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Millipede - The Atari Times

Millipede


This is one mighty fine shooter
by David Sherwin

July 1, 2003
Millipede appeared in arcades in late 1982 as a sequel to the enormously popular and ground-breaking Centipede. Millipede was initially quite popular amongst video gamers, but it ultimately failed to find a loyal audience and, coming in the midst of the video game crash as it did, straggled onto only the Atari 8-bit computers (and belatedly, the NES) before fading away into gaming obscurity. Those lucky enough to own an XL or XE shouldn't take this to be a sign of an inferior product, though. Millipede is a marvelous arcade translation that must be upheld with "Joust" and "Robotron:2084" as the best released 8-bit arcade games of the pre-Tramiel Atari period.

Gameplay and Controls

Gameplay is essentially similar to Centipede and will be familiar to anyone who has played the latter game. The goal of Millipede is the eradication of the Millipede, a multi-segmented creature, by shooting it with your game ship. The Millipede, as in Centipede, winds its way from the top right corner of the game screen to its bottom left portion, and its touch (as with all of the game's bugs) is fatal. Players can move throughout the gaming "move zone" that occupies the bottom fifth of the screen and will need to do to avoid any stray Millipede segments that sneak past you to the screen's bottom.

Millipedes will break up into discrete segments when hit, creating multiple gaming hazards. The Millipede moves at various speeds (depending on the level), and its progress is predicated on the placement of mushrooms on the game field. The Millipede will change its direction when it encounters a mushroom, and random placement of mushrooms in each game guarantees that the Millipede will follow a different path every time you play it. Just imagine how much fun Pac-Man could have been given a random arrangement of mazes!

Millipede actually has discrete waves, or levels, ensuring a degree of variety in the game that wasn't always present in Centipede. Millipede-eradication levels alternate with various "bug waves" (which shoot back, as in MegaMania), each of which must be destroyed to advance to the next level. 

Millipede also boasts a greater variety of enemy insects than in Centipede, and they're often more hazardous. For instance, you'll be pestered by as many as three spiders on screen simultaneously, and the bonus insects move quite quickly. Each of the insects presents a different hazard and has a different gaming effect: bees drop mushrooms, while mosquitoes make kamikaze runs in their attempts to extract a little blood from you. Fortunately, pods of DDT are scattered across the screen, and these release clouds of poisonous gas when hit. They're often handy in clearing a portion of the screen of pesky critters when the action becomes just a little too frantic for comfort. 

You don't have to own a trackball to play Millipede, but the game gives you an excellent excuse to own one. While controls are tight with both trackball and a good joystick, the trackball really does facilitate play, and it helps to convey an overall "arcade" experience.

Graphics

Centipede never was much of a graphics powerhouse, but it's clear that Atari spent time updating the graphics for the game's squirmy sequel. The title screen is largely faithful to the arcade version, and the game's many enemy insects are all brightly coloured and highly detailed. Some imagination was required in Centipede to translate blocky pixels into scorpions and spiders, but here you'll have no trouble distinguishing earwigs from beetles to the ever-present spiders. I'm especially fond of the inch-worms, which do indeed inch their way across the screens in a familiar (and realistic) fashion. This is, overall, a vast improvement from Centipede.

Music and Sound

Millipede doesn't have much of a soundtrack -- just a pulsating bass line that throbs in the background during gameplay. This, however, will be enough to send your pulse racing, and I only wish that other contemporaneous games had made as much out of just four notes.

Sound cues gaming hazards much as it does in Centipede, and you'll need to pay close attention once you hear various bugs' signature notes: this is a sure sign that danger is just around the corner (or off the edge of the screen). Some sounds, like the spiders' tinkly tune, will be familiar to all Centipede enthusiasts, while others provide new (and welcome) interludes.

This is not a game to play with the sound turned off.

Summary

Millipede is a thoroughly under appreciated gaming gem that should be revisited, and enjoyed, by all serious classic gamers. Millipede is an excellent arcade translation that omits little of the frantic gaming action of the original game. With no official versions available for the 2600, 5200, and 7800 lines, Millipede gives 8-bit owners bragging rights and lends credence to the claim that Atari's 8-bit computers were, perhaps, the best "game consoles" of all. Millipede is still available from a number of suppliers, and gamers should not hesitate about adding this wonderful title to their collections.

This is the coolest title screen I've ever seen because of it's multiple "stories!"
Use the DDT to hit the millipede. Remember, they're 800 points each!
Getting bombed by the mushroom laying bees!
Get that inchworm! He will slow the game down!
Millipede
System: 8-Bit
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 70%
Gameplay Score: 90%
Control Score: 90%

Final Score: 88%



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