Lost In Translation/Centipede

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This page is a stub for arcade games that are part of the Lost In Translation series using information based on MAME (version 0.113u2).
For an example of preferred content and layout please refer to Out Run or The Ninja Warriors.

Centipede marquee.
No screen shot.
Centipede control panel.
Manufacturer Atari
Released 1980
8-way Joystick
1 Button(s)
Main CPU M6502 (@ 1.512 MHz)
Sound CPU Mono
POKEY (@ 1.512 MHz)
Raster (Vertical)
256 x 240 pixels
60.00 Hz
8 Palette colours
Screens 1
ROM Info 7 ROMs
12,544 bytes (12.25 KiB)
MAME ID centiped · caterplr · centipd2 · centipdb · centtime · magworm · millpac

About The Game

Centipede is a 1- or 2-player fast-moving game, where the action takes place on a playfield filled with mushrooms and includes a variety of insects that drop down from the top of the screen or enter from the sides of the screen, most of them to attack the Bug Blaster, controlled by the player. The Bug Blaster is represented on the screen by a somewhat humanoid head. The object of the game is to shoot at and destroy as many of these insects and mushrooms as possible for a high point score, before the player's lives are all used up.

Player control consists of a Mini-Trak Ball control and a FIRE pushbutton. The Bug Blaster is moved by rotating the Mini-Trak Ball control. The Bug Blaster can be moved in all directions, but only within the bottom fifth of the screen. However, the Bug Blaster must move around mushrooms, since these are fixed, not 'transparent', objects. Pressing the FIRE button causes the Bug Blaster to fire individual shots upward, either singly or in rapid-fire mode, if held down constantly (Only one shot appears on the screen at a time).

Game play begins with a playfield of randomly placed mushrooms. A Centipede starts snaking its way across from the center top of the screen. The Centipede changes direction when it runs into a mushroom or either the left or right boundaries of the playfield.

When a segment of the Centipede is shot, it is destroyed and a mushroom appears where that segment was shot. When shot, the Centipede breaks into two smaller centipedes, each with its own head. When a Centipede reach the bottom of the screen, it starts back up, but remains within the area of the Bug Blaster (the bottom fifth of the screen).

If a Centipede reaches the bottom of the screen without being shot, it releases its tail. This tail changes into a new head. Also to provide the player a challenge, if a Centipede is still alive when it reaches the bottom, new heads will enter the screen almost at the bottom of the sides. More of these heads will appear as time progresses.

A round of play ends when all Centipede segments are destroyed.

The randomly moving Spiders also appear in the first wave. The Spiders can destroy any mushrooms they move over. This eliminates many mushroom targets for a player. The player earns 300, 600, or 900 points for destroying the Spider, depending on the distance The Shooter and the Spider are from each other. Depending on a special option switch setting, the Spider moves slowly until a player reaches a specific score, and then it speeds up. If the Bug Blaster and a Spider collide, both are destroyed.

A bombardment of Fleas starts after the first wave; as the Flea descends, it leaves a trail of new mushrooms behind it. The Fleas appear when a certain number of mushrooms remains at the bottom of the screen. This number increases as the game progresses, meaning Fleas appear more often later on in the game. The Bug Blaster must hit a Flea twice to destroy it (the first shot just speeds it up). Fleas have a value of 200 points when destroyed.

When a Centipede with fewer than eleven segments appears, a Scorpion enters from either side, moving at a relatively slow speed. As the player earns more points, the Scorpion's speed increases. Scorpions are worth 1,000 points when destroyed - the highest-value target of all.

As it travels across the screen, the Scorpion 'poisons' the mushrooms that it moves over and changes their colors. These mushrooms cause any Centipedes that would collide with them to head straight towards the bottom of the screen, rather than continue snaking around. The Bug Blaster can stop a poisoned Centipede by shooting its head.

In addition, these poisoned mushrooms as well as any partially shot mushrooms add 5 points to the player's score as the playfield resets after a player loses a Shooter.

If the players are very skilled and earn at least 60,000 points, two things happen to increase player challenge : the Fleas descend at a faster speed and the Spiders restrict their movement to a smaller area at the bottom of the screen.

An important new feature of this game is the operator option for easy/hard game difficulty. In the easy game, the Spider moves slowly up to a 5,000-point score, and then bounces at a higher speed. It also changes direction less often throughout the game than at the hard setting.

In the hard setting, the Spider moves slowly only for the first 1,000 points, and then speeds up. It also changes direction more often throughout the game. In either setting, the spider always moves at a 45-degree angle or straight up and down.


Centipede, completed in 1981, was an Atari coin-operated game that swiftly won a wide following in the arcades. Apart from its smooth game play, Centipede was praised for its refreshing approach to screen colors and for its whimsical mushroom world.

The first coin-op game designed by a woman, Dona Bailey. But Ed Logg did the majority of the work on Centipede, Dona only came up with the prototype idea, where the mushrooms were indestructible and it was more like "Space Invaders". Like "Pac-Man", this game has special appeal to women.

The Creation of Centipede

Centipede was written by veteran Atari designer Ed Logg, who has become something of a legend in the world of video games, and a young game programmer who was credited with bringing a gentler touch to the world of video games with the enchanted mushroom patch. Steve Calfee : "Ed Logg is the world's greatest games designer. He's done the most, the best games. His line up starts with "Asteroids", which probably still is the biggest run we ever did. He's in [a long line of games]. He's kind of like Pete Rose; he has the most hits and he's also probably got the most strike outs. He just goes up to bat.".

Remembrances from the Video Game Masters

The mushroom patch with its tenacious, never-say-die centipedes, bouncing spiders, mushroom-laying fleas and transforming scorpions provided an imaginative leap for players, just as did the hoards of aliens in "Tempest", the outer space adventures of "Asteroids", the eerie battlefields of "Battle Zone" and even the frightful scenarios of "Missile Command". Of these times, and the games that emerged from Atari, Rich Adam said : "We were a young group of fun people who were sort of treading on untrodden territory. We were out exploring what technology could do to entertain adolescent minds, and we were adolescent minds.".

In the early days of personal computers, before they became commonplace, and before sophisticated gaming programs were available for them, the arcades (and wherever else the coin-operated games were located) were the portals into these new fantasy worlds. And a river of quarters carried players into the electronic realms. Dan Pliskin described the coin-operated video game business as follows : "It was a wacky, extremely competitive business. I was there when coin-operated games were earning $8 billion in quarters a year. These games were out-grossing the record industry and the movie industry combined, in quarters! And when you looked at who was manufacturing these games, it was just a couple of Japanese companies and a few American companies.... There was incredible competition, all for kids' lunch and church money!".

The quarters are still rolling in. Dan Plishkin continued : "People say that video games have already seen their heyday and business has definitely gone downhill. Maybe it has gone downhill. Maybe it's only $4 billion worth of quarters now. It's still one heck of an industry.".

Popular from the Start

The prototype games were hand-built, wire-wrapped, one-of-a kinds that were created by the development team prior to ordering the circuit boards for the mass-produced versions. With just a single machine, people would come in at all hours of the night to play a new game.Dan Plishkin : "One of the things that kind of allowed everybody at Atari to have kind of a loose and enjoyable relationship was that management was kind of loose, too. An example of that happened with one of Howard Delman's games. I can't remember which one it was, but we sent the one and only prototype wire-wrapped version of Howie's game off to the AMOA (Amusement and Music Operators Association) show with strict orders not to sell it. "Of course the game was sold anyway, and a new prototype had to be assembled back at the labs. Dan Plishkin continued : "Several months later Howie gets a call from the person who bought this game. It had stopped collecting money and he wanted to know how to change the settings to make it play longer, or something, to see if it would earn more money. Howie had to tell the guy that if it ever collected any money at all, it was a miracle because it didn't have any coin routines at all. It had none, because we had wired it for free-play when we sent it to the AMOA show!".

The Great 25-Cent Escape

Especially in the early 1980s a great many newspaper and magazine articles were written about the meaning of and possible consequences of the wave of video games that seemed to allure so many kids, and adults, to the arcades. But at the heart of it might have been the promise of a quick escape into another world. Rich Adam : "I kind of figured out, maybe years after the fact, what I think the lure of video games is. It's because people have so little control over their lives. This is especially true with kids, but even adults often have little control over the day-to-day part of their lives. You have to go to work. You don't get to control that much of your life. But for a quarter you can control this very complex machine. You can command it. For a quarter that's quite a bargain, to be able to do that for five minutes... When you're good at a game it gives you an incredible sense of power over the whole environment.".

Atari's second bestselling coin-op game. Approximately 55,000 units were produced. Centipede was the 1st UL (Underwriter's Laboratories) approved game.

Jim Schneider holds the official record for this game on 'Marathon' settings with 16,389,547 points on August 1, 1984.

Donald Hayes holds the official record for this game on 'Tournament' settings with 7,111,111 points on November 5, 2000.

Note : The upright side artwork features a grasshopper, while it is not present during game-play. In test mode you can cycle through the different graphical objects used in the game (the player, a mushroom, a spider, a scorpion, a flea and a grasshopper). Grasshopper?! Yes, the game was to originally have had grasshoppers but they were taken out. You can still see them in the test however.

Note 2 : 'Centipede' is also the name of a terrifying, man-eating monster of the size of a mountain. This Japanese legend say that the dragon king of that particular lake asked the famous hero Hidesato to kill it for him. The hero slew it by shooting an arrow, dipped in his own saliva, into the brain of the monster. The dragon king rewarded Hidesato by giving him a rice-bag; a bag of rice which could not be emptied and it fed his family for centuries.

Centipede inspired a catchy hit song by Buckner and Garcia called 'Ode To A Centipede' released on the 'Pac-Man Fever' album.

A bootleg was released by Olympia under the same name. Another bootleg of this game is known as "Caterpillar".

A French hack of this game is known as "Mill Pac". An Italian hack is known as "Magic Worm".

The default high score screen of "Cyberball 2072" features names of many Atari arcade games, including CENTIPED.

A Centipede unit appears in the 1982 movie 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High', in the 1983 movie 'WarGames', in the 1983 movie 'James Bond 007 - Never Say Never Again', in the 1983 movie 'Joysticks', in the 1984 movie 'Body Double', in the 1985 movie 'Teen Wolf', in the 1986 movie 'Running Scared', in the 1987 movie 'Death Wish 4 - The Crackdown', in the 1995 movie 'Species' and in the 1996 movie 'House Arrest'.

In 1982, Atari released a set of 12 collector pins including : "Missile Command", "Battle Zone", "Tempest", "Asteroids Deluxe", "Space Duel", "Centipede", "Gravitar", "Dig Dug", "Kangaroo", "Xevious", "Millipede" and "Food Fight".

MB (Milton Bradley) released a boardgame based on Atari's Centipede.


  • Mushrooms & Poisoned Mushrooms : 1 point (Takes 4 hits to destroy) : When the mushroom patch is reset after a player loses a life, each partially destroyed/poisoned mushroom that is restored awards the player 5 bonus points.
  • Centipede (Body) : 10 points
  • Centipede (Head) : 100 points
  • Flea : 200 points (Takes 2 hits. First hit speeds it up, second hit destroys it)
  • Spider : 300, 600, 900 points (Points increase the closer the Spider is to the Bug Blaster when hit)
  • Scorpion : 1000 points

Tips and tricks

  • When you start the game, you will be put in the middle at the bottom of the screen. You have an area five mushrooms high (about a fifth of the playing area) to maneuver your Bug Blaster in. The game will start when the enemies enters the screen. Know your enemies! This is the single most important aspect of this game. If you don't know how each of the enemies behave, you won't last long. The enemies are :
  1. Centipede (Body and Head) : Goes back and forth across the screen. Will drop to the next level when it encounters a mushroom or the side of the game field. It will go all the way to the bottom when it hits a poisoned mushroom.
  2. Spider : These appear from the top left or right of the player area. They will either bounce across the player's area at 45 degree angles or bounce in at a 45 degree angle, bounce up and down a couple of times, go to the middle at a 45 degree angle, bounce up and down a couple of times, then finally go to the right side (at a 45 degree angle), bounce up and down, then exit the area. They destroy mushrooms they cross over.
  3. Flea : These appear in wave 2. They will appear when you have cleared out most of the mushrooms in the player area. These never appear when you have an eleven segmented Centipede.
  4. Scorpion : These appear in wave 3. They go across the screen and poison all the mushrooms in their path.
  • The Centipede will start out as a head and eleven body segments on Wave 1. Wave 2 will be a head with ten body segments and a head that enters from the opposite side. Wave 3 will be a head with nine body segments and two heads that enter from opposite sides. This progression keeps going until wave 12 when all that enter the screen are heads. The progression then works backwards for 12 waves, then starts back up again in a never ending cycle.
  • You must eliminate the Wave 1 Centipede only once. Then, until you score reaches 40,000 points, you must destroy each subsequent Centipede wave twice--first as the Centipede moves slowly towards you, then as it moves fast. After your score reaches 40,000 points, each Centipede will only need to be destroyed once.
  • Shooting the Centipede can have two effects :
  1. If you shoot the head, then that part turns into a mushroom and the next segment becomes the new head and the Centipede will travel in the opposite direction (since it hit the new mushroom created).
  2. If you shoot the middle of the body, then the segment hit will become a mushroom. The old Centipede will continue in the same direction. The new Centipede will develop a head at the next segment after the break and head off in the opposite direction.
  • A good strategy to ensure you destroy the Centipedes in one stroke and to keep the Fleas at bay is to create "mushroom corridors". Mushroom corridors are basically corridors between two rows of mushrooms where you can funnel the Centipede down and destroy it when it is moving head-first at your Bug Blaster.
  • A good defense against the Flea is to keep a certain amount of mushrooms on the screen. There is no hard set value but when the Fleas don't come down, you have enough. This number gets higher as your score increases.
  • Speaking of score, Fleas start traveling faster after 60,000 points.
  • Watch out for the Spiders. They enter at either the top or bottom corners. Your shooter may be in the way if this happens. In addition to collisions, the Spiders wipe out all mushrooms that are in its path. This can create problems when you are creating mushroom corridors. It can also cause the Fleas to appear since you won't have many mushrooms in the player area.
  • Keep track of where the Scorpions move across the screen. As soon as the Centipede hits a poisoned mushroom, it will immediately head for the bottom of the screen. The only way to stop this headlong plunge is to shoot it in the head. In the later waves, it is not uncommon to have multiple Scorpions going across the screen. They also provide the most points in the game.
  • If you get unlucky and let the Centipede into your area, you need to destroy it before it gets to the bottom of the player area. Once it reaches the bottom, it will ascend (it will never reach the player area, though). If it does reach the bottom of the player area, another head will come out from the opposite side to start its back and forth march across the screen. This will continue until you destroy all the Centipede parts in the player area or until your Bug Blaster is destroyed.
  • If your Bug Blaster gets destroyed, all partially shot up mushrooms are regenerated, all poisoned mushrooms are restored to normal, and you start at the beginning of the wave you got killed on.
  • Depending on machine set up, all enemies (except the Centipede and Flea) speed up at the 1,000 or 5,000 point mark.
  • Bottom Side Tunnels : To perform this trick, you must do the following...
  1. When the Centipede is one row over the player's area (fifth mushroom up), go to the opposite side that the Centipede is on.
  2. When the Centipede turns around, it will be in the player's area. It then will make it to the side you are on. Right when it hits the side of the screen and turns around, shoot it. This creates a mushroom and forces the Centipede to turn around and go down one level.
  3. Again, after the Centipede hits the wall, shoot it, create a mushroom, and force it down another level.
  4. Continue to do this until you have only the bottom part left. There are two ways to do this :
    1. If you get killed by the Centipede, this will also create a mushroom and you will have a vertical line of mushrooms along one of the side.
    2. If you are quick, you can pick off the Centipede and create this last mushroom.
  5. Repeat this for the other side.
  6. Regardless of how you create this "Side Tunnel", you will now have a trapped Centipede since the only thing it can do is go up and down within the player's area. New heads that come out will also be trapped.
  7. Now you can pick off enemies at your leisure. The only enemy you need to make sure you take out is the Spider since it can wipe out part of your "Side Tunnel".
  8. Good players consider this "cheating" since it basically lets the player have free reign over the game.
  • Central Tunnel : This trick works along the same line as the "Bottom Side Tunnel" trick. The difference is that you create a tunnel down the center of the screen...
  1. When the Centipede starts its descent, hit it. This will cause it to reverse direction after hitting the new mushroom.
  2. After going one or two mushroom lengths, hit it. Again, this will cause it to reverse direction.
  3. Continue to do this until you have built a "tunnel" that touches the player's area.
  4. Also make sure you build up mushrooms to the left and right of the tunnel to prevent the Fleas from coming down and depositing their random mushrooms.
  5. From this point on, when the Centipede approaches your tunnel, all it will take is one hit to force it to descend. In a sense, you are causing the same effect that a Scorpion causes, but on your terms.
  6. Since you are keeping the top left and right areas clear, it should take a longer time for the individual heads to make it to the player's area.
  7. It will take a few waves to build up your areas. Once built up, you should be the master of the game.
  8. As for the other tunnel, make sure you take care of the Spiders when they first enter so they don't do any damage to your "Central Tunnel".
  9. Also make sure that you keep your tunnel cleared out by destroying any stray mushrooms within it.
  • Fortress : If you are patient, you could build a mushroom fortress around your Bug Blaster. Then all you would do is shoot Spiders for the rest of the game.


  1. Centipede (1981)
  2. Millipede (1982)


Designed & Programmed By
Dona Bailey
Ed Logg

Cabinet and Artwork


Atari 2600 (1982)
Atari 5200 (1982)
Atari XEGS
Atari 7800 (1984)
Colecovision (1983)
Mattel Intellivision (1983)
Atari Lynx (1987)
Sega Master System (1992, "Arcade Smash Hits")
Nintendo Game Boy (1995, "Centipede / Millipede")
Nintendo Game Boy Color (1995)
Sega Game Gear (1996, "Arcade Classics")
Sega Mega Drive (1996, "Arcade Classics")
Sony PlayStation (1996, "Arcade's Greatest Hits - The Atari Collection 1")
Nintendo Super Famicom (1997, "Arcade's Greatest Hits - The Atari Collection 1")
Sega Saturn (1997, "Arcade's Greatest Hits - The Atari Collection 1")
Sony PlayStation (1999)
Sega Dreamcast (1999)
Sony PlayStation (2001, "Atari Anniversary Edition Redux")
Sega Dreamcast (2001, "Atari Anniversary Edition")
Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2002, "Atari Anniversary Advance")
Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2002, "Centipede / Breakout / Warlords")
Sony PlayStation 2 (2004, "Atari Anthology")
Microsoft XBOX (2004, "Atari Anthology")
Nintendo DS (2005, "Retro Atari Classics")
Atari 800 (1982)
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Katerpillar Attack")
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Caterpillar")
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Colorpede")
Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Megapede")
Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Color Caterpillar")
PC [Booter] (1983, "Bug Blaster", a part of the "Friendlyware PC Arcade" suite)
PC [MS-DOS] (1983, "Centipede", Atari Inc.)
PC [MS-DOS] (1983, "Centipede", R. J. Grafe)
Commodore VIC-20 (1983)
Commodore C64 (1983)
Memotech MTX 512 (1983, "Kilopede")
BBC B (1983, "Bug Blaster" - Alligata)
TI99/4A (1983, "Centipede", Atarisoft)
Sinclair ZX-Spectrum (1983, "Spectipede", R&R Software Ltd)
Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1983, "Centi-Bug", Dk'tronics)
Amstrad CPC (1986, "Killapede", Players)
Atari ST (1992)
PC [MS Windows, 3.5"] (1993, "Microsoft Arcade")
PC [MS-DOS] (1997, "ChampCentiped-em" - CHAMProgramming)
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (1998)
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (1999, "Atari Arcade hits 1")
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2001, "Atari Anniversary Edition")
Apple Macintosh (2001)
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2003, "Atari - 80 Classic Games in One!")
Tiger Game.Com (1999)
Atari 10 in 1 TV Game (2002 - Jakk's Pacific)
Mobile phone [Motorola T720] (2002)
Atari Flashback 2 (2005)
Nokia N-Gage (2006, "Atari Masterpieces Volume 2")

Soundtrack Releases

Album Name Catalogue No. Released Publisher Comments
Pac-Man Fever CBS A2055[1] 1982-01-01 CBS Inc. Vinyl version.
Pac-Man Fever N/A[2] 1999-06-01 bucknergarcia.com / K-tel CD version.
Arcade Ambiance 1981 N/A[3] 2002-01-01 Andy Hofle Digital download only.

External Links


The contents of this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The sources used include MAME (version 0.113u2) and history.dat (revision 1.28 - 2008-10-18).
Please see http://www.arcade-history.com for credits.