Monday, December 26, 2011

Video game of the week: Centipede for Atari 7800

In the early 1980s, vertical shooting arcade games were all the rage, with Space Invaders being the godfather of the genre. One of the most popular of such games was Centipede, released by Atari in 1980.

Centipede was in many ways like a lot of shooter games of the time. The player controlled an object at the bottom of the screen that blasted away at objects further up the screen. But Centipede was a bit different. For on thing, it wasn't a science fiction or military game. The shooter in the game is a little head, sometimes referred to as a garden gnome, that blazes away at centipedes, mushrooms, spiders and other crawling critters. In another way Centipede was unlike most vertical shooters of the day in that the villains (ie. the targets) weren't all the same, but each moved in a different way and posed different dangers.

All of this combined with great gameplay and solid replay action created one of the more popular arcade games of the early 1980s, and many still remember and even play Centipede today on computers or on one home gaming system or another.

But back in the early to mid-1980s, most of the home gaming consoles didn't have all that great of graphics. Most of the home versions of arcade greats just didn't match up to the originals.

Atari combated this by releasing its Atari 7800 system, initially in 1984 but to a wider audience in 1986. One of the first 13 games released for the Atari 7800 was Centipede.

Finally gamers could play arcade quality games at home, and the Atari 7800 version of Centipede did not disappoint. This game wasn't exactly like the arcade version, but it was pretty darn close. The graphics were bright and solid, and the gameplay was almost exactly the same as the arcade game.

The biggest difference was in the controls. Centipede in the arcade was played with a trackball, while the Atari 7800 used joysticks. This could be alleviated to some extent by hooking up an old Atari 2600 trackball to the 7800 (yes, the Atari 7800 was compatible in nearly all aspects to the 2600), but it still wasn't quite the same.

One place the 7800 version of Centipede improved upon earlier versions of the game was that two players could play the game at the same time, so you could sit down with a buddy and blast away for hours.

Truly, the Atari 7800 version of Centipede is one of the best home versions that can be found of the game. If you are a doubter, give it a try.

1 comment:

  1. The Atari 7800 was REALLY underrated. It couldn't really do scrollling effects like the NES, so most people wanted nothing to do with it. It's such a shame, because, like you said, it had some terrific games, and Centipede was definitely one of em! Great review man, you described Centipede really well!