Hasbro has jumped on the remake bandwagon again, and as with Frogger, it's delivered another game that clings to the spirit of the original while diverting just enough to make the game feel new. The resulting game is at times frustrating, but for the most part, it's a welcome update of a classic shooting game.
While this may seem like a game for kids, there's some solid gameplay that is at times akin to a mixture of a first-person shooter and the original coin-op Centipede. The game has two gameplay modes. The first is the classic arcade shooter played from a top-down view with the attacking centipede descending upon you. In the adventure aspect of the game, you navigate through levels populated with mushrooms and civilian structures. The civilian buildings must be defended by destroying the oncoming centipede and its allied bugs. Certain mushrooms provide power-ups that give you new weapons and defenses. The mushrooms also serve as obstacles, and you have to maneuver past them or destroy them outright. What further complicates things is that, as in the original, when you shoot the centipede, it drops segments that transform into mushrooms, thus hindering your progress.
The most important function of gameplay, control, is acutely debilitated. The mouse allows you to control your rotational turning while the keyboard allows for forward, back, and strafing movements. The only problem is that the mouse also has forward and back motion input, and there's nothing in the control setup that allows you to change this. When it comes time to do some platform jumping as is the case in almost every level, the forward motion of the mouse disrupts you as you're trying to turn. Most of the jumping occurs over some lethal hazard, and as a result, many deaths can occur simply from an unintentional mouse movement. These problems are eliminated through the use of a gamepad, but the necessity of using a peripheral input device when this simple problem could have been solved with some mouse tweaking really makes for some frustrating moments.
The viewing modes are another major problem. There are three viewing modes: first-person, over-the-shoulder, and finally, a top-down look on the playing field. The game is at its most intense in the first-person view. The over-the-shoulder view is nice as well but doesn't show the keen technical display of the cockpit. The last mode is the top-down view that removes you from the intensity of the playing field but seems to be the only real way to do well at the game; keeping your backside free from possible dangers is just as important as taking out the foes in front. This basically makes the first two views useless except as eye candy for those of you eager to watch the bugs up close.
Apart from these concerns, the levels themselves are sometimes a bit confusing. After defeating a round of centipedes, there is usually a portal that opens into a new area, but the direction of this is not always obvious. And at times, the boss levels require you to eliminate a time-wasting horde of weak foes in order to get to the main boss area. So if you die while fighting the boss, chances are you have to wade through some busy work before you face it again.
While this review may sound really negative, the game, when not frustrating, is really a lot of fun. Killing the bugs and gathering power-ups is quite invigorating and makes good use of its arcade and first-person-shooter roots. The levels are colorful and don't get repetitive.
Remakes such as Centipede recall a time when genre had little meaning and the path to an arcade hit was really a shot in the dark. Despite some control problems associated with the levels and a lack of useful playing views, the game is enjoyable. If you're a gamer with some patience and a capacity to forgive some oversights, Centipede will reward you with some exciting moments. But if you're a stickler for hard-core rocket-launcher action, better leave the bugs to themselves.