YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS: Bad Caterpillar

YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS is a special award I present to good indie games that never found their audience. We all want an industry where the cream rises to the top, but in vast wilderness of indie gaming, sometimes quality titles never catch-on. You Heartless Bastards is a distinction no game wants, but sadly, many games will earn.

YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS! You say you want indies to remake the classics, but when a really good one pops-up, you completely ignore it!

Now granted, Bad Caterpillar’s console lifecycle began and ended with XBLIG, and that’s on Kris Steele, the game’s developer. In the interest of full disclosure, Kris is my friend. In fact, he was one of those guys who endorsed my presence to the XNA development community. Xbox Live Indie Game developers weren’t used to critics who actually put their games through the wringer. Then I show up, my reviews are brutal, positive evaluations are rare, and I’m telling unfunny jokes the entire time. Hell, I’d of thought I might a troll, too. But, Kris was in the group that said “she’s exactly the kick in the butt this community has needed.” I’ll never forget that. Even when I gave his Volchaos a really negative review, he took it on the chin and has always been a great friend. He even made me proud when he landed a top 50 game that had a LOT of staying power: Hypership Still Out of Control. When we met, he was a relatively new father of a precious little girl. Today, that kid is in high school and serves as a constant reminder that, holy shit, I’ve been doing this a long time now. How long? I reviewed Bad Caterpillar eight years ago.

I’m not sure the exact font, but Bad Caterpillar uses the same font that many XNA-developed used. Despite being nostalgic for those old days, I sure don’t miss that ugly-ass font.

It’s not the same game it was eight-years-ago. In my original review, I noted that I wanted a lot less scoring bonuses and a lot more power-ups. Kris listened. He’s been updating it a lot over the last eight years, but the biggest update amped-up the weapon drops, added a few guns, and basically turned Bad Caterpillar into Centipede after smoking crystal meth. It’s an insanely fast-paced release that puts an emphasis on just having fun. It’s fun-infused, if you will. It’s not a glamorous, prestige type of game. It’s just Centipede, completely unhinged, that focuses on balls-to-the-wall shooting action. And I really liked it. This week, I’ll be posting a review of Atari’s recent indie-filtered Centipede remake, Centipede Recharged. They’re both pretty good, but Bad Caterpillar would be the one I’d rather play.

Hey look! There’s even shmup-type character selection, so players can tailor the game to their own play style! I preferred Kabuki, even though my high score was with Champ. There’s online leaderboards, but the boards don’t say which character the best players use. I’m kind of curious about that stuff.

Back in 2013, Kris’ take on the pastel-colored classic handily defeated all official versions of Centipede I tried out alongside it. But, in the case of choosing between Centipede Recharged and Bad Caterpillar, I can actually say “get both!” without being wishy-washy. The beauty is, they’re both completely different takes on Centipede. Yes, they’re based around power-ups and modern conventions, but the similarities end there. Centipede Recharged is a slower, deliberate game with an emphasis on survival (you only get one life). Bad Caterpillar is twitchy and quick and reactionary and designed to get your heart pumping right away. Well, I like my arcade gallery shooters to be quick and twitchy and reactionary. I’m not particularly a fan of Centipede, so that I like both games is pretty remarkable. I just like Caterpillar more. It’s just plain stupid fun. A huge improvement over the original formula.

MAD TIME is Bad Caterpillar’s ticking clock element. If you take too long defeating any level, the game unleashes the furies of hell upon you. Bugs launch from the sides and the Caterpillar will drop in and out of your shooting range. You really don’t want it to come to this. I only survived it once.

It’s not perfect. Bad Caterpillar takes longer for the odds against you to feel intense. It lacks that sense of being slowly overwhelmed that the truly great golden age games pull off (the only aspect Centipede Recharged easily bests Bad Caterpillar). Not all the guns are fun-fun, especially the homing gun that I found actually could hurt you more than help you if you get it too early in a level. But, those minor issues aside, the superior Centipede tribute still remains this little unsung 2013 XBLIG that’s now only $1.99 on Steam. Compare that to the $9.99 base price of Recharged. Neither game is going to have staying power in anyone’s game lineup, but I was surprised by how I couldn’t put Bad Caterpillar down. I hadn’t played it once in eight years. I figured I’d put in about an hour for this review, but instead, I almost put in two. You’ll get about the same amount of playtime out of Centipede Recharged, but you’re paying five-times the price. $2 for an hour or two of decent, if unmemorable, arcade action is fine with me. It certainly deserved to sell a lot more than it did, so you heartless bastards swooning over the Recharged series need to fire up your PCs and take a look. Bad Caterpillar is a lie. It’s actually a pretty good caterpillar.

Bad Caterpillar is Chick-Approved
IGC Leaderboard Ranking: #146 of 296*
Top 77 Percentile of All 626 IGC Reviews
Top 51 Percentile of All 296 IGC-Approved Indies
*Rankings based on time of publication. Check the Leaderboard for updated standings.

Bad Caterpillar was developed Fun Infused Games
Point of Sale: Steam

$1.99 said it looks more like a Bad Tardigrade in the making of this review.

Seriously, Kris, port this fucking thing to Switch already.

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 Centipeded 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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