Atari returns to its roots with Centipede Origins

Centipede Origins is a new iOS and Android game published by Atari and developed by Koolhaus Games set for release on Thursday, June 21 for $0.99. It is a reimagining of Atari’s 1981 arcade classic that stays mostly true to the original formula while adding a variety of modern mobile gaming mechanics.

This review is based on the iOS version, tested on an iPhone 4S.

Centipede Origins tasks players with defending their garden against an ever- advancing horde of centipedes. These giant myriapods move back and forth across the screen, advancing downwards and reversing direction when they run into an obstacle or the screen boundaries. Mushrooms are scattered across the play area in all but one of the game’s modes but may be destroyed by the player. As the game’s pace increases over time, managing the amount of mushrooms on screen becomes an essential part of the game’s strategy as the player struggles to keep the many-legged hordes from advancing too quickly.

There are four different levels for players to try. These are all mechanically almost identical but feature different scenery, and some have permanent obstacles. Only one is accessible from the start of the game, but the player begins play with enough coins to unlock the other three immediately if they so desire.

Coins are acquired through play or in-app purchase and are used to activate or upgrade “boost” and “gadget” items. These items may be triggered during play and either have a temporary ongoing effect in the former case, or launch a single special weapon in the latter case. Further boosts and gadgets are unlocked through leveling up, which is achieved simply by playing the game and scoring points. Player may also use in-app purchasing to triple their experience or coins gain for 30 games.

Centipede Origins is an extremely well-presented game for the most part, featuring high-resolution Retina graphics on the iPhone and a good-quality orchestral backing soundtrack with some catchy tunes. What is less pleasing is the number of spelling mistakes that the game’s text is riddled with. While it doesn’t affect the gameplay, seeing words such as “Pheonix” [sic] makes the game look less professional and sits poorly with the otherwise top-quality presentation. In a game with so little text, there’s really no excuse for this to not be caught by the quality assurance team.

An infrequent bug also mars gameplay on occasion. When playing, it is sometimes possible to move the virtual joystick off the bottom of the screen and be unable to retrieve it. If this happens, it becomes impossible to move the player character. When tested, this problem happened only once out of many games, but it shouldn’t happen at all. Perhaps a control scheme similar to Cave’s “bullet hell” shooter titles, where the player may slide their finger anywhere on screen to move the character relative to the point where they first touched, would be more appropriate.

These issues aside, Centipede Origins is a good quality, addictive game that stays true to the nature of the original game while bringing it thoroughly up to date for modern mobile gamers. The inclusion of achievements and online leaderboards also helps add a welcome social competitive element to the game, which will in turn encourage user retention and, by extension, monetization — for some users, at least. It would also be relatively straightforward for Koolhaus and Atari to add additional content to the game through updates — this could take form of additional levels to challenge, or a wider selection of powerups, as this is currently quite limited.

Centipede Origins will be available for iOS and Android devices on Thursday June 21 for $0.99. Follow its progress following its launch with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.