Centipede (PlayStation Home Arcade), Centipede & Millipede (XBLA), Centipede Origins (iOS), and Bad Caterpillar (XBLIG)

Probably the biggest misconception about me as a gamer is that I’m anti-retro or anti-old games.  I’m not.  I’m simply of the opinion that some games age better than others.  I wouldn’t want to play Space Invaders or Pac-Man as they existed back in the day.  I’m perfectly fine with modern remakes of them, like Space Invaders Extreme or Pac-Man Championship Edition.  On the other hand, some of those older games have aged pretty gracefully.  Centipede is one such game.  In fact, it’s one of the few golden age coin-ops that I feel blends in perfectly with the current generation.  Its twitchy, fast-paced gameplay lends itself perfectly to ten minute portable sessions.  It released recently on the Vita’s Home Arcade platform, and I snagged it for $1.49 in preparation for today’s review.  That’s about what I would have spent to last 15 minutes on the coin-op if I had been alive in 1983.  Did I mention I really suck at it?

Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade (Vita)

Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade (Vita)

So what do I think of Home Arcade?  Um, hmmmm.. you know, in the four years its been around, I never have really used PlayStation Home too much.  I would rather just be able to launch games straight off my Vita’s dashboard without having to open Home Arcade.  The interface is clunky and half the time I’ll be stabbing the ever-loving shit out of the “your games” button and nothing happens.  Having said that, the prices are pretty good ($1.49 each) and it has the advantage of being portable and on the coolest gaming gizmo in years.  I don’t even have Home installed on my PS3, and I don’t plan on it, but you don’t need it to use Home Arcade.  I can’t speak for the rest of the games (get back to me the next time an Asteroids clone hits XBLIG) but Centipede controls well.  I guess you can’t ask for more.  Which is a good thing, because what you get is a bare-bones port of the arcade original.  They could have thrown in ports of the Atari home versions, but hey, it’s called making a lazy dollar.

I picked up Centipede on Vita because I wanted to compare it to Bad Caterpillar, a new Xbox Live Indie Game from Kris Steele.  I like Kris, but the dude fucking aggravates me to no end.   His games always have something glaringly off about them.  Volchaos would have been fun if the movement physics weren’t so damn loose.  The same goes for Hypership: Out of Control on XBLIG.  If a gnat so much as farts in the direction of the analog stick, it sends your ship flying.  In a game that involves lining up your character to shoot smaller targets, precision control is kind of needed.  Hypership is actually sublime on iPhone, and very addictive.  Of course, that has the advantage of having drag-the-ship touch controls for extra-accurate firing.  His track record of acceptable controls on XBLIG is about as good as THQ’s record with bankruptcy avoidance.  Considering that Bad Caterpillar looked really close to Centipede, a game which requires precision movement so much that the arcade original used a trackball, I braced for the worst.

Bad Caterpillar on Xbox Live Indie Games.

Bad Caterpillar on Xbox Live Indie Games.

As it turns out, my worries were misplaced.  Bad Caterpillar handles pretty well.  Not perfect.  No joystick-based Centipede can possibly be perfect.  But, I can honestly say that it plays better than any other version of Centipede I played today.  That’s a lot of versions.  For the sake of comparison, I also bought Centipede & Millipede, a 2-for-1 Xbox Live Arcade port of the arcade games.  Movement for these is too loose to be acceptable.  I’ve always had a difficult time in Centipede lining up shots correctly, especially when the last segments of the Centipede are near the bottom of the screen.  That’s not a huge problem in Bad Caterpillar.  It’s a fucking chore in the XBLA arcade ports.  If it was any looser, it would hang out on dimly-lit street corners and be considered a bio-hazard.

The "evolved" version of Centipede & Millipede on Xbox Live Arcade.

The “evolved” version of Centipede & Millipede on Xbox Live Arcade.

The biggest disappointment with the XBLA ports (besides the awful controls) is how the “modern” versions are really just the same old Centipede with some new (re: 15 year-old) special effects added.  On the flip side, Bad Caterpillar looks old, but it features some nifty new ideas such as power-ups and bombs.  Should probably clear this up: by new, I meant “new for Centipede.”  My problem here is that they don’t get spit out often enough.  I played full games where the item drops were nothing but points.  The game should go nuts with them.  I mean, I can already play a Centipede-like game that doesn’t offer power-ups.  It’s called Centipede.

Centipede Origins on iPhone.

Centipede Origins on iPhone.

I guess I should bring up that I also played the iOS update, called Centipede Origins.  It’s a micro-transaction oriented shooter that tries to controls like Kris Steele’s Hypership does on iPhone.  But I found the drag-the-shooter controls to be too glitchy, with the cursor being unable to keep up with my finger, even as I dragged it slowly across the screen.  Only played it for like five minutes, would never want to play it again.  I also dug around and found my copy of Centipede for the Sega Dreamcast, but decided against spending any time digging around for the actual machine to play it on.  Honestly, I’m all Cenipeded out.  So what are my thoughts?  Well, the Vita version is a worthy use of money for a solid portable version of a masterpiece.  The iOS version is just about the worst thing to happen to iPhone since Siri.  The XBLA ports of Centipede & Millipede come across like quick, effortless cash-ins and should be avoided like the clap.  Finally, the XBLIG update Bad Caterpillar is actually a decent game with a few problems.  The moths are unfair, there’s no online leaderboards, and the heavy metal soundtrack is so out-of-place.  It would be like going to Ozzfest to listen to country music.  But I do recommend it, because it’s the best (and cheapest) version of Centipede you’ll get on your Xbox.  Kind of sad that an XBLIG port made by a guy I consider to be a bit of a twat completely slays the official versions of Centipede.  Just kidding, Kris.

xboxboxartIGC_ApprovedBad Caterpillar was developed by Fun Infused Games (80 Microsoft Points don’t think Kris is a bit of a twat)

Centipede & Millipede were developed by Stainless Games Ltd. (340 Microsoft Points think throttle monkey sounds like something found in the Kama Sutra)

Centipede Origins was developed by Atari (Free, except all the stuff that cost money in it)

Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade was developed by Atari ($1.49)

Bad Caterpillar and Centipede on PlayStation Home Arcade are Chick Approved, and Bad Caterpillar is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

7 Responses to Centipede (PlayStation Home Arcade), Centipede & Millipede (XBLA), Centipede Origins (iOS), and Bad Caterpillar (XBLIG)

  1. After about two hours of play, I really think the moth needs addressed. Little issues, mostly. I like that he’s a bit of a dick, but some stuff is too random.
    1. If the guy goes off the bottom of the screen, don’t let him come back on. I avoided the guy for a reason. I’d rather have him be completely visible and hug the bottom of the screen (a BUFF for the moth) than be 80% off and come back up.
    2. Make sure he flies out of the side of the screen at the same spot on the left or right side of the screen. Him flying out 4/5ths of the way down the screen at a point where my ship can move is completely unfair, especially because…
    3. The noise used to signal the moth’s arrival is either non-existent or blends in with something else already going on. I can pick out when any other non-caterpillar enemy arrives by sound and plan my movement accordingly. Moth? I still don’t know what sound he makes before flying onto the screen. This is after TWO HOURS OF PLAY.
    4. I personally think the moth shouldn’t be able to move back toward whatever side he showed up on (left if left, right if right). Two moths and three spiders at a time is bad enough to avoid. Two moths both moving to the right? Impossible without a bomb.
    5. If this all a bit too much of a nerf, give the guy one or two more HP. If I happen to be on the same side of the screen where a moth spawns and he spawns up where he should, it’s a somewhat easy kill. If I have to pump even one more bullet into him, it becomes a bit trickier and I’d usually have to make at least one dodge and plan around everything else on the screen for a little longer. Otherwise, make the side the moth respawns on after disappearing a coin flip, though in a game like this I REALLY hate randomness.

    My only other suggestion is, if you die on a level, to keep the caterpillar at the size it was when you died. I’m not sure if that’d make the game too easy, but considering there aren’t extra lives I sincerely doubt it. Otherwise, I love the game. I wish there were peer-to-peer leaderboards and an instructions screen wouldn’t hurt your chances at converting trials to sales, but I think the game is nigh perfect (for what it is) outside of what I posted above. I really really do.

    • kriswd40 says:

      I’ll do something about the moths for the next update. I’m not going to get into online leaderboards for the XBLIG version but the iOS port will feature Game Center support and I am do Android and PC ports as well that will have online leaderboards too.

      I think online leaderboards are a really cool feature to have and would be great for this kind of game, but the effort to implement them along with the critical mass needed for peer to peer sharing to work on XBLIG makes me feel they simply aren’t worth it. I had online leaderboards in the original Hypership and they worked for a while when I always left my Xbox on running Hypership… but I can’t do that all the time. If only there was a client/server model we could use 😦

  2. Indie Gamer Chick you bought a Vita? I thought I was the only one, they’re about as rare as a Windows Phone.

  3. I’ve liked most of what Kris Steele’s done, but I absolutely loved his very first game: Abduction Action! If there was something wrong with the controls in that game, I’m not seeing it.

    He does claim that Choplifter wasn’t an influence on that game. I still struggle with that one. 😉

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