Millipede is the sequel to Atari's Centipede. Designed by Ed Logg, it takes some of the familiar elements from Centipede and changes them graphically, while adding completely new elements, including new enemies and a new weapon. The arcade game featured a trackball controller for precise placement of shots.
The basic gameplay is similar to the first: Players control a shooter that's sequestered in the bottom third of the screen. You can only fire once as long as there are none of your shots on screen. The shots are rapid, but you shoot much quicker if your shot strikes close-by. If struck once by any enemy, the player avatar, called the Archer, is destroyed. The game field is populated with mushrooms which serve as obstacles, minor points when destroyed, and can be used by enemy and the player to block or accelerate movement of the main enemy, the millipede.
The millipede, while not the most deadly of the enemies you face, is the most constant, the driving force that dictates the length of the level. It is comprised of a head segment and several body segments, and moves laterally across the screen. When it reaches a mushroom or the side of the screen, it moves one level down and reverses direction. If it touches a poisoned mushroom, it immediately charges down to the bottom of the screen, although a mushroom must first be poisoned by being touched by the scorpion equivalent in this game, the Earwig.
Once all of a millipede is destroyed, all mushrooms move down one step toward the player field, and the next round starts, usually marked by a new swarm of enemies and the color of the playfield changing.
The millipede mentioned above is the focus of the game, but it is very predictable and thus not nearly as deadly as some of its fellow pests. Should you shoot it in one of its middle sections, though, it will spawn TWO millipedes with the remaining body length. This can happen multiple times, so it's best to shoot a millipede in the head or tail. When the millipede reaches the bottom, in addition to spawning new heads, the body will break up and plague the Archer's play-field. It can then be very hard to get rid of them, so it's best to try to eliminate them quickly unless you're confident you know how to keep them away.
The spider functions as it did in Centipede, consuming mushrooms and jumping erratically, mostly within the player zone. The player gets a higher score if the spider is shot when it is very near the Archer, but this is risky. Should a spider eat many mushrooms, a Bee (the equivalent of the Flea from Centipede) is likely to spawn.
The Bee flies in a straight line from the top of the screen down to the bottom, spawning mushrooms in its wake. It can be killed by multiple shots from your archer, and is spawned usually when your play area has few if any mushrooms in it. This requirement can cause many Bees to be spawned in succession as they try desperately, for undisclosed reasons, to repopulate the playing field with mushrooms. Perhaps it's to drive completists mad.
The Dragonfly acts similarly to the Bee, spawning mushrooms. Its flight pattern is more of a wave, though, making it harder to hit. Unlike the Bee, they only have a single hit point, but they also are harder to hit and deadlier because of their motion pattern. They also spawn more mushrooms on average than Bees do.
The Earwig is there to poison mushrooms. It starts near the top of the screen, moving left or right, and any mushroom it runs across becomes poisoned. A poisoned mushroom is worth more points, but also sends the millipede into a berserker rage. Well, as angry as a millipede could possibly be. The Earwig is one of the top scoring targets in the game.
Beetles are slow, but when they run over mushrooms they actually transform them into flowers, which are indestructible. Not cool. The Beetle also moves in a U shaped attack pattern, entering the screen at a side, then moving down near the bottom, then ascending before it leaves, all the while threatening your Archer with collision and converting mushrooms into impenetrable obstacles. Killing a Beetle makes mushrooms move down one step as though you killed off a millipede. Thankfully, all flowers become mushrooms again when you lose a life.
Mosquitos fly down at a 45 degree angle, making them easy to dodge. When killed they also have the added benefit of scrolling all mushrooms UP one, clearing them away from the player zone. This may destroy DDT bombs and prompt Bee spawning, though.
Beneficial or benign Creatures and Objects
The mushroom is the mainstay of the game. It has multiple hit points and can block your Archer from moving. It can also help you to corral millipedes, making them easier to hit. Any mushroom partially destroyed is restored when you're killed, and gives you a small bonus.
A poisoned mushroom is one touched by an Earwig. It gives you more points when it's destroyed, and it's restored to normal when you die.
Flowers are Beetle-converted mushrooms, and are indestructible. They revert to regular mushrooms and give you points similar to the way partially destroyed mushrooms do, including scoring you points for every flower converted when you lose your Archer.
DDT Bombs are one of the most readily recognized new features of Millipede. They spawn at the top of the screen as mushrooms do when a Beetle or Millipede is fully killed. Shooting the bomb results in a cloud of lateral smoke in both directions. Any enemy caught in the cloud is instantly killed and scored.
Inchworms are creatures that are beneficial if shot. Murdering an inchworm in cold blood makes the game slow down for a short period of time, making targeting enemies much easier. The inchworm does not receive a gravestone for its sacrifice to your hubris in thinking you can win against the mighty animal kingdom.
- Millipede body segment: 10 points
- Millipede head: 100 pts.
- Spider (long distance): 300 pts.
- Spider (mid-distance): 600 pts.
- Spider (short distance): 900 pts.
- Spider (point blank): 1200 pts.
- Spider (with DDT Bomb): 1800 pts.
- Beetle: 300 pts.
- Mosquito: 400 pts.
- Bee: 200 pts.
- Inchworm: 100 pts.
- DDT Bomb: 800 pts.
- Dragonfly: 500 pts.
- Earwig: 1000 pts.
- Mushroom: 1 pt.
- Mushroom regeneration: 5 pts. per poisoned, partly destroyed, or enflowered mushroom upon death
Swarms, which happen every 4th round, give bonus points for every successive insect obliterated. They are made up of different insects depending on the round, and can net you a huge score if you survive and take out many insects before it ends.
Every five rounds, mushrooms regenerate on their own. They obey the laws laid down by mathematician John Horton Conway in his Game of Life
, with some special exceptions: DDT bombs poisoning neighboring mushrooms (naturally), and mushrooms adjacent to poisoned mushrooms dying off. Flowers count as mushrooms to determine if they generate or kill off others, or kill off themselves.
In addition the swarms mentioned above, there are spider waves which have as many as eight spiders on the screen at once (instead of the usual two) and waves where mushrooms move down much quicker than normal, making it much harder to maneuver and control the environment.
Truly, the natural world is a strange and terrifying place. Scoring table and many of the interesting tidbits adapted from this site
. More information on the Conway's Game of Life
can be found here