About this game
Centipede is a classic arcade video game developed by Atari and released in 1980. It was one of the most successful games of the early arcade era, notable not only for its engaging gameplay but also for being co-designed by Dona Bailey, one of the few female game programmers in a male-dominated industry at the time.
The gameplay of Centipede is set in a vertically-oriented field, reminiscent of a garden, where players use a trackball (or joystick in some versions) to control a small ship-like icon at the bottom, known as the “Bug Blaster.” The main objective is to shoot and destroy the titular centipede, a multi-segmented insect that zigzags down the screen towards the player. As players shoot segments of the centipede, they turn into static mushrooms, which can then alter the creature’s movement. If the centipede reaches the bottom of the screen where the player’s blaster resides, it moves back and forth in that row and can potentially destroy the blaster upon contact.
While the centipede is the primary antagonist, the game introduces other creatures to ramp up the difficulty. Fleas drop vertically, leaving additional mushrooms in their wake; spiders traverse the screen in erratic patterns, clearing mushrooms as they go; and scorpions move horizontally, poisoning mushrooms. When a centipede comes into contact with a poisoned mushroom, it descends straight down until reaching the screen’s bottom or another mushroom, increasing the challenge.
A key aspect of Centipede’s gameplay is strategy. Players must decide whether to shoot away mushrooms to create a clear path or use them to manipulate the centipede’s movement. Over time, the game’s pace accelerates, demanding quicker reactions and better decision-making from the player.
The game’s bright, pixelated graphics and distinctive sound effects contributed to its appeal. Its success led to several sequels, ports to various platforms, and its place as one of the defining titles in video game history. Even today, Centipede remains an emblem of arcade nostalgia, celebrating the era when players would huddle around cabinet screens, quarters in hand, competing for the highest score on the leaderboard.