Millipede is a classic arcade game that was first made available by Atari back in 1982. It was the sequel to Centipede and added many new enemies to the game. It never became quite as popular as Centipede did, mostly because it was a sequel. It really is just as good as the original. The story behind Millipede was that you are a young prince whose land has been cursed by your dying father. You must use your bow to protect the land from the impending insect invasion.
In Millipede you are attempting to gain as many points as possible, by shooting down your assorted enemies, and by destroying all the segments of the roaming Millipede (or as Gritchka would say "Millepede"). You control a little triangular blaster that is confined to the bottom fifth of the mushroom littered screen. The Millipede moves from side to side across the screen, reversing direction (and moving closer towards the bottom), every time it encounters an obstacle. It is composed of segments that must be shot, and it will break into smaller Millipedes as you shoot away individual segments, which then become mushroom obstacles. Upon reaching the bottom of the screen the Millipede begins to work its way back up, and it is reinforced by a second section, which enters at the top of the players area. The game can quickly get very difficult if you allow too many Millipede sections to enter your movement area. Blast them before they get down to the bottom.
The Millipede is not the only enemy that you must deal with. The spider bounces around in the player's movement zone, but is useful because it destroys the mushrooms that litter the playfield and get in the way. The spider is rather easy to kill, but another one will soon take its place. making it rather pointless to even bother shooting the darn thing. The flea serves to add mushrooms to the screen. Whenever the screen contains less than a certain number of mushrooms, the flea will drop from the top of the screen leaving a vertical array of mushrooms behind. I myself have found the flea to be the most difficult enemy, but other people seem to have no problem with it.
Other enemies include bees, beetles, earwigs, inchworms, dragonflies, and mosquitoes. But they usually only appear in small numbers during levels, or in huge numbers between levels. The spider and the Millipede are your real worries, the other insects are just good for target practice.
Other differences between Centipede and Millipede include the DDT bombs that are on some of the levels. You can shoot these and if you time it right then the whole Millipede will run right into the deadly gas. Millipede also has a continue feature, and regular Centipede players will probably notice that the game handles the creation, movement, and changing of the mushrooms in a different manner.
You get a bonus life for every 15,000 points. This means that a skilled player can play the game forever, gaining a bonus life every few levels. This is possible because the levels do not ramp up in difficulty forever. So you can basically play endlessly once you reach a certain level of skill. This makes beating the world record score a simple matter of endurance. The exact amount of points required for a bonus life can be adjusted via dip switch. 15,000 is the default, but it can be set as low as 12,000 or as high as 20,000, or bonus lives can be turned off altogether, which is what stingy arcade owners used to do.
Millipede came in two different form factors, an upright and a cocktail table, and it was also available as a conversion kit for Kangaroo, Dig Dug, and Arabian. The uprights were by far the most common. They all have control panels with a trackball, although the upright version uses a larger ball than the other ones do. All of the trackballs are prone to wear and tear, but replacement parts are readily available.
The upright was in a white cabinet that was rather strangely shaped. It really accented the speaker area in a way that no other games did. The game featured ornate painted sideart of a huge orange bug along with a hunter inside a forest scene. That graphic wasn't just on the sides either, it continued all the way around the front of the machine as well. The control panel was dark and rather plain, it had the trackball, some game instructions, and a few graphics of leaves. The marquee to this title shows a hunter clad in red, firing a longbow at an orange millipede.
The cocktail version is black and woodgrained, and has two control panels. It is mildly decorated with light blue graphics under the glass and on the control panels. This was the style of cocktail where both players sat across from each other, and not the side by side style that some other titles used.
Where to play
Millipede was not as popular as Centipede, so you may have a little trouble finding a real machine to play on. But if you wish to play at home you can try the Atari 2600 cartridge, or you can even use the MAME emulator, but it doesn't quite control correctly unless you have a trackball. It is certainly playable with a mouse, but you are probably going to have to mess around with the analog control settings in MAME to find the right feel.
If you want to add this to your arcade game collection, then you better have some money, as Millipede is expensive. But it is one of the best looking game cabinets ever made, and the readily available Multipede upgrade kit will really add to the value. I say to choose this one over Centipede, as it is a bit more challenging, better looking, and has an upgrade kit available.