Game Room has finally launched and while there have been some headaches(which is kind of unsurprising) the interface is really neat. I can customize my own personal arcade, decorate it with random junk, and even have little mascots like a centipede running around. Actual useful features include the ability to save and watch replays as well as leaderboards. From what I can tell the emulation is at least competent though there's the occasional pause every now and again. It's for a less than a fraction of a second and it isn't enough to throw me off my game but all the same it's there. Still I'm sure it can only improve with time. But enough about all that let's look at the first game I purchased for this service.
Centipede is a classic. As far as early arcade games go this is one of my favorites. Like many other titles it's deceptively simple in that all the player has to do is survive while destroying the centipede. What makes this game brilliant is how dynamic it is. While some situations are similar you're never really guaranteed to play the same game twice. With a lot of arcade games enemies come in waves and it's typically the same types every time. What keeps Centipede so fresh is the layout of the mushrooms. When the player destroys a piece of the centipede a mushroom appears in the spot it died. Fleas drop lines of mushrooms wherever they fall, scorpions poison mushrooms which cause centipedes to fall straight to the bottom, and spiders eat the mushrooms.
The mushrooms affect a number of things. While you can only fire one shot at a time if it hits a mushroom that means you can fire your next shot again. This can be very effective when trying to destroy the centipede when it has invaded your play area. By carefully manipulating the mushrooms one can also create a funnel that'll make the centipede run in practically a straight line making it easy to take them out. Obviously maintaining this funnel isn't easy when so many factors are working against the player but it is a very effective means of scoring.
Centipede remains a challenging shooter even today because it forces you to watch the entire screen. With some games all you do is directly stare at your ship or the general area around it to make sure you're dodging everything. In Centipede you can't direct your focus at any one thing. If you're not paying attention to the top half the centipede will be in your playfield wrecking havoc, if you're not paying attention to the area around you it'll lead to lives lost from errant spiders. There's patterns to everything in this game and grasping everything every enemy is capable of can only take a few minutes. This particular aspect is very well done since knowing the enemy's behavior allows the player to keep track of whichever is the biggest threat at the moment. Even when centipedes enter the playfield they can only move in one direction and only turn at the ends of the playfield or at mushrooms. Having a field clear of mushrooms is essential but difficult since again any centipedes destroyed will leave more.
My only real problem with this game is due to the control setup. This game is best played with a trackball and at the moment there isn't one available for the 360. This game has exceptionally tight mechanics and being able to get to just the right quickly as well as accurately is most effective with a trackball. For the moment at least other control methods are tolerable.
Whether or not you purchase Centipede through this service or play it for free off some random site do yourself a favor and give this one another go. It's nearly thirty years old and still holds up incredibly.