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In Subterranea, players face two stages in the game, the first being a creature that ejects bots that players must avoid and destroy, then they must descend down a series of tunnels to shoot as many targets as possible.
The game was released in 1983 by Imagic for the Atari 2600.
Each game begins with the player’s Cave Ranger ship near the top of the screen while a creature known as the HEXUPLEX occupies the bottom. The HEXUPLEX starts ejecting Aerobots, which make a beeline for the Ranger; the player must avoid and shoot the Aerobots. Colliding with an Aerobot and any creature/target, their firepower or skull in the second area of the game will destroy a Ranger and the game will end if there are no more Rangers left in reserve.
If the player is able to destroy a set amount of Aerobots (indicated by the bar at the bottom left of the screen), the HEXUPLEX will flee, leaving behind a Treasure Crystal. Once the player gathers the Crystal, a vertical tunnel will open up, which, once the player enters the tunnel, they will be transferred to the next set of areas of the game.
In the second stage of the game, the player has a set amount of targets to shoot (also indicated by the bar at the bottom) that behave in various manners, changing with every further descent. If the player is able to clear all targets, a chime will ring out, signaling their need to exit. Their Ranger must fly horizontally until they find an Electro-Gate, which is guarded by a pulse. Every time the pulse fires, the player loses a point, so it is in their best interest to exit the cavern as soon as possible. If the Ranger gets hit by a pulse, it won’t be destroyed, but the player will lose points and the Ranger will be knocked back upwards. If the Ranger fails to make it through the Gate after three tries, then the player will have to go through that area of the level again, although without scoring any points. If the player makes it through the Gate then they will descend further down the tunnel and face a new set of enemies to destroy. After a certain number of tunnels is vanquished, the player will be reunited with the HEXUPLEX, although at a higher degree of difficulty.
- Due to being released during the video game crash of 1983-1984, Subterranea was not a best-seller, nor garnered much attention. Nowadays it is fairly rare, being ranked a 6 out of 10 on Atari Age in regards to rarity and can bring a price of (U. S.) $50 loose, with complete copies (box, instruction manual, etc.) possibly reaching $200 or more.
- The similarly-named later game of Sub-Terrania for the Sega Genesis came out a little over a decade later. Aside from the underground theme, the two games don’t have much in common, as Sub-Terrania took place over a course of nine levels (Subterranea can go on indefinitely, depending on a player’s skill), having changing mission objectives for every level.