Centipede: Recharged Review – Modern Arcade Icon

    Title: Centipede: Recharged
    Developer: Adamvision Studios, SneakyBox Studios
    Release Date: September 29, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Atari
    Genre: Arcade

Space Invaders is undoubtedly the origin of the shmup genre we all know and love. It instantly became a cultural icon of its era when it launched towards the end of the 1970s. Not wanting to feel left out, Atari launched the original Centipede to kickstart the 1980s, which spawned the historic arcade bug shooter series.

It achieved success and acclaim akin to Pac-Man and other arcade classics. Like most games from the golden age, Centipede was a shooter with mechanics that instantly wired to the player’s nervous system, as they blasted all sorts of bugs through high-speed shooting action.

Forty years later, we now have Centipede: Recharged, following the trend of last year’s Missile Command: Recharged, as a way to revitalize a timeless arcade for a modern audience. However, where the modernization of Missile Command was limited to revamped visuals and a somewhat simple upgrade system, Atari has done a lot more to make Centipede feel fresh in 2021 by adding a whole range of gameplay modes.

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Tron-style wireframe graphics were extensively used by Atari in their arcade releases back in the ’80s, and this comes back in style in Centipede: Recharged. It’s a simplistic and compelling visual style for the game, and it’s complemented by a fast techno soundtrack. Although the game uses plenty of particle effects, it’s never seizure-inducing. So everything is clear and practical, mainly thanks to defined colors that make it easy to identify the various enemies. The key artwork is really cool, too, a throwback to the old days when extravagant cover artwork had to overcompensate for almost non-existent graphics.

The basic arcade mode provides the ultimate pick-up-and-play just like the ’80s original; However, the field of play is much smaller than how the vintage arcade cabinet was put together, it’s still effective and perfectly fits the Switch in handheld mode. All the action takes place on one screen, as players can move around their field, which is now distinguished with a purple haze. Various bug enemies attack from above, the titular centipedes have to be chopped down piece by piece, and there are other foes too, such as fleas that rain down and scorpions that come from the side.

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Anyone who has played the original Centipede will likely remember the notoriously fast spiders. These evil bugs would zip around the screen and were quite tricky to shoot down. In the Recharged version, they are shockingly slow and lethargic, and that’s because they serve an entirely new role in the game design by carrying power-ups.

This is where the core shooting action changes up in some commendable ways, as the various power-ups grant abilities like rapid-fire, dual fire, spread shot, with effects such as slowing down time or even scaring bugs away. This is one of those games you’ll want to jump back into time and again, and everything works so effectively thanks to a simple control scheme and fast-paced action.

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Beyond the arcade mode, the real fun can be found in the challenge mode, where there are all sorts of goals and conditions to meet, and these can be rewarding to conquer and even revisit to best your score (or best time) as you try to place yourself in the global rankings. While the release only supports local co-op, which is a lot of fun, the online leaderboards alone create the ideal arcade experience at home.

There is something timeless and universal about the high score, and while video games have come a long way since the Atari days, games like Centipede: Recharge prove that there are just some gameplay loops that never grow old. Still, to keep up with the changing times, the game also has several achievements for players to hunt and add to their bragging rights.

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The challenges involve shooting a particular type of bug, using a specific power-up, surviving for a period, reaching a score milestone in record time. Still, the most interesting of them all are challenges where you’re not supposed to shoot any centipedes, putting your dodging skills to the test.

What’s great about this is that as you complete each of these objectives, you also gradually become more proficient in the core gameplay, which naturally translates into higher scores in the game’s arcade mode. It’s all quite rewarding, making it a game you’ll want to keep at even for just a few minutes a day.

There are a few minor qualms here, but they don’t hurt the experience. It would have helped to know how the point and scoring system worked by way of flashing numbers like in the old days, but this isn’t too much of an issue to figure out. Further, the lack of the classic variant of the ’80s Centipede game design was a missed opportunity. However, the Recharged experience is still faithful to the original, even with the new power-ups.

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Centipede: Recharged is a welcome modernization of a timeless arcade shooter. The classic ’80s gameplay is fully intact, and the new power-ups and challenges spice up what was already a fine-tuned experience. Some of the best games in the world are ones that instantly wire into your reflexes, and Centipede: Recharged is definitely one you’ll want to keep around for pure shooting bliss.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!

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