Bugs. People hate them. The theory is that the circle of life would unravel completely without them providing one of the lowest ends of the food chain, but most folks can’t resist the urge to smash them on sight. Some go so far as to say they would eliminate them for good if they could. An opportunity to do just that, at least digitally, came up way back in the 80s with Centipede but it didn’t last. In fact, bugs are still one of the most common video game enemies around, coming in just behind zombies, red barrels and ‘terrorists’. Now the bugs are invading again, this time through Microsoft’s Xbox Live Indie Games service in Fun Infused Games’ Bad Caterpillar, a modernization of Atari’s classic hundred-legged game.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right away: Bad Caterpillar does nothing to hide its inspiration. If you’ve ever played, nay, even seen Centipede then you’re familiar with what this game has to offer. As with most shooters it’s you and you alone against an entire army of enemies, so don’t expect any back up, soldier. Grip that trigger and let the bullets fly. The game’s titular enemy descends from the top of the level and it’s your duty to blow each and every segment of its body to Kingdom Come, lest you explode at its mere touch. You move onto the next level once you’ve successfully smashed each and every thorax.
Your nemesis’ path is altered by any obstacles it encounters and it can fly toward you quickly on the game’s more cluttered levels. Lucky for you then that modern design allows for certain segments of your foe to bestow powerups on you that blast through the environment and enemies alike. Upgraded weaponry like lasers and a spreadshot drop from the sky and help even the odds, even lasting as briefly as they do. Having access to bombs is also a nice touch in the more hectic moments and can help clear otherwise insurmountable crowds. The non-standard weaponry is especially handy when the game starts unloading special enemies on you, like the scorpion or the dreaded moth. The moth is less a confirmation of death since the game was updated, but it’s still a scary sight and damning to those with little regard for caution.
Most importantly, Bad Caterpillar excels where it counts: the playability department. Movement has a nice, smooth feel and the audio queues for the arrival of certain enemies helps prevent the player from being blindsided unfairly when their attention is toward the top of the narrow screen. Bad Caterpillar isn’t unique enough to set the world on fire, but the game is still a lot of fun and well worth a Washington. We’d imagine a developer with the skills of Fun Infused would have to try pretty hard to mess up a simple concept like Centipede — The truth is they payed homage in a manner that’s both enjoyable and worthwhile.
This review is based on the retail copy of the full XBLIG version of the game, which was purchased by the reviewer. The game is available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 80 Microsoft points ($1).