Centipede (video game)
Promotional flyer, showcasing the arcade cabinets used for the title
|Designer(s)||Ed Logg and Dona Bailey|
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players, alternating turns|
|CPU||1x MOS Technology 6502 @ 1.512 MHz|
|Sound||1x Atari POKEY @ 1.512 MHz|
|Display||Raster, 240×256, vertical orientation, palette colors 16|
Centipede is a vertically oriented shoot 'em up arcade game produced by Atari, Inc. in 1981. The game was designed by Ed Logg along with Dona Bailey, one of the few female game programmers in the industry at this time. It was also one of the first arcade coin-operated games to have a significant female player base, after Pac-Man. The player defends against swarms of insects, completing a round after eliminating the centipede that winds down the playing field.
The player is represented by a small, "somewhat humanoid head" at the bottom of the screen, later depicted as a caped, elf-like character on the Atari 2600, Atari 5200 and Atari 7800 cartridge graphics (though described as being a garden gnome in the trivia section of the cell phone interpretation). The player moves the character about the bottom area of the screen with a trackball and fires laser shots at a centipede advancing from the top of the screen down through a field of mushrooms. Shooting any section of the centipede creates a mushroom; shooting one of the middle segments splits the centipede into two pieces at that point. Each piece then continues independently on its way down the board, with the first section of the rear piece becoming a new head. If the head is destroyed, the section behind it becomes the next head.
The centipede starts at the top of the screen, traveling either left or right. When it hits a mushroom or the edge of the screen, it drops one level and switches direction. Thus, more mushrooms on the screen cause the centipede to descend more rapidly. The player can destroy mushrooms by shooting them, but each takes four hits to destroy.
If the centipede reaches the bottom of the screen, it moves back and forth within the player area and one-segment "head" centipedes are periodically added. This continues until the player has eliminated both the original centipede and all heads. When all the centipede's segments are destroyed, a new centipede forms at the top of the screen. Every time a centipede is eliminated, however, the next one is one segment shorter and is accompanied by one additional, fast-moving "head" centipede. A player loses a life when hit by a centipede or another enemy, such as a spider or a flea. The flea leaves mushrooms behind when fewer than five are in the player area, though the number required increases with level of difficulty. Spiders move across the player area in a zig-zag fashion and occasionally eat some of the mushrooms.
Scorpions poison every mushroom they touch, but these never appear in the player's movement region. A centipede touching a poisoned mushroom hurtles straight toward the player's area. Upon reaching the player's area, the centipede returns to normal behavior.
Centipede was followed by Millipede in 1982, a somewhat less successful arcade game. In 1992, Atari Games developed a prototype of an arcade game called Arcade Classics for their 20th anniversary, which includes Missile Command 2 and Super Centipede with co-op 2-player mode.
In 1998, Hasbro-owned Atari Interactive released a new version of the game for the PC, PlayStation, and Dreamcast. This version looks and plays very differently to the original game, with free movement around the map, 3D graphics, and a campaign which can be played in single-player or multiplayer mode. The original version of Centipede is available in this version, with slightly updated graphics.
In 2011, Centipede: Infestation was released.
Home systems 
Centipede, like many other Atari arcade games, was ported to Atari's own systems, such as the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, and Atari 800. A prototype was created for the Atari Lynx but never released. Atari's Atarisoft also created versions for other consoles and home computers of the era, for example the Apple II and Commodore 64. There was also a Sega Genesis game called Arcade Classics including this game as one in three, a Game Gear game under the same title, a Master System compilation titled Arcade Smash Hits, and a release for Game.com.
Centipede was also released for the Microsoft Windows 3.x, in 1993 as part of the Microsoft Arcade; in the Arcade Classics series for Game Boy by Nintendo and Accolade in 1995; in 1999 as part of Arcade's Great Hits: The Atari Collection 1 for Sega's Saturn and Sony's PlayStation, in a remake containing the original for Sony's PlayStation, Sega's Dreamcast, and Microsoft Windows 9x in 2000; in 2003 as part of Atari: 80 Classic Games in One!. Atari Anniversary Edition Redux, released in 2001, also contained game within the collection, again for Sony's PlayStation, Sega's Dreamcast, and Microsoft Windows 9x.
Centipede has also been made available for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 (in both arcade and Atari 2600 versions) as part of Atari Anthology in 2004. The Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Portable's Atari Arcade Classics version was bundled with the sequel Millipede, which included an "evolution mode", featuring high-definition graphics and special effects like motion blur, trails, and particle-based explosions. Centipede was released via Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 on May 2, 2007.
Centipede is often included in handheld TV games that have become popular in recent years.
Other platforms 
Glu Mobile released a licensed cellular phone version of Centipede that includes the original game as well as updated gameplay, skins, and modes. In later 2008, Atari released the game via Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Like most other popular arcade games of the era, Centipede was widely imitated by third-party software vendors.
Arcade clones 
- Jackler, released by Konami in 1982
- Slither, released by GDI in 1982
- War of the Bugs or Monsterous Manouvers in a Mushroom Maze, released by Food and Fun Corp./Armenia Ltd in 1981
Home system clones 
- Apeiron, released for Mac OS in 1995 by Ambrosia Software
- Aqua Attack, released for the BBC Micro as part of the Welcome disk/tape with the BBC Master
- Bug Blaster, released for Commodore 64, BBC Micro, and Acorn Electron in 1983 by Alligata (re-issued in 1990 by Blue Ribbon)
- Caterpillar by Aardvark Software for the TRS-80 Color Computer
- Centi-Bug, released for the ZX Spectrum in 1983 by dk'tronics (titled Centipede on screen)
- Champ Centiped-em, released for MS-DOS in 1997 by ChamProgramming Corporation
- Decipede, a type-in version for the Commodore 64 published by COMPUTE!'s Gazette in January 1987
- Katerpillar Attack (Katerpillar, Kater-Pillar, or Katerpillar II) Tom Mix Software TRS-80 Color Computer, Dragon 32
- Megapede, released for the TRS-80 Color Computer in 1983 by Computerware
- Mushroom Alley, released for the Commodore 64 in 1983 by Victory Software
- Spectipede, released for the ZX Spectrum in 1983 by R&R Software and reissued and ported to the Commodore 64, Commodore 16, BBC Micro and Acorn Electron from 1984 by Mastertronic
- Sssnake, released for the Atari 2600 in 1982 by Data Age.
- Video Vermin, released for the VIC-20 in 1982 by UMI
Board game 
In 1983, Milton Bradley released a board game based on the video game. The board game pits two players against each other in a race to be the first person to the opponent's home base with a centipede. Each player can utilize a blaster, as well as a scorpion and spider, to slow the opposing centipede's advance.
In popular culture 
- In 1982, Buckner & Garcia recorded a song called "Ode to a Centipede" using sound effects from the game and released it on the album Pac-Man Fever.
- The artwork from the arcade machine cabinet is used for the cover artwork of the 2004 single "Reptilia" by the band The Strokes.
- In Going the Distance, Drew Barrymore's character has the high score on the Centipede game in the bar where she meets Justin Long's character, who has been trying to beat that score.
In the competitive arena 
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- Centipede Operation, Maintenance, and Service Manual. Sunnyvalle, California: Atari, Inc. 1981. p. 13. TM-182
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- Calculator programmers made an unofficial version that can be loaded onto the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus graphing calculators.
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- "Guinness World Records 2008 - Gamer's Edition", page 240
- "Welcome to Twin Galaxies". Twingalaxies.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
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