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Published on June 12th, 2011 | by Ken Yarbrough, Editor

E3 2011: Centipede: Infestation Hands-On Impressions

With all of the blockbuster games on display at this year’s E3, one could have easily missed some of the smaller titles available on the show floor. One of those titles was Atari’s Centipede: Infestation.

I had an opportunity to sit down with Centipede: Infestation, however, and see just exactly where Atari is taking this once-beloved franchise.

Centipede: Infestation is designed as any of the dual-stick shooters you have grown accustomed to. Unfortunately, it’s not a dual-stick shooter. Using the Wii-mote, movement of your character is assigned to the nunchuck’s thumbstick, while aiming is set to the Wii-mote itself. This control configuration is not ideal, and I couldn’t help but wish that I had a proper controller in hand to make control just a little more streamlined.

Your character itself takes up a significant portion of the screen, and the environments, while detailed, are designed in such a way that there isn’t much space to maneuver while playing. Enemies, in the form of insects and spiders, spawn randomly around the stage as expected, and in Smash TV style, your goal is to maneuver your character around the stage while eradicating these alien pests. With such a small play area, and the loss of control afforded by a proper dual-stick design, staying alive is very difficult…even on the lower difficulty.

At the end of each stage, you are tasked with taking down the titular enemy, the Centipede. Unlike the older games in the series, this centipede is rendered in full 3D fury, and is very, very big. Before his entrance into the stage from the top of the screen, a quick line is drawn that shows you the path he will take. Pumping him full of ammunition isn’t difficult, even with his speed, but his sized, added to the already small play area means that you have to start taking parts of him out extremely quickly.

There are a number of power-ups that the player is entitled to upon killing any of the spider enemies. I was able to use a “super” version of my regular gun, which fired bigger shots, and was also faster, as well as a flamethrower which functioned exactly as you would expect. There were two other weapon types I had at my disposal, but changing weapons was assigned to the d-pad on the Wii-mote, and the gameplay was too fast to ever safely switch.

While the nostalgia was fun, and the concepts behind the game are in place, I couldn’t help but feel that if this game was releasing on Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network, it would be a fun little time-killer. Unfortunately, the developer advised me that this is a full disc title releasing on the Wii. Dual sticks are absolutely necessary in a game like this, and it’s unfortunate that they won’t be available. Further, the developer is going to have to do something about the size of the play area. Either the player needs to be smaller, or the enemies need to be fewer, or the stage needs to lose some of the 3D elements. Either way, the play area doesn’t work for a game of this ilk.

I would love nothing more than to have a new Centipede game, but sadly this game isn’t it. At least not yet. As with any title at E3, this title is in development. However, it should be noted that the game’s release is set for Q3 2011, which doesn’t give it a lot of time to shore up some of these complaints. While it’s not a terrible game, it’s appearance on the Wii causes unnecessary problems that would have been rectified on a console with dual sticks.

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