You have to give Atari credit; when it comes to updating classic arcade games, I’m not sure there’s anyone who does it better. It helps that they have a wealth of outstanding titles from which to choose, and this time they’ve gone with Centipede, now updated as Centipede Origins for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
What is it?
Centipede Origins will be instantly familiar to everyone who dropped a few quarters its way in the ’80s. The graphics are polished, but you’re still a little shooter (in this case, a gnome) trying to destroy an army of insects that basically just want to get closer to you, dropping mushrooms and such on their way.
There’s not much more to the gameplay than that, but there doesn’t really need to be.
How does it work?
You move your gnome around the bottom of the screen by dragging your thumb across the screen. Because your gnome shoots automatically, Centipede Origins is perfect for one handed play…on the iPhone, anyway. The playing field is too wide on the iPad, so you’ll need to hold the device in one hand and move the gnome with a finger on the other hand. I preferred the iPad for visuals and iPhone for control, but it doesn’t matter because it’s a universal app.
Although Atari doesn’t alter the core gameplay much (the old strategies for dealing with the various insects and clearing out the mushrooms remain), they’ve enhanced it with various power-ups. Rapid fire, fanning shots, etc. provide more power to your shooter. Bigger items such as grenades and fly traps can be strategically used to clear out tough sections. There are even defense items you can set up.
You “purchase” these at the start of each level with coins you’ve earned in the game, and you can buy additional coins as in-app purchases if you’re in a hurry to get through. You can also purchase additional levels if you’re so inclined, and Atari promises more of pretty much everything will be available soon. Seem like a lot to buy? Remember…you used to have to pay 25 cents for every game of Centipede. This is nothing.
Is it contagious?
Truthfully, I was never much a fan of the original arcade game; I played Centipede pretty much only when the other cabinets were out of order. But here, it works quite well. The single handed gameplay on the iPhone has an intensity that betrays its casual presentation, while the iPad version comes pretty close to offering an actual arcade experience.
My only big problem with the game stems from the invasive Facebook and Twitter integration, as the game is constantly trying to get you to share your progress. No one cared how well I did in Centipede in 1983, and I’m certain they don’t care now.
Still, Atari has done a great job of updating a 30-year-old game for modern players while not betraying its origins, and that’s not easy to do.