Centipede and its sequel, Millipede, have joined the long list of old arcade games that are now available on Xbox Live Arcade. Unlike the other releases, Centipede and Millipede come as part of one package. This two-for-one offer might seem like a good package for 400 points, but slow movement speed and ugly "evolved" modes sour the deal.
Both games are shooters, and they're roughly the same. You play as a tiny ship, which was apparently meant to be a garden gnome when it was created back in 1980. Above you are a ton of mushrooms, and a centipede starts at the top and works its way down, dropping down a level every time it hits the edge of the screen or a mushroom. You move back, forth, up, and down in a small quadrant of the screen at the bottom, and you must shoot each segment of the centipede. At that point, you move on to the next level. A few other bugs appear, like spiders that attempt to pounce on you, scorpions that poison mushrooms that make the centipedes go bananas, fleas or other bugs that create more mushrooms, and so on. Millipede makes things more difficult, but it also adds DDT bombs that can be used to take out large groups of enemies, if you time your shots right.
The original games were played using a trackball, which is why the control on the Xbox 360 is so bad. Even though the analog stick delivers the precision you need to line up shots, you can never get moving fast enough. The trackball made whipping from one side of the screen to the other easy, which became key as the game got faster and faster. Without that, the whole game feels sluggish.
In addition to mostly accurate emulated versions of the original arcade games, both versions have "evolved" variants, which are dumb remakes of the originals. The upside is that you can finally see your "ship" as it was meant to be seen--as a garden gnome holding a crossbow. But these remakes capture none of the fun of the original, and come off as the sort of bootleg clones you'd be able to download for free on the PC. Both modes for both games have multiple difficulty settings, including one called "throttle monkey" that just runs the games at insanely fast speeds; this ups the challenge, but it isn't any fun to play.
Whether you're just now hearing about Centipede and Millipede for the first time or you were a fan back in the '80s, these shooters are drab and boring on the Xbox 360. With the wide array of shooters available on Xbox Live Arcade, you can certainly find a better way to spend 400 points.