Windows - 1998
Description of Centipede Windows
Following on from their most recent 'arcade classic' remake, Frogger, Hasbro have released an all-new, 3D enhanced Centipede that they hope will appeal to both the current generation of action gamers, plus those with a more vivid memory of the 80's seeking a satisfying retro fix. Did Leaping Lizard modify enough of the simplistic arcade game to warrant the more nineties-compliant $40 price tag?
Since the original game was, um, rather lacking in any plot whatsoever, Centipede opens with a professionally produced cutscene, very light-hearted in tone, where an old man narrates of a legend: every 100 years, huge bugs sleeping within the bowels of the Earth come out of their hibernation to follow their master (ie. the big centipede you gotta shoot). Just before you launch into the game, you're also rewarded with a short movie that explains how you were picked to be the "hero" in the shooter device; basically you were the unlucky wretch who was rudely awakened one morning by a cooky wizard with a crooked stick that he claims led him to you. Mystic powers decided you were the chosen one. "Bah to that!" I'd say, but that's just selfish little me.
Anyway, you are offered the option of two gameplay modes before you begin: arcade and adventure. I won't get into a semantic argument here, but rest assured, "adventure" mode is no Grim Fandango. Arcade is essentially a recreation of the original Centipede from the arcades -- you remain on the one 'map' throughout and progress through the levels, each getting consistently more difficult due to more enemies, faster centipedes etc. The objective is completely pinball-esque in nature -- get a high score. Fun for a little while, but this was obviously gameplay best suited to the "have a go, move on to the next" nature of an eighties coin-op.
The 'adventure' game is the main bulk of this new Centipede and is actually surprisingly fun. You advance your way through the varying levels in five different environments of the Weedom's kingdom (the Wee citizens are who you're protecting from the dreaded centipede -- no I'm not turning Scottish). Now unlike the arcade version, each level is a fully 3D environment -- you can play from a few different viewpoints which can be toggled between at any time: top-down, from directly behind, and actually in the cockpit.
Centipede is a slight mix of regular shoot 'em up and platform game. Many of the levels have 'secret' areas away from the main playing field, usually reached by jumping on ledges. They're often not too hard to find, just a little exploration is necessary. It's quite a nostalgia trip playing in this 3D world, but seeing all the familiar elements of the original arcade game up close and from all different angles; including the centipede itself, that annoying spider that hovered around your shooter ship at the bottom of the screen, the scorpion, and the actual mushrooms the centipede would zig-zag through.
Also new to this version are the extra weapons and powerups available. There's about 18 altogether ranging from laser upgrades which run on a time limit, shields that can be stockpiled so that you can survive beyond one 'hit', and "special weapons" which you fire on command and can scroll through if you've acquired more than one.
Your primary objective in each level is to destroy the advancing centipedes (of course), but you also have additional objectives which change in each scenario. These vary from rescuing the Wee citizens which flee from their housing periodically throughout the level (just run into them and they're transported to safety by special technology attached to your ship -- hey is any of this game plausible?) -- some of whom actually help you by attacking the bad guys themselves, but suffer from limited powers -- along with protecting houses and special crystals which some creatures can suck the lifeforce out of. These objectives are never criteria for your success in each mission, but they do reward you with additional points, which consequentially results in more lives.
Gameplay is certainly fast and furious, especially on the later levels as you have all manner of creatures coming at you from all angles. Unlike the original, where nothing ever happened behind you, this game has you constantly watching your sides and back. The radar provided is invaluable, and color coded to let you know if a bug is approaching, there's a power-up nearby or a Wee person to save. As is tradition, at the end of each gameworld, you're pitted against the "big boss guy", who usually requires a lot of firepower, agility and some thinking to defeat.
Additionally, there's a multiplayer mode for those of you gamers who aren't so addicted to your PC that you've actually spent the time necessary to develop real-life relationships with people (as pointless as that may seem sometimes). The fun part is, you can play split-screen, which is an admirable quality to implement in any game these days. There's also the option to play over LAN or Internet. Unfortunately, there are very few game types available: 2 player and co-op only (players are invulnerable to each other's shots in the game so there'll be no "makeshift deathmatches" going on either). I wasn't able to find an opponent on the Internet to test the stability and quality of modem netplay, sadly, since co-op games tend to fare badly with the Internet gaming community.
Pacman's graphics rulez!
Centipede sports some heavily updated graphical effects along with its new 3D engine work-over. Visually, the game is actually fairly impressive, taking advantage of the 3Dfx cards (Glide only folks, no OpenGL or D3D here -- sorry TNT owners!). The whole land is extremely colorful and cartoony, enemy creatures are made up of rather jagged looking polygons but the effect works ok and the textures are detailed. In fact, using the cockpit or bumper viewpoints and seeing these insect-like creatures coming right at you can actually land quite a scare. Speed is very smooth and fast, and should run great even on lower-end Pentium systems.
Audio effects are nothing to write home about, but probably because they're trying to pay homage to the original blips and blops of the coin-op era. There are a few additional effects like speech from the villagers when they cry for help and thank you for being saved. Strangely, there's no sound that acknowledges any sort of impact -- for example, when your ship is destroyed or your lasers make contact with the centipede. It would be nice to hear a satisfying explosion or whump, but tis not to be.
Centipede is a fun and reasonably addictive experience. The gameplay is not original by any means but does a lot to extend the world of Centipede from the coin-op version. If you or someone you know is a "true" arcade gamer that can handle the frantic pace (and cutesy graphics) then you could do far worse than this very polished game from Leaping Lizard. My main quibble is with the asking price -- this is certainly not just a typical cash-in to rip off the community of ignorant casual gamers looking for a retro fix, but it's a shame the game wasn't selling in the standard budget price range of $20, rather than its current $40 listing. At $15-$20, I would issue a deserved recommendation to any trigger-happy arcade fan looking for a simple diversion -- and with the split-screen mode, they could even bring a friend.
Review By GamesDomain
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