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Overview and game play
is a single screen shooter for 1-2 players designed and programmed by
Dona Bailey and Ed Logg. Centipede was very popular in the arcades and
was produced for numerous home computers such as the C64, Spectrum,
Dragon 32, Atari ST, Amiga and PC. Centipede was supposedly the first
coin-op game designed by a woman. A grasshopper was in the original
design, but was later removed from the game. However, according to this
Usenet posting, Dona Bailey didn't have as much to do with Centipede as
"Actually, Ed Logg had a lot more to do with Centipede than Dona Bailey. In an anonymous Atari designers words: "Dona Bailey couldn't program her way out of paper bag..." Remember the famous 8-6-4 GM cadillac engine from 1980-81 that used to catch fire?? Guess who designed this, and used to work at GM before they got 'fired', and ended up working at Atari? I feel it was smart marketing by Ray Kassar and Frank Ballouz to advertise the game as being designed by a woman, but I'd only give her a very slight amount of partial credit for the concept only and no code in Centipede....FWIW, Millipede was designed almost entirely by Ed...."
One coin is required per player and the game begins with an empty dark background that is filled with mushrooms and a centipede that wriggles its way down towards the player from the top of the screen. The players’ object is at the bottom of the screen and it can be moved left and right with the trackball and partially up and down too by moving the trackball in those respective directions. Pressing button 1 causes the players’ object to fire a bullet straight up the screen and if a mushroom is hit it will be partially destroyed. Multiple shots against a mushroom will destroy it completely and then it disappears from the screen. The centipede consists of several segments that are linked together and it moves down the screen from side to side. When it touches a mushroom or the side of the screen, the centipede moves down slightly and repeats the movement until it touches another object or the side of the screen. If one of the segments is hit by the players’ bullet, that segment of the centipede will turn into a mushroom and when all the segments are destroyed, another centipede will appear at the top of the screen for the player to attack. Other objects appear during the game such as a spider that can be shot for bonus points. The player must avoid contact with a spider and/or the centipede as s/he will loose one of the three lives available at the start of the game. Extra lives are awarded every 12,000 points and other bonuses are awarded when the player has attained certain scores in the game.
Centipede has simple but addictive game play focused on the attainment of a high score. The game requires quick decision-making and good reflexes: especially when the centipede is moving fast. A good aspect of the game play is that the centipede’s segments will turn into mushrooms if hit by the player’s bullet. These mushrooms can then block the next centipede from moving which means it will move down the screen quicker than if uninhibited. The player must therefore clear a path as quickly as possible by blasting mushrooms while trying to shoot segments of the centipede before they touch the players’ object. This feature of the game ensures that the action in centipede is fast-paced and demanding on the players’ concentration and skills.
Centipede has simple graphics that are about as good as they could be for a game released in 1980. A small colour palette has been used to depict the mushrooms, text and players object as well the spider that moves around the players’ object sometimes. The centipede’s movements are quite fluid and quick and the player’s object also moves quite swiftly and smoothly.
There is no music in centipede, but the simple sound effects used are among the most memorable of the early arcade games available. The combinations of beeps used in centipede’s sound effects have been used in some TV series such as “Knight Rider” to represent one of the sounds of a computer controlled car and on another TV show “Whizz Kids” to represent a computer being used by one of the characters.