Company: Atari
Model #:
Dave Getreu
Year: 1982
A different version was developed for the Atari 5200


It's a well known fact that for the most part Atari 400/800 and 5200 games are exactly the same (same hardware, same games), but there are a few games out there that are different.  Centipede is one of these games.  The Atari 400/800 version was done by David Getrue in late 1981 while the Atari 5200 version was created a few months later by Frank Hausman & Sean Hennessy to show off the power of the 5200.  The 5200 version had graphics that were much closer to the arcade and offered support for the new 5200 trak-ball, while the Atari 400/800 version had adequate graphics (done entirely with character sets) and no extra bells or whistles.  Thankfully they both play rather well.


Differences aside, both versions are ports of the 1981 smash arcade hit.  In fact, Centipede holds a special place in gaming history as the first arcade game to be designed by a woman.  Even though Atari touted this fact (a clever marketing ploy), Centipede was actually a collaboration between multiple people including Dona Bailey and Ed Logg.   It is said that Dona came up with the game concept, while Ed Logg did about half of the programming.  The marketing ploy worked and Centipede was the first game to be more popular with women than men.  I guess all women really do have a deep hidden desire to kill every bug they run across.


The goal of Centipede is shoot as many pieces of the centipede as it comes ambling through the mushroom patch.  Of course the Centipede won’t come straight down to you, that would be too easy, instead the centipede will bounce back and forth off the mushrooms as it makes its way down the screen.  The centipede is also joined by several of his friends including the flea (which falls straight down making mushrooms in its wake), the Scorpion (which poisons each mushroom it touches), and the spider which bounces around erratically at the bottom of the screen trying its best to eat your bug zapper.  If a centipede hits a mushroom poisoned by the scorpion it will immediately hurl itself straight down the screen making things extra dicey.  Once the centipede reaches the bottom of the screen it will bounce back and forth attempting to create new centipede pieces, so exterminate it quickly!  Each new level includes a spare centipede piece that accompanies the original centipede and more spiders adding to the difficultly.


Although it might seem odd that Atari never attempted to port the 5200 version to the 400/800, there’s good reason for this.  Atari was actively trying to discourage the image of the 400/800 as a game machine at the time as they wanted the 5200 to be the game machine and the 400/800 as their business computer.  Interestingly several other early arcade to home translations for the Atari 400/800 and 5200 had similar ‘dual ports’ including Dig Dug, Qix, Space Invaders, and Defender.  Although in the case of Dig Dug the 5200 port eventually did make its way to the 400/800 while the original 400/800 Defender by Michael Colburn never saw the light of day.  In the end Atari eventually gave up the idea of the 8-bit line being only for business and grudgingly embraced games, spelling the end of the 5200 a few years later.

Version Cart Text Description
Late Stage Beta


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