Mother’s Day came and went last week, and what better way to commemorate it than by writing about the first major game that had broad appeal to women? Co-designed by Dona Bailey and Ed Logg, Centipede’s release in 1980 became an instant hit due to many reasons, including it’s simple gameplay and vibrantly detailed cabinet art. By borrowing some elements from Space Invaders, and adding a wide slew of new mechanics, a classic was born.
The objective of this game is to take control of a movable turret (described in the flyers and subsequent media as a magic-wielding gnome) and shoot at a centipede that’s making its way down to the bottom of the screen. The brutish insect takes it time zigzagging down through a forest of mushrooms, giving the player ample opportunity to strike it with several well-placed shots. However, if the centipede makes it to the bottom, then death is all but inevitable – albeit a good player can still survive. Furthermore, our multi-legged friend is not alone as he has many bug cohorts to assist him in his task.
The Centipede comic book that came with the Atari 2600 home version of the game painted an elaborate and cuter tale of the centipede in the enchanted forest.
In this guide, we’ll tell you how to go about playing this game, as well as share several tips to place your own high scores.
There’s not much to speak of in terms of control when it comes to Centipede. There is only a trackball and a fire button. The trackball can be spun around to control the movements of the turret. Meanwhile, the fire button is used for, you guessed it, firing on your enemies. The only other button is for choosing between a 1 or 2 player game, which is pretty self-explanatory.
As we mentioned above, the Centipede has many insect friends that will constantly work against you. Every enemy has its own unique behavior and poses a different challenge for the player:
- Centipede: The objective of the game is to dispatch this wiggly fellow. However, if you shoot him down the middle, he will split into two separate entities, which can complicate matters for you. The centipede will make a beeline towards the bottom of the screen, passing by the mushrooms as he makes his descent. The idea is to only clear a part of the mushrooms so that he doesn’t travel straight to the bottom. If he manages to reach the bottom, not only are you in risk of dying, but he will also summon more insect enemies to aid him. Centipedes grant 10 points per segment shot, but give you 100 points if you shoot it in the head.
- Spiders: These springy foes enter the screen from the sides and bounce all over the place. They can bounce on the bottom of the screen as well, and will definitely kill you if you come into contact with them. They grant more points the farther away they are at the moment of shooting them, which presents a great opportunity to score some extra points. Also, they may eat some of the mushrooms they land on. Spiders grant either 300, 600, or 900 points depending on their distance from the turret when defeated.
- Fleas: These enemies only appear when there are less than 5 mushrooms on the playable area of the screen. Fleas fly straight downward through the bottom of the screen, and come back from the top. They also leave a random number of mushrooms along the way. They will despawn when there are at least 5 mushrooms in the playable area. Furthermore, they take two hits to kill. Every flea grants 200 points per kill.
- Scorpions: A lethal foe that is dangerous not because of the harm it can cause to the turret, but for the effects it has on the centipede. The Scorpion approaches from the sides of the arena, poisoning every mushroom it passes through. If the centipede touches a poison mushroom, it will go berserk and dive straight to the bottom, complicating matters for you. Each scorpion is worth 1,000 points.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some strategies that you can use to improve your performance at Centipede:
Clear a Path
Mushrooms take 4 hits to fully destroy and can get in the way of a good shot when you least expect it. Because of this, it’s important to always clear a path that will grant you a clear shot at both the centipede, as well as its bug friends. Try to clear a path that is at least 3 to 4 tiles wide. Also, avoid shooting the centipede down the middle when clearing a path; you won’t like having to deal with two squirming enemies instead of one.
You Control the Fleas
Since we know that fleas only spawn when there are less than 5 mushrooms in the working area, you can influence its appearance by destroying the mushrooms in the said space. This is a technique used by the pros to maximize their scores as fleas are worth 200 points each. Nevertheless, they take two shots to kill, which require precise timing. If you only hit the flea once, then it’s movement speed will double, complicating getting under it to deal the killing blow.
Optimize Your Centipede-Killing Method
Each segment of the centipede is worth only 10 points. However, if you shoot it in the head, it’ll grant you 100 points. In this manner, shooting a centipede down the middle is more akin to a punishment than a reward. Because of this, you need to try and shoot the foe on the head every time. Furthermore, once you destroy the head, the next segment will turn into another head, which you can then shoot for another 100 points, and so on.
A good tip for this task is to wait until the centipede wiggles its way to the bottom, and destroying it with a single strafe of your turret. This takes a lot of practice, but is a good way to end a stage quickly and to get lots of points for the effort.
Also keep in mind that you can survive if any segments reach the bottom, as they will then begin to move a few rows upwards, giving the the chance to still blast them, but you’ll want to avoid too many reaching your movement area, as it becomes easy to run into them.
Centipede is more than just a classic – it’s getting a remake with the new Centipede Chaos! Be sure to check out this hot new sequel, landing in arcades Summer 2019!
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