Centipede Recharged Review

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

Centipede: Recharged

By Paul Hunter

All right it's time to date myself a bit: I've been playing video games since the 80s, and I still have fond memories of hitting the arcade to play Atari's Centipede. The game was thoroughly addictive and persevering to get a personal best high score (and hopefully beating your friends!) was one of the main drivers of the fun. But of course the biggest reason why me and thousands of other gamers got hooked is because the gameplay loop is just so satisfying. From the moment you hit start in Centipede you're immediately thrusted into intense edge of your seat arcade shooter action.

When I heard that Atari was bringing back Centipede as part of their Recharged series, which is remaking classic arcade hits for modern consoles, I knew I had to be there on day one to check this out. After spending the past week playing this game for a few hours every night it's safe to say I'm hooked. Centipede Recharged certainly delivers on its promise, so let's head on into the mushroom-filled spooky forest and discuss three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: The Neon Visuals

I was immediately struck with how great Centipede Recharged looks. The graphics have been completely modernized with a mesmerizing neon vibe that reminds me of Geometry Wars, another classic arcade shooter I was hooked on for years. Shooting the insect enemies explodes them into glorious neon pixels, and the frequent full-screen cluster bomb explosions just look great.

I also love the enemy designs, particularly the titular centipedes that dart back and forth across the screen with menacing ferocity. The scorpions, fleas and spiders all look great too, and even better they periodically change colour as your score increases. In fact, the entire background hue changes to different neon colours every 5,000 points or so to give you a great sense of accomplishment—and to keep the visuals constantly interesting.

The only element that's a bit underwhelming is the background, it's a rather bland neon grid. But I get why the developers chose this: the grid helps you accurately lineup shots (crucial for staying alive) and the screen is already busy enough with all the insects moving about. Still, it would have been cool to have forest-y background images or motion effects as a separate mode or filter for when you're in the mood to be completely overwhelmed visually.

Liked: The New Power-Ups

Another huge improvement over the original Centipede is the dozen power-ups you can acquire, and absolutely need to grab to stay alive. There are so many cool power-ups to grab like the Explosion Bullets that blast a huge chunk of enemies and mushrooms—and has an immersive PS5 DualSense rumble effect should you play that version.

Other weapon highlights are the life-saving Burst spread that rapidly fires continuous seven shots in multiple directions and the Fear ghost that scares all the inserts off screen (it's funny to see!). I also really like the Mirror ability that spawns a second blaster at the top of the screen letting you fire upward and downward at the same time, great for clearing out those pesky mushrooms fast. The ultimate power-up is the Rail Gun that charges up and fires a vertical-line clearing shot. It's incredibly useful and looks awesome, too.

Liked: The New Challenge Mode

Challenges are a brand new way to play Centipede, with specific goals required to complete them. Boards will be be pre-set with specific layouts, power-ups and objectives to test you in various ways. Some challenges put obstacles in your path and task you with hitting a specific target score, while other challenges simply ask you to stay alive for 100 seconds or more.

Some of the more creative challenges will have multiple objectives like staying alive for 90 seconds while not shooting any centipedes or to hit a target score without destroying any of the poison mushrooms. Challenges can get quite intense and it's really fun to put your arcade action skills to the test. Plus, it's neat to play a classic like Centipede in a whole new way.

The one drawback was that I found the 30 challenges to be rather easy and can be beaten in just an hour or two. You can always go back to try and improve your score or beat challenges faster, but it would have been nice to either have more challenges or make the existing ones even harder to really push you. At least there are global leaderboards to keep you coming back.

Didn't Like: The Limited Modes

Now don't get me wrong, Centipede Recharged's core gameplay loop is very satisfying and will keep me coming back for many months to come. But I still couldn't help but wish the game offered a little bit extra over and above the Arcade and Challenge modes. Perhaps they could have added an online Versus mode, or a Story mode that showcases some of the exceptional keyart (like the header image at the top of this review). It seems like a missed opportunity to attract a larger player base outside of the Centipede retro audience.
Challenges can get quite intense and it's really fun to put your arcade action skills to the test. Plus, it's neat to play a classic like Centipede in a whole new way.

Didn't Like: The Trophies Are Only Available Offline

OK this is a platform-specific issue but it's frustrating nonetheless. It's a week after the game's release and still the PS4 and PS5 trophies haven't been uploaded to the PlayStation Network. It's rare for trophies to take this long to come online so they might be bugged—but I'm hoping they're not and the developers are working on it. Now whenever I try to sync my trophies to PSN I get an error, ugh. I had thought it might be a specific issue with my PS5 console, but I see other players online are also having trophy synching issues.

The Verdict

Centipede Recharged takes a beloved classic and reinvents it for the modern era with exceptional graphics and inspired gameplay upgrades. This is the perfect game to unwind to when you've got an hour to spare or a great bite-size game to play between those all-consuming AAA titles. I'm hooked on this game and it's making me excited for the next Recharged titles Atari is cooking up, like Black Widow Recharged and Breakout Recharged. It would have been nice for the game to ship with more modes, but with it's incredibly satisfying gameplay loop and $9.99 price point, retro fans shouldn't hesitate to pick this game up.

Final Score: 7.5/10 - Good

Centipede: Recharged details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Adamvision Studios, SneakyBox
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Arcade, Retro
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A key was provided by the publisher.