Video Game Review: Centipede

So I’m a year older.

And I’m looking around at the video games today and marveling how much they changed from when I was a kid. My first system was the Atari 2600. I think my father got it in 1986 or 1987. I remember it was around the launch of the NES. My dad couldn’t afford to purchase a NES, so he got the next best thing. The Atari 2600 was under $50, so it was a pretty good deal.

My father purchased the video game Centipede with it. So really, Centipede was my first console game. Not my first game, since I was playing arcade games at that point.

So… why bother reviewing a game that’s probably twice as old as most of the readers of this site?

Well, something hit me when I was thinking back to that game.

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You see, Centipede was a fairly simplistic game. There are a lot of these strange mushroom things, which are the red rectangles on the screen. The larger rectangle at the bottom is the PC. The goal the player has is to kill the wandering Centipede, seen in purple/pink and the random bouncing spider. The large rectangle could shoot and hit the Centipede that was running around, going left to right… right to left… moving lower and lower. The Centipede will bounce change direction when it hits a mushroom, going lower in the process. You shoot the head, you get more points. You can shoot the body and break it into pieces. Each piece you hit turns into a mushroom. The game goes on until the player runs out of lives.

The goal is to destroy the Centipede. Nothing more and nothing less. Now I’m not going to bemoan the loss of “simple,” mainly because there are still lots of these types of simple games on mobile devices. Also, the complex games out there are sort of fun, you know? I loves me Silent Hill, Mass Effect, Zelda, Mario Brothers, Castlevania, Skyrim, etc. The modern stuff is just as good, if not a whole lot better, than the older games in almost every respect.

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What gets me… when I look back at the older games like this one… is how video games evolved. The modern ones are closer to a cinematic experience. Like, for example: Dead Rising. You play Frank West… a guy who’s covered wars (you know)… (don’t give me that look! If you played the game, you’d be laughing right now)… and is now trying to survive and uncover the truth about a zombie outbreak. Frank can attack, just like I was able to attack in Centipede… but there is story/plot, phenomenal music, 3D space, camera angles, texture maps… so much more than what Centipede has.

I guess Centipede helps me see that modern video games do still have a game buried underneath everything. It’s easy for me to overlook it, since it feels closer to an interactive story than anything else.

Oh, if you’re ever going to play Centipede, I have a good trick that I’ve seen my father do. You position your guy in the middle of the screen and keep on firing up. You may have to move around to avoid the spider or to not get hit. In theory, you will be hitting the Centipede. The goal is to make a tunnel of mushrooms that will capture the Centipede… forcing it down a narrow corridor and really easy to kill.

I can’t help but think about the game and smile. Here’s a video I found on YouTube that shows the gameplay. Enjoy. And if you have the chance, check the game out. It’s a fun way to spend 5 or 10 minutes.

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One comment on “Video Game Review: Centipede

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