Atari 7800 Review: Centipede Trak-Ball Team Play on 7800 Avenue
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By Brian Thomas Barnhart |
Hey, what is up everybody? Welcome to the official first game episode of 7800 Avenue in the new 7800 set! What do you guys think? I’m loving the new space.
Today we’re going to be playing Centipede Trak-Ball Team Play with a very special guest, my son Mason who’s joining us for the first episode. And speaking of firsts, Centipde was the first game released for the Atari 7800, so it’s very fitting that it’ll be the first official game played in the 7800 set. Check out the full episode below:
Centipede is one of my favorite games from back in the day. I think of Centipede as one of the main pillars of Atari. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Defender, Missile Command, Pac-Man, and Centipede were like the big heavy hitters that you’d want to be playing, and you could only play those bad boys on the Atari 2600 back in the day.
But then came the Atari 7800. Arcade-style gameplay. Amazing graphics for 1984. To me, the Atari 7800 ProSystem was the Neo-Geo of its day. It brought all of these arcade games home in ways that looked and felt like the originals. So today we’re playing the 7800 version of Centipede. Not only are we playing co-op Team Play Centipede, but we are also playing with Trak-Balls. Boom. Gotta get some of these.
The coolest part about filming Centipede was Team Play with my son Mason using the Trak-Balls. Seriously, what’s cooler in the World of Atari than using Trak-Balls for Team Play on Centipede? Hmm.. I can’t think of much.
I’m playing with the Wico Command Control Trak-Ball for the Atari 2600. It’s pretty tasty. Mason is playing with the Video 61 custom made Atari 7800 Trak-Ball, production number 6 of 10 made in the whole world. They’re still available new from Video 61 if you want one. It’s a thing of beauty. This is one of my favorite controllers of all time.
The Video 61 7800 Trak-Ball just feels awesome from the moment you get your hands on it. It feels super solid. I am so excited. It’s got a huge cord on it. The 7800 was going to be this awesome arcade-quality game system, and Atari had planned an official 7800 Trak-Ball but it was canceled. It would’ve meant arcade action for games like Centipede and unreleased games like Atari 7800 Crystal Castles.
Video 61, one of the last original Atari vendors, created the 7800 Trak-Ball made from brand new Atari CX80 parts made to work with the 7800. It has two red fire buttons, clear rubber feet and arcade-style responsiveness. It’s awesome to see what an Atari 7800 Trak-Ball could have been. Holy smokes. It rolls butter smooth. It feels great. The red buttons totally make it pop. It looks like it should have been packed in with the Atari 7800. This is just an absolute thing of beauty.
The Wico Trak-Ball is a great option too. I loved playing with this controller. I like the responsiveness of the button, it has a really good feel to it. It’s made for the 2600 and only has one button, but it’s super responsive and was great for playing Centipede on the 7800. Wico is known for making premium video game controllers and their Trak-Ball is no different. It looks great.
“That spider sound is sort of like a nightmare sound to me. I hate it. Because it always means death.”
– Brian Thomas Barnhart, 7800 Avenue
Playing with the Trak-Balls really makes you wonder what Atari was thinking. Why wasn’t there an Atari 7800 “Power Set” with the Trak-Ball included inside? Maybe with 7800 Crystal Castles? See, that Trak-Ball was to the Atari systems what the arcade stick was to the Neo-Geo. It made the system. It was the real deal, and if you had one all your friends knew you meant business.
Mason thought that playing with the Trak-Ball “felt interesting”. He’s not really used to playing his video games with a Trak-Ball. But Trak-Balls were pretty big stuff back in the day. I remember when I was a little guy, I used to reach up and try to play Centipede, or pretend like I was playing.
You know, when you’re a little kid you don’t realize you have to put a quarter in, and you think that you’re playing. And I’d always end up like pinching my fingers in the Trak-Ball. Maybe because my hands were so tiny, they’d get perfectly pinched right in there. But we’re not getting any pinching today using these Trak-Balls. Not even close. Nice and smooth.
Centipede was created at Atari in 1980 by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey. Ed Logg had previously co-designed Super Breakout and Asteroids in 1979 and become a star at Atari’s Coin-Op Arcade Divison, co-designing Millipede and the Gauntlet series.
Dona Bailey was a former engineer at a General Motors who worked on automotive electronics systems like cruise control for Cadillacs and came to Atari looking to do something more adventurous. Dona Bailey left her mark on history as one of the first female video game designers and her influence can be seen in Centipede.
The Centipede arcade game became a huge smash hit for Atari. It was a vertically oriented shoot ’em up, but it was different from other shoot ’em ups of the time. Most games back in the day were set in outer space. They were space shooters. Think about it. Galaga, Asteroids, Defender, Space Invaders, all space shooters.
Centipede gave us something different. The game was set in a garden with a garden gnome clearing wave after wave of mushrooms and bugs with a magic bug-killing wand. There was this organic quality to it, and it was colorful. Dona Bailey said “I really like pastels … I really wanted it to look different, to be visually arresting”. Along with Pac-Man, Centipede became one of the first arcade games with a large contingent of female players.
In Team Play Mode, remember that your shots can’t hurt the other player, so don’t worry about accidentally shooting them. One effective strategy to try is having each player cover their own ‘half’ of the screen.
If the centipede hits a poison mushroom, don’t panic. Try to get into position so you can shoot at it as it comes down towards the bottom. You’ll be able to earn a lot of points and take out quite a bit (if not all) of the centipede.
Well I enjoyed playing Centipede with my favorite team mate Mason. I love the new set. Not bad. We call it Pizza Hut. Come on back next time, we’re going to play a lot of great Atari 7800 games in the new place, and maybe even a few 2600 favorites.
I hope you guys love it. I know I do. See you guys next time on 7800 Avenue! And check out Lynx Lounge and Jag Bar, those are great shows and we talk about really great Atari games. Anyway, we will see you guys later! Take it easy!
Centipede was programmed for Atari at General Computer Corporation. The original Centipede arcade game was designed at Atari by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey. Box Art by Hiro Kimura.
Brian Thomas Barnhart is a classic gaming aficionado, retro pop culture connoisseur, and a Senior Fellow at Atari I/O. He is host of The Jag Bar, Lynx Lounge, 7800 Avenue, and the Atari I/O After Hours Podcast. Brian is a Moderator in the Atari I/O Forums under the name btbfilms76. You can follow him on Instagram and at his YouTube channel.
model # CX7801
GENERAL COMPUTER CORPORATION