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Box artwork for Centipede.
Distributor(s)Xbox Live Arcade, GameTap
Designer(s)Dona Bailey
Release date(s)
System(s)Arcade, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Intellivision, ColecoVision, Commodore 64/128, Commodore VIC-20, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, TI-99/4A, Xbox 360,
Neoseeker Related Pages
TwitchCentipede Channel

Centipede marquee

Centipede is regarded as the first arcade game designed by a woman, Dona Bailey. It arrived in the arcades in 1980 from Atari and became an instant hit with men and women alike for a number of reasons. It used bright attractive colors throughout the game that alternated between stages. Additionally, it had a simple and intuitive control interface, a trackball. Along with a single fire button, it was a game that just about anyone could approach and immediately know what to do. Even the side art was very impressive and inviting.

The object of every stage is simply to eliminate all of the centipede's body segments by shooting up at them, through a multitude of mushrooms. What made the game novel was that if the centipede was shot in the middle, it split up into two separate body segments, each with its own head, that moved independently of one another. The centipedes would eventually break down to a single segment containing only a head that made for a very difficult target at high speeds.

The Centipede is not alone in this mushroom forest. He is surrounded by fellow insects, each of which have their own behaviors. There's the spider who likes to bounce around the area that your blaster can occupy, making a nuisance of himself and eating mushrooms that he passes. There's the flea who dive bombs down from the top of the screen, depositing mushrooms as he falls. And there's the Scorpion who can poison mushrooms. If a centipede head touches a poison mushroom, he is driven mad and drills down to the bottom of the screen instead of taking his usual lazy approach.

Centipede was quite popular at home as well, thanks to Atari porting it, not only to its own home systems, but to just about every other popular platform through their Atarisoft label. Although, the truth is you can't quite capture the play experience with a joystick, you really need a trackball, which Atari released for their systems.

Typical of many classic arcade games, there is no proper story for Centipede. Some people claim that you are a garden gnome with a magic bug-zapping wand charged with eliminating the pests. Others claim that these bugs are not ordinary bugs but Godzilla-sized insects that threaten to trample your home town, and it's up to you to stop them.

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