Retro gaming just got ugly. - Review By BenT
One interesting phenomenon that has occurred in the gaming world over the last couple of years is the emergence of retro gaming, that being the urge to return to the classic, nostalgia-laced games of yesteryear. This is accomplished either by making direct ports to the current consoles, or reworking and "modernizing" the concept while retaining familiar elements. Centipede is an example of that latter breed, sporting 3D polygon graphics and a light techno-laced soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the track record of these classic remakes is not exactly stellar. Does Centipede have what it takes to entertain the demanding gamers of today?
A nice version of the original Centipede is included. No quarters required!
Erm... this is a little tough. I'm sorry to answer my suspenseful, cliff hanging premise so quickly, but quite frankly there's not much to like about the latest Centipede. But since I have to come up with something good, I'll give it this: the turning and strafing controls are well thought out and implemented. In other words, you won't be dying due to poor control.
Another nice touch is that an emulated version of the original Centipede is included. It looks and plays pretty much as you remember. The sad thing is that I found it to be more entertaining than the new, 3D Centipede that's the focus of this disc. So much for progress.
My one last point is that I found the disc to be extremely shiny, and it made pretty, rainbow-y colors when I pointed light directly at it.
Hmm, where to begin? I guess we'll just start with the opening of the game. When the game starts you're restricted to a
small section of a mushroom-littered playing field, and the bug attack immediately commences. Assorted insects are now swarming from the far side of the level, moving in the easy to follow patterns introduced in the classic game. In addition to the requisite centipedes, you'll once again be fighting evil hopping spiders, mushroom-dropping fleas, newly-polygonal scorpions, and some original, dreadfully uninteresting enemies made especially for this remake. After killing 3+ centipedes, a pathway (typically a bridge) to the next playfield will clear, and you're ready to kill some more bugs. Clear them out and an adjacent playfield opens. Clear 4 or 5 fields and you've just beaten the level. Clear 5-6 levels and you've beaten the world. Clear 6 worlds and you've just beaten the game.
Centipede's gameplay is total yawnsville.
Doesn't sound too interesting, does it?
It's not. The gameplay is just as monotonous as my description implies. By the time I'd finished the first level, the endlessly, endlessly repetitive shooting gameplay had me begging to quit. I bravely pushed onward in the hope that things would improve, but found that later levels do not bring relief. They may look different and have new layouts, but what it comes down to is that you're still blasting the same stupid creatures with the same crappy weapons. Crappy weapons? Well, let's just say that I'm not quite sure if modern science is up to the task of concocting a crappier, less impressive arsenal. A triple shot is about as good as it gets here, folks. I suppose that's par for the course though, since the simplistic enemies die with all the splendor, spectacle, and style seen in a bad Jeffersons rerun.
Moving on, Centipede's framerate is absolutely horrible, particularly for a Dreamcast game. At times it drops into the
teens, which can actually have an impact on gameplay. This wouldn't be that big a deal if the drops were few and far between, but in Centipede the framerate is consistently bogged down. Any time that there's a hint of action, your TV becomes
home to a choppy, discordant slide show. In fact, any time there's a hint of any *graphics* you can bet on your framerate
taking a nice dip.
Looking beyond the framerate, the graphics still do not impress. The 3D models have extremely low poly counts, and the special effects are best described as crippled. One good example of these offenses against your eyes is the "lob bomb" weapon. Seeing that the word "bomb" is in its name, one may be inclined to expect, upon firing one, a nice pyrotechnic display to appear and entertain. You'd have forgotten that you're playing this Centipede remake though, because instead you're treated to a pea-sized orange dot that tortures your retinas for all of a second. Then there's the sprite that is supposed to be an explosion, but which only consists of a single orange frame. Yep, that's right... one frame of... well, I guess we can't call a singular picture animation. One frame of mediocrity would be closer to the truth. And don't get me started on how most textures exhibit colorful artifacts up close, or the heavy fogging, or the poorly concealed draw-in. Don't even think about using the first person view, because in addition to the futility of actually trying to play this way, it only serves to call more attention to the game's graphical inadequacies. You could say, in a nutshell, that the developers really dropped the ball on Centipede's graphics.
Centipede's framerate is awful, and the graphics aren't even that good to begin with.
Unfortunately the sound doesn't fare much better. The music is an instantly forgettable conglomeration of light techno beepfests and mildly wacky kiddy music. The sound effects win some points for using a few sounds from the original arcade Centipede, but are otherwise not interesting.
The Final Word
The classic game resurrection mini-genre has seen a few hits (Tempest 2000, Defender 2000) and a few misses (Frogger, Pong, Sinistar). Sadly, Dreamcast Centipede is a shoe-in for the second group, on virtue of its crappy everything and astoundingly dull gameplay. This product makes me believe that Hasbro would do well sticking to action figures. They're pretty hard to screw up.
Developer: Leaping Lizard Software, Inc.
Highs: Original Centipede included, free jewel case, free coaster.
Lows: Everything else.
Other: 1-2 players, VMU Compatible, VGA Box Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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