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Video Game / Centipede

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You're trapped in the perilous Enchanted Forest. Dark, dangerous mushrooms push up through the squishy forest floor, surrounding you on every side. Threatening thumps and evil buzzings fill the air. Something slimy flashes through the mushrooms, closing in on you. Suddenly, glaring eyes and quivering antenna jump right out at you!
Instruction manual

Centipede is a 1980 video game. The player uses a trackball to control a gun that can only move in the bottom fifth of the screen. The object is to shoot a centipede that works its way down to the player area through a field of mushrooms. Other attacking enemies are fleas, spiders, and scorpions.

The object of the game is to destroy as many enemies as possible. During every level, you must destroy every segment of a centipede. Once the centipede enters the bottom area of the screen where the gun moves, the player is in danger of colliding with the centipede. The centipede will break into pieces as its segments are shot. Once it makes it to the bottom of the screen, it heads back up until it reaches the top of the player zone. It then repeats the process. Once the centipede hits the bottom of the screen, new segments are created that move within the player zone. When a centipede segment hits a mushroom or another segment, it reverses direction.

Every level, the centipede configuration is different. On the first level, all segments are attached. On the next level, one segment is independent. On the next, two are independent, and so on until all segments are independent.

The flea will drop from the top of the screen and fall all of the way to the bottom when there are less than a certain number of mushrooms in the player zone. It leaves mushrooms behind. Unlike most enemies in the game, it takes two hits to destroy, and falls more quickly after the first.

The spider is another enemy that threatens the player. It bounces around within the player zone, eating mushrooms as it hits them (which tends to draw fleas).

The scorpion streaks across the screen periodically, changing any mushrooms it hits into poisonous mushrooms. When a centipede segment hits one of these, the centipede plummets to the bottom of the screen and then heads back up.

This was one of Atari's biggest hits; it was popular with women, mainly due to the pastel color scheme. Additionally, one of the creators of the game is a woman, Donna Bailey.note  It was ported to several consoles, including the Atari 2600, got a sequel in Millipede, and had expanded remakes such as Apeiron-X for Macintosh System 7 and Mac OS X.

There was also an expanded 3D version released in 1998 for PlayStation, Dreamcast, and PC.

Centipede provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Asteroids Monster: Shooting a centipede anywhere but the head or tail will cause it to split into smaller centipedes.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Shooting the centipede's head earms more points than shooting its other segments.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Two drastically different ones;
    • DC made a saccharine Smurfesque story about an elf saving his village from his insect friends who've been bewitched by a wizard.
    • Kevin Ketner wrote a sci-fi horror comic for Dynamite Entertainment in 2017 focusing on the last survivor of the Centipede's attack on an alien planet trying to avenge his race.
  • The '80s: The decade the game originated in.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Extra lives are awarded every 12000 points by default.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Every bug kills you on contact. The mushrooms don't, but they get in your way and send the centipede down faster; when a mushroom is touched by a scorpion, that poisons them.
  • Helpful Mook: Scorpions. Any mushroom they touch becomes poisoned, and if the centipede touches a poisoned mushroom, it'll drop straight down. While this does mean that you might wanna move out of the way, this also puts it in the perfect position for you to nail a bunch of headshots.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Hasn't stopped many, many ports of it from trying to give it a plot. They had a variety of backstories, but the most commonly used were:
    • You're a Space Marine fighting in a Bug War.
    • You're a garden gnome trying to defend the garden from pests.
    • You're a traveling wizard who gets lost in the "perilous Enchanted Forest" full of monsters led by a Centipede and has to fight his way out. This is the most common variation, with all home ports of Millipede recycling this plot, just replacing "Wizard" with "Archer" (see here).
    • You're an ''evil'' wizard who is destroying the mushroom forest for kicks and the Centipede is trying to stop you. This is the least common variation, but arguably the most creative as it deviated from the usual plots and provided an explanation for the fact that the game was Unwinnable.
    • Oddly enough, the 1999 Video Game Remake actually gives its own explanation on the game that utilizes a mixture of the first three stories: you play as a gnome (or gnome-like, the race is known as the Wee) kid who is picked by a wizard to pilot a Magitek tank to defend their kingdoms from the invading bugs, who are led by centipedes, and eventually travel into the bug's own land to kill their leader who is an even bigger centipede.
  • Palette Swap: The whole game gets one of these with every centipede you destroy.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: An official comic by DC Comics released with the Atari 2600 Centipede has the main bad guy being a wizard, and a boy is trying to stop him. He eventually zaps the wizard with his own staff (which turns him good, for some reason), and everyone is holding up the boy in praise, even the (turned good) wizard.