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It may not immediately spring to mind as one to remember, but 1981 was a pretty decent year for gamers. Frogger released, as did Defender and good old Donkey Kong. We also saw the beginnings of Scramble, the arrival of the iconic Galaga and the chance for players to go saving the planet from the invasion of the Centipede.
It’s that latter option for which we are here today, as 30 years on the Atari classic has had a bit of a facelift – reimagined and recharged, quite literally.
Centipede: Recharged is the end result; the first of a series of titles to take the Recharged add-on, offering gamers the opportunity to take in nostalgic hits, or to enjoy a classic for the very first time.
It’s not a bad little effort either, and whilst we have to be honest and admit the source material is a tricky one to place in the modern market, the addition of some fun little extras elevate this to a slightly higher level.
In Centipede: Recharged you are basically looking at two different game modes – Arcade and Challenges – each of which can be played by the solo player, or cooperatively via local play.
It’s the Arcade which will be the first port of call, but it’s this which only really works as a fun little hit of nostalgia. You see, your task in Centipede: Recharged is pretty much the same as it was way back when. You take charge of a little ship situated in the bottom third of the screen. Shifting left and right, and moving up and down slightly, your task is to shoot anything that moves. Mostly these come in the form of the titular Centipede, as they slowly make their way down into your area. They are however accompanied by fast falling Fleas and horizontally scrolling Scorpions for good measure.
Thankfully, there are also a number of Spiders which wander around near the bottom of the screen. Take these down and you’ll gain access to multiple new weapons – with a dozen present in all. These come in the form of spread shots, explosive bullets, mirrors, smart bombs, horizontal shooting, scare tactics which see all enemies retreating up the play field (believe me, when Centipede: Recharged gets frantic, this is much more helpful than you will ever realise) and more. You’ll certainly want to hunt these Spiders down when they appear, even if you do decide to save the power-ups for a time when they are most needed. Play cooperatively and these web-slingers will allow the chance for you to revive your fallen local co-op friend too.
Sounds simple, but the issue arises from the fact that your play field is full of mushrooms and rocks, with every takedown you initiate filling it up with more. As the screen fills, your movement space becomes severely restricted unless you destroy the mushrooms, all until contact with a foe is made and that dreaded game over screen pops up.
From there, scores are tallied, you’re placed on online leaderboards and then left to go at it again, all in hope of bettering yourself and your friends.
Honestly, that’s Centipede: Recharged in a nutshell and for all the new visuals, the cracking new soundtrack and the glorious smoothness of play it allows, it isn’t long before that leaderboard chase gets tiresome.
Thankfully, that’s where the Challenges come in. Set up as 30 challenges – the clue is in the name – these will see you working your way through set scenarios. We’ve found these to extend and enhance Centipede: Recharged beyond a mere high score chaser.
There will be some stages in which you have to shoot 100 centipedes in quick manner, or to take out scorpions without destroying a poisonous mushroom. More still will urge you to reach specific scores, to kill foes by only using bombs or make the most of the mirror skill that duplicates your shots from the top of the screen as well as the bottom.
The only real regret here is that the development teams at Adamvision Studios and SneakyBox Studios have only included 30 different Challenges, as it’s fairly easy to fly through the early ones. Yes, latter options ramp up the difficulty somewhat, but another ten or twenty included would have ensured a bit more longevity, allowing Centipede: Recharged to be one of those games that you’d find yourself dipping into for weeks and months down the line.
As it is though this Recharged version of a classic works well, but feels just a tad short in terms of content.
It’s not without issues either, with those ranging from minor little annoyances like leaderboards not always updating or being accessed correctly (something which should really work for any game focused on point chasing), through to a rather major frustration point that has seen us needing to fully reboot our Xbox Series X every single time we’ve wanted to play it. Fail to do that and we’ve not even been able to get past the menu splash screen.
At the end of the day it’s great to see a classic from three decades back be treated to some real love. Centipede: Recharged may not be a must player and it may still fast feel its age, but some modern day additions just about ensure it’s worth a little play.
Centipede: Recharged is available optimised for Xbox Series X|S from the Xbox Store