Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!


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Mappy…

Mappy is a video game designed by Namco and released in 1983.  Mappy is a side scrolling platform game featuring ‘Mappy’ the police mouse.  In Mappy, cat burglars have hidden stolen loot in their mansion and Mappy must maneuver around and recover the stolen items, while avoiding contact with the cats.

Mappy will score points for each item recovered as follows:

  • Tape player-100 points
  • Television-200 points
  • Computer-300 points
  • Painting-400 points
  • Safe-500 points

Mappy can also score points when bouncing on the trampolines, hitting a cat with a door, microwaving a cat, and retrieving a stolen item when Goro (the boss cat) is hiding behind it.  One some levels, bells will appear that can be dropped on cats for more bonus points.  Mappy can’t be harmed by the cats when bouncing on the trampoline or in the shafts of the mansion.  If Mappy jumps on a trampoline when it is red (unless there is a lower level to catch Mappy), or is touched by a cat on any of the mansion floors, he will lose a life.

Levels 3, 7, 11, and 15 are bonus rounds where Mappy must pop balloons for bonus points.  After round 15, the game loops back to the beginning.

Based on the NAMCO Super Pac-man board, the arcade unit used two Motorola 6809 CPUs with a Namco 8 channel PSG for sound.  In the U.S., Mappy was distributed by Bally-Midway and came in both upright and cocktail cabinet versions.

Mappy was ported to the Famicon (NES) in Japan, but not to any Atari systems until now.

MappyArcade

Mappy Arcade Version

Mappy for the Atari 2600…

Mappy is the latest release from Champ Games, released by AtariAge at the 2018 Portland Retro Game Expo (PRGE).  Programmed by John Champeau, with sprites by Nathan Strum, and music by Michael Haas, Mappy is an amazing game for the Atari 2600.  John also credits Darrell Spice, Jr. for the music driver and Thomas Jentzsch for code optimization and improving the logo.

Taking full advantage of CDF (the latest incarnation of DPC/DPC+) and the Melody board (designed by Fred Quimby), Mappy delivers a near arcade level experience on the Atari 2600.  Comparing John’s 2600 port to the arcade version, shows an amazing level of fidelity to the original.  Just like the original, the music is almost constant.  Only a few Atari games like Pitfall II, Stay Frosty 2, and, now, Mappy have this much music in them.

In addition to offering three levels of difficultly (that can be selected from the main menu), John takes advantage of the difficulty switches to offer random locations of loot and reduced object flicker.  He also uses the color/BW switch to allow for pause/resume of the game.  Finally, Mappy can take advantage of the Atarivox to save high scores.

Mappy comes from AtariAge with a full color box, manual, and poster.  The box and cartridge art are the work of Nathan Strum who also did a fantastic job on the manual.  The twelve page manual is printed on glossy paper and includes four pages of a Mappy comic book.

Mappy2600

Mappy for the Atari 2600

Overall Thoughts…

It probably seems like I am usually positive about the things I write about on this blog.  That’s probably a fair point as I have a tendency to write about things that I like.  This time it is a little different as I was not at all familiar with Mappy.

In fact, until last week, I hadn’t even played Mappy.  A friend showed me how the game was played on the AtariAge demo unit at PRGE and I bought a copy from AtariAge.  Turns out that I have one of the Jack’s Pacific Namco ‘Plug ‘n’ Play’ units that has Mappy on it.  In the past week, I have played Mappy on both my Atari 2600 and on my Namco unit.  Sometimes you don’t know what you are missing; Mappy is a great game and a lot of fun to play!

At PRGE, I had the opportunity to talk with John and his brother Paul.  Although John is rightfully proud of his work on Mappy, he made it a point to talk about the team effort by Mike, Nathan, Thomas, and others that was needed to make Mappy for the Atari 2600 a reality.

Like many of John’s recent releases, you have to keep reminding yourself that you are playing a 2600 game.  Mappy should be available for purchase in the AtariAge store next month.  This is one game that should be on every Atari 2600 owner’s wish list!

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Wild for Mappy!

@Atarigame guy

P.S.  Mappy plays great on Atari 7800 units as well!

 

 

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Tank Games for the Atari 2600…

Tank games for the Atari 2600 are based on Battlezone, a 1980 arcade game developed by Ed Rotberg for Atari.  Battlezone uses vector graphics and a monochrome display with green and red overlays.  It is driven by a 6502 CPU, a POKEY chip for sound, and came with a 19” CRT.  In Battlezone, the player controls a tank via an innovative periscope, first person view.  The object of the game is to shoot as many enemy tanks, super tanks, UFO’s, and missiles while avoiding getting your own tank shot.  Each of these enemies are worth different point values:

  • Tanks-1,000 points
  • Super Tanks-3,000 points
  • Missiles-2,000 points
  • UFO’s-5,000 points

A radar screen and status board tell you when an enemy is in range and in which direction you need to turn your tank to engage or avoid attack.  The status board also shows your score and the number of tanks (lives) remaining.  When your tank is ‘killed’, a simulation of your periscope screen cracking is displayed.

Battlezone was ported to several computer systems of the day and an Atari 2600 version, using raster graphics, was released in 1983.  An Atari 5200 version that uses a combination of vector and raster graphics was in development, but never released.  A copy of a playable prototype is available and seems to be about 90% complete.  Activision also developed their own tank game for the Atari 2600 called Robot Tank.

Atari 2600 Battlezone…

Released by Atari in 1983, the Atari 2600 port of Battlezone uses raster graphics versus the vector graphics of the arcade.  Instead of a periscope view, the game features a pseudo 3D view of the front of the players tank.  The game includes enemies from the arcade; tanks, super tanks, and UFO’s (saucers), but substitutes the missiles for fighters.  The 2600 version plays like the arcade version and the graphics are nicely done; even the radar and status displays are included.  The one thing missing, which does detract from the game, however, is the battlefield obstacles.  Use of the obstacles by both the player’s and enemy tanks is an important part of the strategy of the game.  Extra lives are rewarded at 50K and 100K points.

BZ

Battlezone for the Atari 2600

Activision Robot Tank…

Designed by Alan Miller, Robot Tank was also released in 1983.  Robot Tank is similar to Battlezone but adds several new twists.  First, no points are awarded; instead, the number of enemy tank kills are tracked.  Extra lives are awarded after an entire enemy squadron of tanks are destroyed.  In Robot Tank, damage to the player’s tank is possible which can cause the screen view to black out, the radar can be lost, cannons to be damaged and fire erratically, and, finally, tank treads can be damaged, making it difficult to maneuver.

Additionally, a full day period is modeled, causing visibility to be limited at dusk and at night.  Alan also modeled fog, rain, & snow which also limits visibility and forces the player to rely on the radar screen.  If radar is lost at night or in the fog, you will be driving blind!

One weakness of Robot Tank is that, if the player turns the his/her tank so that an incoming round is no longer in view, it will miss the player’s tank.  This is, of course not realistic and is, honestly, a flaw in the game.

RT

Robot Tank for the Atari 2600

Overall thoughts…

Both Battlezone and Robot tank are great games for the Atari 2600.  The graphics in both are outstanding and they are both fun to play.  One note of caution for Atari 7800 owners is that Robot Tank is one of a handful of games that does not work on most 7800’s.  I was able to pick up boxed copies of Battlezone and Robot Tank for around ten dollars each.  At that price, why not get both of these great games?

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Wild for Atari 2600 Tank Games!

@Atarigame guy


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Draconian for the Atari 2600…

Bosconian is a 1981 arcade game developed by Namco and released in the United States by Midway.  The arcade version uses three Z80 CPU’s, a Namco PSG for sound, and a custom DAC for voice.  In Bosconian the player controls a fighter ship that fires both forward and backward simultaneously. In each round, the enemy space stations must be destroyed. Each space station has six pods, surrounded by a central core. The player must either destroy all six pods or destroy the core.  In later rounds, the space station core defends itself, by firing missiles.

Additionally, the player must avoid or destroy asteroids, mines, and a variety of enemy ships.  The enemy will also launch a squadron of ships (in formation attacks).  Destroying the leader causes all remaining enemies to disperse but destroying all enemies in a formation scores extra points. A spy ship will also appear, which must be destroyed, or the round will go to ‘Condition red!’.  Condition red also occurs if the player takes too long to complete the round.

During the game, a synthesized voice alerts the player:

  • ‘Blast off!’ (ready for action!)
  • ‘Alert! Alert!’ (enemy in vicinity)
  • ‘Battle stations!’ (enemy formation approaching)
  • ‘Spy ship sighted!’ (Spy ship in vicinity)
  • ‘Condition red!’ (enemy send entire attack fleet; occurs when the player takes too long to clear a round, or misses the spy ship)

Until now, Bosconian had not been ported to any of the popular video systems of the day.  Recently, it has been ported to the Colecovision by OPCODE games (for use with their super game module) and to the Atari 2600 by Darrell Spice, Jr.

Draconian is the name that Darrell picked for his Atari 2600 port of Bosconian.  Darrell started working on Draconian in early 2014 and finished it up just in time for release at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo last fall.  Darrell has developed several great games for the 2600, including Medieval Mayhem and Space Rocks, but Draconian is really some game.

For starters, the game includes the synthesized voice alerts as in the arcade version.  In what I believe is a first for any Atari 2600 game, the voice happens fluidly during the game action.  Previously, without add-on hardware, voice could only happen on the 2600 between game sequences, due to the limited processing power of the 6507 CPU.  Additionally, the game is flicker free.  There is so much action, so many enemies, scrolling in all directions, and almost no visible flicker.  This is made possible by the hardware of the melody board used for this cartridge and some incredible programming.

Draconian

Draconian for the Atari 2600

Darrell credits Chris Walton and Fred Quimby for help with the CDF driver for the Melody board; Chris Walton for additional programming; Nathan Strum for the label, box, and manual design; and several other folks for help with quadrant designs and game testing.

Another thing that stands out is the incredible presentation of the Draconian game.  A full color, eight-page manual, beautiful box, custom labels, and a 10”x14” color poster are all included in this game release.

In comparing Draconian to the arcade version of Bosconian, Darrell has done an amazing job.  There is less variety in colors of some objects and the scanner is simplified, but the game is all there.  Darrell includes five quadrants (yep five) of action, including Namco, Midway and random versions. He also includes the spy ship, formation attacks, and firing weapon pods on the space stations.  Extra lives are granted at 20K, 70K, and, then, every 70K.  Some of the recent AtariAge releases for the 2600 are awesome games, but Draconian, with the in-game voice, takes it to another level.  Draconian is a ‘must have’ for your Atari 2600 collection and should make everyone’s list of top ten Atari 2600 games.

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Wild for Draconian!

@Atarigameguy

P.S. Draconian also plays great on the Atari 7800!


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Scramble for the Atari 5200…

This is the third time that I have written about Scramble.  All the way back in 2012, I wrote about Bob DeCrescenzo’s 7800 version and, then, just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about John Champeau’s 2600 version.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that a 5200 version had recently been developed.  To save you having to look up my previous blogs, here is my info on the arcade version:

‘Scramble is a video game developed by Konami in 1981 and distributed in the United States by Stern.  It is a side scrolling ‘shoot ‘em up’ with outstanding graphics and game play.  In Scramble, you control an aircraft with the goal of getting as far into the Scramble system as possible.  In addition to controlling the movements of the aircraft, you must also use your guns and bombs to destroy rockets, UFO’s, and fuel tanks.  You must keep an eye on your own fuel and destroy a fuel tank to increase your fuel level.

In Scramble the terrain is constantly changing, and you must fight your way through six stages:

  • Stage 1: Launching rockets
  • Stage 2: UFO’s
  • Stage 3: Meteors
  • Stage 4: Launching rockets from tall buildings
  • Stage 5: Mazes
  • Stage 6: Base

The Scramble arcade units were powered by two Z80 CPU’s and two AY-3-8910 sound generators.  It was ported to the Commodore 64, Vic 20, and Vectrex, but not to any Atari systems.  Scramble was succeeded by ‘Super Cobra’ which was ported to the Atari 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems.’

Thanks to Paul Lay, it is now possible to play Scramble on the Atari 5200.  At this stage, you can download it to play on a 5200 emulator or on real hardware via an Atarimax cart.

Paul had worked on the graphics for Scramble a while back but didn’t really get started on programming it until the beginning of this year.  For the most part Paul worked on it, quietly, by himself, but, then, Harvey Kong Tin (long time Atari graphics artist) pitched in and helped with the graphics.

Paul’s Scramble 5200 is extremely well done, plays like the arcade, and includes all six arcade levels.   Paul takes advantage of the 5200’s keyboard controller to allow several options as follows:

  • Difficulty (normal or easy)
  • Tunnels (wide or narrow)
  • Ship size (normal or small)
  • Rockets (normal or fast)
  • Auto Fire (off, fast, or slow)
  • Trigger 1 (missiles or both)
  • Lives (3, 4, or 5)
  • Scroll (normal or fast)

One area where Paul’s Scramble shines is with the sound.  Unlike TIA sound on 2600 and 7800, Scramble for the 5200 takes advantage of the 5200’s pokey chip.   The Defender inspired ship explosions do differ from the arcade version, but are a blast (pun intended)!  Also, the stage and score are at the bottom of the screen versus the top in the arcade version.

Scramble5200STG2

Scramble 5200 Stage 2

Scramble 5200 is addictive and takes a lot of practice.   I have played for hours and have only made it to level 6 once.  The game options, that Paul has programmed in, make it easy to get started and work your way up in difficulty.

Scramble 5200 would have been a massive hit back in the day and would have helped the 5200 live up to its billing as the ‘Super System’.  Scramble for the 2600 and 7800 systems are awesome, must have games for those systems, but Scramble 5200 is as close to the arcade as you are going to get, unless you go and buy yourself an authentic arcade unit.

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Scramble 5200 Stage 5

Let’s hope Paul authorizes a cart/manual/box release for Scramble 5200.  Not only do I highly recommend this game, I want to be the first in line to order a copy!!!

@Atarigameguy


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Super Cobra…

Super Cobra is a video game developed by Konami in 1981 and distributed in the United States by Stern.  A further development of Scramble, it is also a side scrolling ‘shoot ‘em up’ with outstanding graphics and game play.  In Super Cobra, you control a helicopter with the goal of getting 10,000 miles, grab the booty, and carry it away.  In addition to controlling the movements of your helicopter, you must also use your guns and bombs to destroy rockets, tanks, and fuel tanks.  You must keep an eye on your own fuel and destroy a fuel tank to increase your fuel level.

In Super Cobra the terrain is constantly changing and you must fight your way through eleven stages:

  • Stage 1:  Mountainous terrain against fast and slow firing rockets
  • Stage 2:  Arcing missiles over a mountain terrain
  • Stage 3:  Smart bombs flying in groups of four over mountainous terrain. Rockets appear, but do not fire
  • Stage 4:  Single smart bombs over mountainous terrain. Again, Rockets appear, but do not fire
  • Stage 5:  Flying through a cavern-like terrain against falling mines
  • Stage 6:  Rapidly firing, roving tanks over mountainous terrain. Rockets appear, but do not fire
  • Stage 7:  Maneuver through a field of meteors which explode when hit with bombs or 3 times with laser, plus a single, green, shadow meteor directly in front of chopper which explodes when hit five times with laser. Rockets appear but do not fire
  • Stage 8:  Mountainous terrain with rapidly firing UFOs. Tanks and rockets appear, but do not fire
  • Stage 9:  Arcing missiles over tall buildings
  • Stage 10:  Firing rockets in a building maze
  • Stage 11:  Base-maneuver your helicopter over tall buildings, missiles, and tanks to reach the Booty and safely carry it away.

The Super Cobra arcade units were powered by two Z80 CPU’s and two AY-3-8910 sound generators.  It was ported to the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit systems, Intellivision, and Colecovison.  Most recently, and updated version has been ported to the Atari 2600.

2600 Version…

Parker Brothers…

In 1983, Parker Brothers released their port of Super Cobra for the Atari 2600.  At the time, it was considered a decent port and received a certificate of merit at the 1983 Arkie Awards.  With the recent release of Super Cobra Arcade for the 2600, this 1983 port is now one to skip.

Champ Games…

Thanks John Champeau, it is now possible to play an almost arcade perfect port of Super Cobra on the Atari 2600.  John took advantage of the work that he had done on Scramble and adapted his code to produce an outstanding port of Super Cobra.  Super Cobra was released by AtariAge at the 2017 Portland Retro Gaming Expo with a color manual, poster, and an amazing box.  Several other AtariAge forum members contributed to the game, including Nathan Strum (graphics), Michael Haas (music, sound effects, label, box, and manual design), Darrell Spice (level generation and code) and Thomas Jentzsch (level generation and code).

Super Cobra for the 2600 is amazingly close to the arcade version and, when playing it, you have to keep reminding yourself that it is an Atari 2600 game.  Like a few other recent homebrew games, John takes advantage of the Melody board to make the 2600 do things once thought not possible!  The graphics and sounds are outstanding, and all eleven arcade levels are included.

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Super Cobra Arcade for the Atari 2600/7800

A really cool feature that John built into the 2600 version of Scramble is the ability to use a Sega Genesis controller.  If plugged in before your 2600 is powered up, Scramble will auto-detect the Genesis controller and allow two button game play (for separate control of firing bombs and missiles).  John also takes advantage of the 2600’s color/B&W switch to implement a pause feature in the game as well as the difficulty switch to allow for single shot or ‘burst mode’ when shooting missiles.

Like Scramble, Super Cobra is a fun game, but takes a lot of practice.   John has built in four difficulty levels into his 2600 version which will keep you coming back for more.  Also, John has included the ‘continue’ feature of the arcade, so you can play on, even when the game should be over.  Super Cobra Arcade for the Atari 2600 is a must have game for your collection!

5200 Version…

The 5200 version was also released by Parker Brothers in 1983, is faithful to the arcade version and includes all eleven levels.

5200SC

Super Cobra for the Atari 5200

I have seen reviews that state difficulties with using the 5200’s analog joysticks.  It probably would have been a wise idea to either make the caverns wider or do so via a menu selection or difficulty setting, but  I have played it with a 5200 joystick and a CX40 (via a masterplay clone adapter) and find it challenging, but not impossible.  Obviously, the better your joystick, the easier it will be to score higher at Super Cobra.  Like John’s 2600 version, Parker Brothers included the continue feature which adds significantly to the enjoyment of the game.

Unfortunately, Parker Brothers did not take advantage of the keypad on the 5200 controller and add any game options.  The only option is for the # key to select a one or two player game.  Additionally, only the lower fire button is used, which fires both missiles and bombs.  Despite these shortcomings, Super Cobra is a definite ‘must have’ for your 5200 collection.

7800 Version…

A simple graphics hack of Bob DeCrescenzo’s Scramble has been made available by Good Deal Games and, until John’s 2600 version was released, this was as close as you could get to Super Cobra on the 7800.  John’s 2600 plays great on the 7800 and includes all Super Cobra levels and features, so it’s buyer’s choice as to which way to choose if you have a 7800.

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Wild for Super Cobra Arcade!


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Scramble for the Atari 2600…

Scramble is a video game developed by Konami in 1981 and distributed in the United States by Stern.  It is a side scrolling ‘shoot ‘em up’ with outstanding graphics and game play.  In Scramble, you control an aircraft with the goal of getting as far into the Scramble system as possible.  In addition to controlling the movements of the aircraft, you must also use your guns and bombs to destroy rockets, UFO’s, and fuel tanks.  You must keep an eye on your own fuel and destroy a fuel tank to increase your fuel level.

In Scramble the terrain is constantly changing and you must fight your way through six stages:

  • Stage 1:  Launching Rockets
  • Stage 2:  UFO’s
  • Stage 3:  Meteors
  • Stage 4:  Launching Rockets from tall buildings
  • Stage 5:  Mazes
  • Stage 6:  Base

The Scramble arcade units were powered by two Z80 CPU’s and two AY-3-8910 sound generators.  It was ported to the Commodore 64, Vic 20, and Vectrex, but not to any Atari systems.  Scramble was succeeded by ‘Super Cobra’ which was ported to the Atari 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems.

Thanks to John Champeau, it is now possible to play Scramble on the Atari 2600.  John started his work on his port of Scramble in 2015 and it was released by AtariAge in mid-2017 with a color manual, poster, and an amazing box.  A number of other AtariAge forum members contributed to the game, including Nathan Strum (graphics), Bob DeCrescenzo (music and sound effects), Michael Haas (sound effects), and Dave Dries (label, box, and manual design).  Additionally, Darrell Spice helped with the DPC+/ARM code and Thomas Jentzsch helped with testing.                         

Scramble2600

Scramble for Atari 2600

Scramble for the 2600 is amazingly close to the arcade version and, when playing it, you have to keep reminding yourself that it is an Atari 2600 game.  Like a few other recent homebrew games, John takes advantage of the Melody board to make the 2600 do things once thought not possible!  The graphics and sound are outstanding and all six arcade levels are included.

A really cool feature that John built into the 2600 version of Scramble is the ability to use a Sega Genesis controller.  If plugged in before your 2600 is powered up, Scramble will auto-detect the Genesis controller and allow two button game play (for separate control of firing bombs and missiles).  John also takes advantage of the 2600’s color/B&W switch to implement a pause feature in the game as well as the difficulty switch to allow for single shot or ‘burst mode’ when shooting missiles.

Scramble is a fun game, but it takes a lot of practice to get good at it.   John has built in four difficulty levels which will keep challenging you as you get better at the game.  Scramble is an awesome side scroller for the 2600 which not only pushes the system to its limits, but, also shows that, some forty years after it was first released, the Atari 2600 is still a great home gaming system.  John has really ‘knocked it out of the park’ with Scramble…an absolute must have for your 2600!!!

Scamble 2600

Wild for Scramble!

P.S.  Scramble also plays well on the Atari 7800!


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Centipede…

Centipede is a 1980 video game developed by Atari.  It is notable in that it was one of the few video games that was co-developed by a woman (Dona Bailey) and, also had a large female following.  Centipede was a monster hit for Atari and it could be found in nearly every arcade in the early 80’s.  Centipede is based on the standard Atari hardware of the era with a single 6502 CPU, a single Pokey chip,  and a 16 color CRT.

The concept of the game is pretty straight forward.  The centipede starts at the top of the screen and moves down a level every time it encounters a mushroom.  You must use your wand (blaster) to shoot the centipede before it gets to you.   If you hit the centipede in a center section, it will split in two.  You must also defend yourself from spiders that enter from the sides and fleas that fall from the top.  Scorpions periodically run across the screen and ‘poison’ any mushrooms that they contact.  If the centipede contacts a poison mushroom, it will ‘fall’ to the bottom of the screen.

Centipede at Funspot

Centipede at Funspot

Centipede was ported to a number of home consoles and computers including the Apple II, the Commodore 64, and the Atari 800 and the Atari 2600, 5200, and 7800 consoles.  In fact, it is one of the few games to be ported to all 4 of Atari’s 8-bit game systems.

In 1982, Atari released Centipede for the VCS/2600 and, when you power up your 2600 with a Centipede cartridge installed, you will be amazed with the start screen…you will think that you are about to see an amazing graphical port for the 2600.  Unfortunately, the start screen is as far as the amazing graphics go.  The game graphics are disappointing as the mushrooms have become simple square blocks.   As far as the game play goes, however, the 2600 version has it all…mushrooms, spiders, fleas, and scorpions.  It plays as close to the arcade version as any 2600 port.  In fact, Centipede is one of the top games for the 2600!

When the 5200 SuperSystem was introduced in 1982, Centipede was one of the early releases.  Given that a Centipede arcade unit has the same basic CPU and sound chips as a 5200, it should be no surprise that the 5200 version is a classic port.  Like the 2600 version, all of the arcade elements are present, but this time the graphics and sound are spot on.  Control with a standard 5200 joystick is solid, but the 5200 version supports the use of the Trak-ball unit.  Centipede is one of the top games available for the 5200.

In 1987, Atari released Centipede for the 7800 ProSystem.  Even though the 7800 lacks the sound capability of the 4 channel Pokey chip, Centipede is well executed with a nice start screen, great graphics, and more than adequate sound.   The only thing negative to say about the 7800 graphics is the box that is drawn around the screen.   The 7800 version makes up for any shortcomings with neat two player modes.  Two players can alternate turns, play against each other (at the same time), or play together as a team.

It is hard to say which version of Centipede is the best port.  The two player modes in the 7800 version make it a blast to play with a friend, but I give a slight edge to the 5200 version for its accuracy to the arcade version.  No matter which Atari home console you have, a copy of Centipede belongs in your game collection!

Wild for Centipede!

Wild for Centipede!