Centipede was released by Atari in 1980 and was a great success. It attracted many female fans maybe because it was one of the first coin-operated arcade games created by a woman (Dona Bailey). The aim of the game is to shoot lots of different insects before they kill you. There is a big centipede that comes down to the bottom of the screen to try and kill you.
Centipede immediately won cult status upon it’s release in the arcades. It was believed to be one of the few games of the era to have a vast fan base of female gamers. Whatever the fan base, one thing for sure is, Centipede deserves it’s status as a classic game from the golden era of arcade gaming.
The History of Centipede: It’s a Bugs Life
Released in 1980, and developed by Atari Inc. Centipede was designed and programmed by Atari veteran Ed Logg and Dona Bailey. Bailey was considered by many as the first woman to programme a video game of any kind. Centipede became Atari’s second best selling arcade machine, and over 55,000 units were produced.
Centipede is a single or two player alternating turn game of the shoot ‘em up genre. The game take place on an action packed play field, that is littered with mushrooms and all kinds of deadly insects that descend from the top of the screen. As the player, the objective is to control the “bug blaster” via a trackball and destroy the ever advancing Centipede, and other insects that also appear.
Care is needed when aiming the laser, because if the middle segment of the Centipede is hit, it will break into two separate pieces, each with it’s own head. The broken pieces will then continue to descend as two separate entities. When all the segments are destroyed, a new Centipede will appear at the top of the screen.
However, if the player fails to destroy the advancing Centipede, and it reaches the bottom of the screen, more head segments are added over time. The player must then destroy and all head segments, as well as the original before moving on to a new screen. If the the bug blaster gets hit by any of the Centipede’s parts, a life will be lost.
Other aspects to take into consideration are; when any segment of the Centipede is hit, a mushroom will appear in it’s place. The more mushrooms there are on screen, the quicker the Centipede advances. Mushrooms can be destroyed, and it usually takes four hits of the laser to do so.
In later levels other insects are added, including; fleas, spiders and scorpions. Each with their own intricacies and problems for the bug blaster. Fleas must be hit twice to be destroyed, and will speed up after the first hit. Spiders can aid the bug blaster by destroying mushroom, however after a player reaches a certain score the spiders movement will speed up. Scorpions can poison any mushroom it moves over, if the Centipede then collides with a poisonous mushroom, it will immediately descend into the bottom half of the screen.
Since the original, the game has been released on various other home computers and consoles, including; Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, Commodore 64 and VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Nintendo Game Boy, Sega Mega Drive and Saturn, Sony PlayStation and PlayStation2, and Xbox 360.
The game has also been cloned by many third party developers, but has only one true sequel. Millipede was released in 1982, but never reached the dizzy heights of it’s more illustrious brother.