Developer WayForward seems to have a knack for creating nice, little retro-inspired titles and modernizing them enough to make them feel relevant. A Boy and His Blob, for example, is one of the most visually charming games on the Wii, and its gameplay is satisfying and challenging in a retro sort of way. I haven't played much from WayForward since that lovely 2009 puzzle platformer, but I was really interested to see how the developer would attempt to reinvent the Centipede franchise with Centipede: Infestation.
The game stars a bug hunter named Max, who has made it his mission to eliminate giant bug after giant bug following a worldwide infestation. He runs into a girl named Maisy, and together, the duo sets out to eliminate bugs, discover several personal secrets, and find themselves. The whole thing is a bit cheesy, and the subpar cutscenes are rife with questionable dialogue, cliches, and sexual tension between Max and Maisy. The story doesn't get in the way, but after actually playing Infestation, I came away with the notion that it was pretty unnecessary.
Gameplay consists of running and gunning in small environments. The first few levels are fairly confined, but as you progress, you encounter longer stages and big boss battles. The basic formula never really changes, though, and throughout your adventure, you basically just have to kill all the bugs that appear onscreen. Thankfully, as simple as that may be, there are a few added elements that keep things from getting boring. Ammo pick-ups grant you different types of projectiles such as ice, flame, and laser bursts; they last you a limited time but can really help you out when you begin encountering the bigger waves of enemies. There's also a stomp attack that helps create some space between you and the stronger bugs, all the while splattering weaker critters to bits. These little additions to your arsenal go a long way in making Infestation a fun shoot 'em up with a touch of variety.
You can control your character using either the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo or the Classic Controller. Using the Wii Remote/Nunchuk control scheme, you move around with the analog stick, select ammo power-ups in one of four slots using the D-Pad, and shoot baddies by aiming at them with the Wii Remote and pressing the B button. Alternatively, if you use the Classic Controller, you guide your character with the left stick, select from your collected ammo pick-ups with the face buttons, and shoot in different directions with the right stick, making the whole thing play out like a twin-stick shooter. Both control schemes work incredibly well, and I would definitely recommend trying out both to see which one fits your play style best. As a fan of twin-stick shooters, I ended up playing the majority of the game using the Classic Controller.
Infestation isn't a very long game. You can get through the entire campaign–which consists of 35 levels and five boss battles–in under five hours. There are Normal and Hard difficulties, though, as well as an unlockable Insane difficulty. There are also hidden characters to unlock and in-game achievements, but what really gives Infestation some replay value is the addition of local co-op. Two players can take on the entire campaign together, making for a much more enjoyable experience. At $30, it would be difficult to expect too much more out of this package.
Though Infestation is a fun romp overall, it's incredibly simple. There's not much variety in the gameplay, and this translates over to the visuals and audio. Though the game is by no means ugly, it's overly simple and a bit uninspired. As far as the soundtrack goes, you won't hear any memorable themes here, but a few of them may get stuck in your head after listening to them a few times.
Throughout my playthrough of Infestation, I found myself having a lot of fun. It took me roughly four hours and 45 minutes to get through the entire game, and in that time, I was treated to a shoot 'em up experience that was stylistically retro, all the while updating the Centipede series in proper fashion. The twin-stick shooter design of the game was enjoyable and nicely paced, and while it is super simple, Infestation is a nice little game to sit down and play through, especially if you've got a buddy to blast some bugs with.