One of those who really love the VCS version of Centipede despite its blocks for mushrooms and lack of trak-ball control.  Purists will scoff at the sluggish control afforded by the joystick. Arcade snobs will ridicule the rudimentary graphics (ironically perhaps when you really look at the visuals of the arcade original).  But Centipede for the Atari 2600 captures the fun and madcap action of its spirited predecessor pretty damn perfectly for my tastes.

Like Space Invaders, I don't think I have to say much about what Centipede is apart from the fact that it is one of the foundational shooters of the genre.  Ok, well, maybe there is something to say about the story behind the game.  Unlike most shooters that pit you against squadrons of enemy space ships, Centipede puts you in a field of mushrooms against a literal garden variety of pests the worst of which is a giant centipede who does not die when shot, but horrifically breaks off in multiple segments and continues marching forward bent on your demise.  Seems mind-altering drugs and video game design are a match made in heaven.

What makes Centipede such a great game is the fast-paced action and variety of game play elements.  Centipede starts out a bit simple with you against the Centipede and his ally the spider.  But after a few rounds, the flea and the scorpion show up to wreck havoc upon you as well.  Difficulty ramping is spot on as well.  By the time you get really good, the action is fast and furious, the scorpion is zipping across the screen so fast you barely have time to see it, and the centipede is entirely disjointed and mounting an attack on many fronts.  Centipede doesn't overwhelm you, it lets you pick up the game at a good pace.

They have also done a nice job of matching the speed of the game play with the joystick controls to avoid the frustration that would come with a direct port lacking trak-ball support.  This might have been the happy accident of programming limitations, but either way it works.

Centipede is a great vertical shooter.  It has tons replay value and provides plenty of challenge.  It may be a bit sparse on details, but it captures the essence of its source material and, most importantly, is a lot of fun.  You cannot go wrong with Centipede for the Atari 2600.

Oh and I would be remiss if I did not mention the totally swank title screen.  That thing is sweet.
My Top Centipede Score: 277,335

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