As you insert this Coleco cartridge into your ColecoVision you are transported from the quiet of your livingroom to the far reaches of the galaxy. In this game you become a member of the famed Galactic Patrol, stationed on a remote outpost on the periphery of the Confederation system. The actual name of the planet is no longer important; it has become lost in the endless struggle for dominance. To you it is simply Waterworld, a place to be defended against alien aggressors.
Your Subroc 1 aerial/aquatic planet-skimmer is a state-of-the-art machine. Against these foes, you most assuredly will need it. For when you finaly confront the “Others” even the mighty technocracy of the vast Confederation might not be enough. Nothing is known of this other-worldy race, save that they come from beyond known space, and they seem to have a certain affinity for water worlds. Thus it was to defend these worlds that Subroc was designed and built.
Subroc was built to both fly and dive beneath the waters. In the air your forward guns are powerful plasma torpedos, while underwater they fire torpedos of a more conventional nature. Nevertheless they are just as deadly.
The reason behind the dual flying/swimming mode for Subroc, is due to the nature of the alien attackers themselves. When they set their sights on a water world, they send down a command plane that unleashes all sorts of mechanized horrors. In your defense of this unnamed backwater world you must go up against flying saucers, battleships and cruisers, as well as interceptors and drones. These fighters throw all types of hardware at you, including mines, missiles, and their own torpedos. Still, the greatest challenge is when you are forced to face off with the command ship itself.
As each mission begins, you will start with a reserve of three of four crafts, depending upon which game version you are playing. Bonus ships are awarded at 20,000 points, 100,000 points, an.ct every 100,000 points thereafter. Progressing to each successive, and more difficult wave, you will be required to fight under changing conditions. As you begin your run it is daylight. In all even numbered rounds you begin the battle during the day, but that soon changes. The sky will turn from blue to orange to black, and still the battle will rage on. The time will continue to advance until you reach the next odd numbered round, when sunlight will appear once more.
When you first start off, your Subroc is in the water, and gliding across the ocean are battleships and cruisers. In early rounds of the game they will not immediately shoot at you. However, in all other rounds they will begin to launch torpedos almost at once. Meanwhile, in the sky above you, flying saucers fill the air.
To rise from the sea and into the air, all you need do is pull back on the joystick. As you become airborn, your torpedoes automatically change type. An indicator on the top right of your screen shows you your level. During the course of each round a mystery ship will pass by on the horizon; its destruction will assure you several bonus points.
Once you have passed through the squads of ships and saucers, you will be going up against a formation of fighters. Three of them will fly at you, shooting missiles. Destroying all three garners you extra points. After you manage to defeat them the seaships will return to harass you. Accompanying them this time will be deadly interceptors. These airborn menaces swoop down out of the sky and fire at your craft. While they keep no formation, they do maintain a type of pattern.
They will start at the top of the screen, far off in the distance. Swiftly they will dive down at you, much akin to a giant bird of prey. As they dip down towards you they will almost touch the water, and then ascend once more to the heavens.
Once past these aerial entanglements, the saucers return, this time bringing the drones with them. The drones are aquatic adversaries that ply the waters firing torpedoes at you. Around this time, you will also have to deal with the menace of enemy mines, killer satellites that float through the atmosphere and explode on impact with you.
Once through all of this, you must still face the command ship. This ship is not only equipped with missiles, but also has a shield that it hovers behind. This shield will effectively hide the command ship from any direct assault. While the command plane is hiding behind its screen taking pot shots at you, its bonus point value is ever decreasing. To acquire any points at all, you must dispatch the command ship with all due speed, for if the indicator reaches zero before the ship’s destruction, you will receive no points for immolating it.
Once this craft is devastated, the cycle begins anew, with the next wave of invaders.
The numbered keypad allows you to choose either a one or two player game, as well as four different difficulty levels. It will also allow you to rechoose the last game sequence played, or to set a new combination. Also handy is the ability to pause the game during the course of action.
In the lower levels you will probably want to stay in the water to rack up points by blowing away the slow moving cruisers and battleships. Also, since there is always less action going on in the water, it is wise to submerge when the air begins to fill with enemy space junk. When torpedoes are shot at you, you will be able to dodge them by shifting to one side or the other. However, the best way to avoid them is by simply raising your ship out of the water.
The flying saucers are perhaps the hardest to shoot down as they fly in a completely random manner. They always seem to hang tantalizingly, just outside of your gunsight. Still, when they are very close to you they are most vulnerable. As they recede into the distance, even though you may line up your sights on them, you will probably not score a hit. It seems there is a range limit on your air-to-air torpedoes.
In the water it is necessary to lead your targets by a fairly wide margin; in the air this is not always so. Also, in the air you can shoot as fast as you can depress the fire button; in the water only two torpedoes can be fired at any one time.
When the fighters come at you in formation they will shift position on the screen, first moving closer, then further away, all the while shifting from the top of the screen to the bottom, and left to right. The best way to eliminate these foemen is to pull your shots to one side (right or left). Then when they begin to track with you, swiftly swing back so that you will be able to catch them unawares.
While you are lining up the formation fighters you always must be mindful of the bracket of missiles that they are unleashing in your direction. An important thing to note here is that while aquatic torpedoes can be avoided by leaving the water, air missiles are still able to blow you up if you just drop out of the sky. Therefore, when a missile is headed your way you must either blow it up, or swing to one side to get out of its way. Moving to one side is not always advisable, as the missile may shift with you and catch the corner of your craft. You do not receive any points for blowing up mines or missiles, but it is the best way to protect yourself.
The interceptors are almost easier to catch than the fighters; the interceptors always follow the same pattern mentioned above. If you attempt to keep them in the center of your screen and track with them as they swoop in for the kill, you should be able to eliminate quite a few of them. Note that you will only be able to hit them as they come in for their pass. Once their flight path has bottomed out and they begin to ascend they will rise out of your scope sight, beyond your reach. Instead of wasting shots on them, drop back into the water and pick off a few ships.
Another important item to remember is that when you are lining up shots with enemy ships that are moving horizontally, always try to lead them. Never chase after them. If you attempt to catch up with any craft you will waste far too much time.
The drones are easy to hit. They travel through the water towards your ship and fire torpedoes. However, the ships themselves will never quite reach Subroc. Thus there is never any danger of them colliding with your craft and sinking you.
When you have cleared away the last of the lesser ships, the command ship will descend to finish you off. You will know that it is about to make its move when the screen clears. Once this happens, stop all movement, and let the command ship find you (something it most assuredly will do). As it descends into your viewscreen, attempt to come up from underneath it and burn it within the first couple of seconds. The longer it takes you to blast the ship out of the sky, the harder the task becomes.
If you are unable to destroy it right off the bat, keep shifting your gunsights and force the pilot to come out from behind the screen. Once he does, you have him.
It should be mentioned that it is not necessary (or even possible) to destroy all of the attacking ships. Each squad of enemy vessels will appear on the screen for a specific amount of time. Once the allotted time is up, there is a slight pause in the action as the next group moves into place.
Subroc is a fine translation of the arcade game, though it is not a 3D game. The colors are vivid, the sound effects outstanding (rather like the giant ants in Them!) and the gameplay, though limited to aim-shoot, is quite satisfactory. The game allows for the differences in the abilities of the players. For instance, in a two player game, player number one can choose a level four difficulty, while player two is able to pick a level one game.
Subroc is an excellent addition to the ColecoVision game library—one, I’m sure, many players have been hungering for.