Friday, June 28, 2013

Video Game Review: Millipede for Atari 2600

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of variety of insects make for a fun but crazy game
Cons: Graphics and sound effects are only okay
The Bottom Line
Challenging mission
With average graphics, sound
Still good in short spurts

Millipede is a Million Times Crazier than the Original

Sequels quickly became the rule of video games, and when Centipede became a hit, it wasn't too long before it was followed by Millipede.  The game play is similar, but they've added many more creatures to make the game more challenging.

The point of this game is to shoot the insects that are attacking you.  Each level is determined by the millipede, which starts at the top of the screen and moves across until it hits the side or a mushroom and then it drops a row toward you.  You are at the bottom of the screen trying to shoot up and hit it.

If only it were that easy.  There are all kinds of other critters.  Spiders pop in from the sides; beetles crawl around you.  Mosquitoes, Bees, and Dragonflies attack from the top.  And inchworms and earwigs crawl across the screen creating havoc of their own.  Fortunately, you do have DDT bombs that will destroy any pest that touches the poison cloud when you set them off.  (Unfortunately, I usually seem to hit them by mistake.)

Of course, your main point of attack is the arrow you shoot up toward the top of the screen.  While you can hit the red button each time you want to fire, just holding the button down is also an option.  While you are only allow a certain number of arrows at a time, it saves your thumb, and usually I want to be firing at all times anyway.

And have I mentioned the mushrooms?  Every time you hit a segment of a millipede, it turns into a mushroom.  Other insects leave them behind.  Fortunately, spiders do take them away because the more crowded the screen with mushrooms, the quicker the millipedes advance to the bottom and really threaten you.  Also, mushrooms seem to pop up on their own between rounds at times.

If you get the feeling that a lot happens quickly in this game, you'd be correct.  It's hard to have much of a strategy since it seems like something new is always coming at you.  Your best bet is to dodge and fire.

Fortunately, the controls are very easy to master.  Point the joystick I in the direction you want to go, and you'll move there.  You can only move about a third of the way up the screen, and there is actually a line to show you where that is.  The arcade game used a trackball for the controller, and Atari sold an option trackball controller for their system.  I loved to play this game with that controller because it was even easier.

The only choice you have in the way of game variations is what level score you start with.  Obviously, it's harder the higher you start.  There is no two player option, and the difficulty switches don't do anything either.

Graphics on this game aren't the greatest.  You and the mushrooms are blocks (although that was the case for you in the arcade if I remember correctly).  The various creatures have squarish parts, although you can still pretty much tell what they are.  The only truly strange ones are the mosquitoes with are diagonal lines with two "wings" sticking off them.  It's hard to tell the dragonflies and bees apart, not that it really matters.

The insects make all kinds of sound effects when they are on screen.  It's to help you indentify which ones are out.  It's all electronic sounds that really don't mean much until you learn to tell them apart.  Even then, it's often hard to tell because multiple things are happening at the same time.  As I recall, the arcade version was like that as well.  It's not a bad thing, but it could have been better.

Because of the variety of the bugs, this game is much harder than Centipede.  I enjoyed this one for a challenge, but I enjoyed the first one because it was relaxing while still presenting a challenge.  (And yes, I have them both.)  I don't know that this game calls for more than half an hour at a time because of how repetitive it is, but it's still fun.

And that fun holds up today.  Dated graphics and potentially overwhelming sound don't really hamper Millipede at all.

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