Atari reinvents another classic for iOS with Centipede: Origins

Jul 2, 2012
Games

Atari turned 40 last week and part of their celebration was the launch of Centipede: Origins for iOS. As good geeks over 30 should recall, Centipede, was a smash hit for them back in the halcyon days of the video arcade. It was one of my favorites – incidentally or perhaps not, the first arcade […]

Atari turned 40 last week and part of their celebration was the launch of Centipede: Origins for iOS. As good geeks over 30 should recall, Centipede, was a smash hit for them back in the halcyon days of the video arcade. It was one of my favorites – incidentally or perhaps not, the first arcade game designed by a woman, Donna Bailey – with its precise trackball and few pixels. But, I never really knew what I was playing as.

It wasn’t until this iOS iteration did I learn I wasn’t a tiny alien head, but rather a garden gnome. That’s the beauty of Centipede: Origins. It graphically reinvents the classic without losing much of the core gameplay. And the new one-touch controls sure beat Atari’s reinterpretation of the trackball found in the arcade port of Centipede in Atari’s Greatest Hits. But, the game is too easy and far too slow to be true to the original.

If you’ve played arcade Centipede, its younger, faster sibling Millipede, a console version, or knock-off, you know what to expect. If this is your first run-in with the franchise all you need to know is as the little gnome you roam around a restricted area at the bottom of the screen taking out all creepy crawlies from above that weave through a mushroom maze. Slugs drop additional mushrooms into the garden giving players less and less room to manoeuvre, but you can shoot the mushrooms too. The game ends when you hit a bug directly.

What’s new for iOS are pixel-dense graphics, four playing fields instead of one, and unlockable power-ups. Actually some are more like towers in that on regular boards they can be placed right on the ground and all are upgradeable with in-app currency.

New aerial levels where you can float your gnome about the entire garden freely are awesome. You can’t use the towers on these levels, but there aren’t any mushrooms.

The game is markedly easier than its inspiration, and slower, which may be a plus to the new generation of gamers who expect completion. But it just feels a bit too simple, particularly when the extra defences are used. To make up for the reduced difficulty, Atari has turned the game into an endless one with a single life. It’s kind of frustrating to have to start over from the tenth wave with no spare gnomes, but that also reflects a new breed of games and gamers.

There is a big push to buy coin bundles through in-app purchase and to pony-up for other IAP-only perks like XP and coin multipliers. iPhone players should note that the single-finger control scheme can block the playing field a bit, but on iPad the screen real estate is more than ample. On both devices the auto-firing is too slow, and the new soundtrack too saccharine for my taste.

Still, Centipede: Origins is a successful reinvention of the retro classic that welcomes new players and embraces old fans. For four quarters it’s worth picking up as a summer distraction.

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Lisa Caplan

Lisa Caplan writes app lists and guides as well as reviewing iOS apps and games on various tech sites, most recently on her fledgling iPhone and iPad giveaway blog, AppTudes. She is thrilled to be joining the stellar reviewing team at Appolicious.

Located in a balmy Montreal suburb, Lisa has an advanced degree in Creative Writing, and has had an Apple computer by her side since 1979! She is a talentless art nut, bibliophile and accessory junkie. Lisa looks forward to sharing her gaming addiction and love for all tech that promotes culture, communication, social awareness and education at every level.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter @AppTudes for iOS news or @LisaTheAppChick for random nonsense.

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