Tau Ceti

by Ian Ellery, Pete Cooke
Crash Issue 23, Dec 1985   page(s) 86,87

Producer: CRL
Retail Price: £9.95
Language: Machine code
Author: Steve Cooke

Location: Tau Ceti System
Stellar Data: G Type
Distance from Earth: 19.4 light years
Galactic co-ordinates: 13 degrees Galactic South West
Colonisation Data: First wave left Earth in 2050 arriving 2090. Tau Ceti III colony lost within ninety years due to plague. This was to become the first major disaster in man's involvement with space. Soon after, a second expedition met with an even worse fate...
Excerpt from Encyclopaedia Galactica

Man's first colony on Tau Ceti III was wiped out by a previously undiscovered plague. When a cure was found, a second expedition left for the world. Unfortunately, the planet's automatic self defence system had malfunctioned meantime, and the ships of the second expedition and all the colonists were wiped out. After much deliberation back on earth it was decided that a small one-man vessel might manage to penetrate the defence screens and shut down the central nuclear reactor which powers the robot guards. A tricky mission - but it just might be possible. 'Like a fool, you volunteered,' as it says on the box cover.

Tau Ceti is a complex game to play. You control a Skimmer, and begin from a docking bay in a city on Tau Ceti III. Basically, you have to wander around this and other cities finding and collecting cooling rods which need to be installed in the planet's main fusion reactor in order to shut it down. Once the reactor has been switched off, the guardian robots will cease to prowl the planet's surface and colonists will be able to move back in safety.

Your view into the game is from the cockpit of the skimmer. The display is dominated by your viewing window which shows the surroundings in a shaded, 3D perspective. Below this window is a communications screen used for entering commands into the skimmer's controls and for receiving system messages such as 'missile launched'. To the right of this smaller window are two orientation markers and ship's status indicators. Here the shield strength, skimmer height, fuel level, laser temperature, speed and weapon inventory are all immediately visible to the player.

Above this is another window which displays a radar map of the skimmer's current location. Finally, at the top of the right hand part of the screen a compass, view indicator and clock are found.

The main screen can present a view out onto the planet which may be to the front, back or to either side of the skimmer. A map of the planet and the links between the cities can also be called up and zoomed in and out of, and when it comes to manipulating the cooling rods, it's all done from the viewscreen. You can also make notes in this area of the screen.

Various kinds of robot inhabit the different cities, including prowling flying saucers. Some are harmless, but most will send laser bolts plummeting into your sides immediately. The only answer to such action is return fire. Your lasers have to be aimed but, unless they are damaged, they last forever. Missiles, once fired, home in for the kill - but you only have a limited supply. Take your pick. A successful hit turns your target into a shower of shimmering pixels which slowly fall to the ground.

As the day progresses the angle of the sun changes and the shadows cast by buildings and the way in which objects are illuminated alters. At night, because of the graphic technique involved, most robots and buildings become practically invisible. To counter this, you can use infra red to view the world. This lasts for as long as you need it, but tends to leave after images on the screen. Flares, on the other hand, are as good as daylight for a while, but there are only a few of these.

To get from one city to another, you have to reach certain nexus points. Docking the ship in one of these gives you a rest, more fuel and the opportunity to reach other cities in the network.


Control keys: definable
Joystick: keys only
Keyboard play: very responsive
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: superb
Sound: average
Skill levels: one
Screens: scrolling

The graphics featured in this game are very good, in fact they're some of the best filled-in graphics I've seen on the Spectrum. The shading, which alters depending on the position of the sun, adds to the realism. The only thing that lets the game down is the sound, which is slightly disappointing. Every once in a while, a new game comes along which is destined to become a classic; Tau Ceti is on the same par with games such as Elite and Lords of Midnight. The depth and the complexity of the game make a sure fire winner with people who like involving software, but for me the nice touches make the program worth while - like infra red mode and the note pad. Though the game is complex, it is very easy to get into once you have mastered the controls of the craft.

Tau Ceti is one of the best games I have seen for a long stretch of time. The game just oozes originality. Even the scenario is original. When it first loaded up I was amazed at the display as it bore little resemblance to any style of graphic I had previously seen on the Spectrum. Seeing a saucer glide gracefully across the screen with the shading adjusting, according to its relative position to the sun, is just amazing. The sense of reality is something to behold indeed. Normally, after such an amazing technical show, I'd expect the actual game to be of a below average standard. Not so. The game shows a depth of design normally found only in arcade machines. Blasting alien artefacts is fun and the section with the damping rods is very good, showing some similarities with Impossible Mission's puzzle section. Definitely worthy of space on anyone's software rack.

Superb game. What else can you say about something that captures the imagination so brilliantly and has no flaws at all. This is the kind of game that just doesn't date. There are too many good features and no sickly gimmicks. When we saw the preview version, I suspected that it would be excellent but it has far surpassed anyone's expectations. Pete Cooke should go far. He has brought us a game that will be remembered as an all time classic. There's not much more to say.

Use of Computer: 94%
Graphics: 94%
Playability: 90%
Getting Started: 87%
Addictive Qualities: 94%
Value for Money: 92%
Overall: 94%

Summary: General Rating: An excellent game, combining several elements with stunning graphics.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 1, Jan 1986   page(s) 32


Don't expect to sit down and play this game within a few minutes. The cassette inlay card contains so much information that you'd be best advised to transfer all the relevant key data down on to a separate piece of paper and display it above the screen while playing.

The plot is complex in the extreme, but here's the gist of it. You have to land a small space craft on a robot-run planet and shut down its fusion reactor - and all of this must be completed in the time limit shown on-screen! On board the craft you have a variety of lasers, defensive shields, missiles, flares, infra-red sights, scanners, computers and so on - all of which are at your command... if you can find the right key at the right time, that is!

The screen's just as confusing, with windows for all the data you need as you descend to the planet. But each window holds necessary details of your mission if you want to come out alive - again, a careful read of the instructions is necessary. Use of the computer is extremely helpful once you've landed the space craft - and there are 20 commands you can use to carry out various tasks within the reactor that'll destroy it.

Tau-Ceti is a game of great complexity, but one that is rewarding once you figure out exactly what you're meant to be doing. The graphics are well done, and the action's very impressive on-screen. It does take an hour or so to really sort out any playing tactics... but maybe this is testament to the game's addictiveness.

And if you don't fancy sitting down for hours at a time in front of a red-hot Spectrum, you can always save the half-finished game and finish it later. Can't say fairer than that, can you?

Graphics: 9/10
Playability: 8/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Award: Your Sinclair Hot Shot

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 46, Jan 1986   page(s) 26

Publisher: CRL
Price: £9.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Redefinable keys

'A single skilled pilot might succeed where 50 would surely fail' is never a very convincing reason for taking on the robot might of an entire planet, but when it's a question of re-colonising Tau Ceti for the good of mankind... sucker, you're it.

For once, it's well worthwhile. CRL has produced a massive space opera in Tau Ceti, combining adventure, zapping, strategy, and excellent graphics in a game of enormous complexity.

You must shut down the fusion reactor in the city of Centralis which runs the robot defences of the entire planet. Collect up the fusion rods, scattered around the planet, and insert them in the main reactor.

Unfortunately, you also have to deal with the automated defences - free moving hunter-killer robots, land mines, and fortress towers bristling with lasers. Those are depicted in wireframe graphics on a window to the left of the screen, and vary depending on the time of day and how well your scanner is working.

Most of the action takes place in flight mode, as you explore the various cities looking for repair depots and reactor sub-stations - where fragments of rod can be found. When you dock with one of those havens, you enter ground mode. Text input generates a number of options, including a map of the planet which can be magnified, and a library of information on each city. The rods themselves are manipulated at this stage. Initially you only receive fragments, and they must be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle.

Movement between cities - there are at least two dozen - is by using pre-programmed jump pads, which link you to specific cities. Since cities have differing levels of defences, working out sensible routes to collect all the rods is of prime importance.

The righthand side displays a radar system giving advance warning of objects, and two targeting displays, one indicating the direction of the city centre, vital for aligning yourself with jump pads, and the other showing your base. Add to that a notepad facility for keeping track of what you've done, save and load features, and plenty of status displays for your craft, and there's not a lot left you could want.

The various buildings and nasties have carefully defined shapes, outlined in the instructions, but from a distance they look very alike. Particular confusing are the craters, which look just like jump pads, but without a thin pole next to them.

Such a vast structure could easily become boring and muddled, but in spite of all the options the game is easy to play and hard to beat. Best of all, the scenario becomes quite convincing after a while, with real desperation setting in as the shields run out, and deepening sense of panic helped by the quality of the wireframe graphics.

It's hard to imagine a better space game, unless one's talking about Elite, with its intergalactic scope and strategic depth. Viewed as a shoot 'em up with a purpose to the carnage, Tau Ceti has to be one of the all-time greats.

Overall: 5/5

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 50, Dec 1985   page(s) 14,15

MACHINE: Spectrum
PRICE: £9.95

"My shields are low, the scanner is out, I've fired my last missile and there are three Hunters on my tail... I need to find a repair centre FAST! There's one - and the airlock is opening. But will my Gal-Corp Skimmer make it before those Hunters wipe me?"

Just where in the galaxy have you landed now? On Tau Ceti, that's where. The roughest, toughest planet in the known universe. And you're playing what we at C+VG confidently predict will be the Christmas Spectrum number one. Big words - but just look at what's in store for you if you're lucky enough to get your hands on a copy.

Take Elite, and a dash of Impossible Mission, and some 3D Tank Duel to add some spice and you've got the recipe for a real blockbuster. And we haven't even mentioned the super fast scrolling, neat graphics and totally addictive game play.

But before this review starts going totally over the top, let's take a look at what the game is all about.

Basically it goes like this. A plague has decimated the inhospitable desert world of Tau Ceti and the tough pioneer settlers have been forced to evacuate the planet, leaving behind the automated systems which helped them survive.

As scientists battled to find a cure for the mystery plague a massive meteorite smashed into the planet. And something went horribly wrong with the automated systems - all the droids and defence systems ran amok destroying anything and everything that dared to venture into the cities of Tau Ceti.

The systems are controlled from a massive fusion reactor in the planet's capital - Centralis.

Someone has to get in there and shut down the reactor using hidden cooling rods and stop the rogue robotoids - that someone is you!

After all, the scientists have discovered a cure for the plague now and Gal Corp want to start making some cash out of the planet, again...

So it's into your Skimmer and down to the planet where all the adventure and danger you've ever dreamed of is waiting.

Fortunately, the Skimmer is heavily armed with a laser, eight heat seeking missiles, eight anti-missile missiles, eight starlight flares, infrared nite sights, plus shields and a four way Elite style scanner to avoid those nasty blind spots.

You've also got an onboard computer to help you work out just what is going on down on Tau Ceti!

On loading you see a view of the skimmer's instrument panel. The screen is divided into three areas. The large window on the left is your viewscreen, below that is a long blue area. This is your contact with the Skimmer's powerful computer. At the right of the screen are five information windows. At the top is a compass and real-time clock along with a message showing the direction of the view selected, the city you are in and the ship's flight status. Below that is the scanner which gives a plan view of you surroundings, and below that three more smaller window. The first gives the pilot's name and the scanner's complement of missiles and flares. The second shows speed, shield energy, fuel remaining, laser temperature and height.

The third displays two automatic direction finders - the upper one locked onto the city and the lower onto your lander.

The Skimmer operates in two modes, flight mode and ground mode. In flight mode control of the program is via single keys or a joystick.

In ground mode you are in direct communication with the skimmer's computer via the computer window. You see the message "TYPE HELP OR SOME OTHER COMMAND" in the computer window.

Type HELP and the commands you can use are listed. Commands like MAP, RODS, LAUNCH, EQUIP, STATUS etc.

The MAP command enables you to see where you are - and where you can travel to. Each city is connected by a series of "jump pads" which enable you to take your Skimmer from city to city. The map shows you these routes. While in this mode you can zoom in and out of the planet to get an overall view or to check out a specific city.

Moving a cursor over the name of the city and hitting the fire button enables you to get a readout on the city's status. You can even ask your computer to FIND you a specific city and tell you all about it if you wish.

The RODS commands is a bit like the "pocket computer" part Impossible Mission. You need to find all the rods to be able to knock out the Centralis reactor.

There are several types of flying nasties in each city - the toughest are the Hunters - there are three types of these and each are bad news to the average Skimmer pilot. There are also automated fortresses which take pot shots at you.

Should you take a lot of stick from the various attackers you can zoom into one of the repair and equipment centres for more missiles and a 6,000 mile service through airlocks which open as you approach.

Some of these centres are civilian and hold no weapon supplies. Other are military bases. You'll soon know how to tell the difference!

This game has some really nice touches. Try landing without slowing down and you bump along the ground! Shoot a guided missile at a retreating Hunter and you'll see it explode on the horizon - just like in Bugs Bunny cartoons when the villain is running away and Bugs chucks a stone which hits him just as you think he's escaped out of the frame!

It's even got its own built in notepad for you to write hints and information on as you go. You call this option up by simply typing in PAD on your computer.

You'll soon get the hang of using the map, computer and control - and recognising hazards, buildings and airlocks. DON'T approach an airlock too fast. You'll find out what happens should you try it.

If you only buy one game a year - then get Tau Ceti. You won be bored for another 12 months!

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 9/10
Value: 10/10
Playability: 10/10

Award: C+VG Game of the Month

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue 1, Jan 1986   page(s) 38


It seems that the days of the old meat-and-potatoes shoot-'em-up may be numbered. Spectrum owners are having to handle ever more sophisticated craft. In Tau Ceti your skimmer is positively bristling with missiles and lasers. You also have scanners, an on board computer, and even a computerised memo pad! A cross between a sort of 2D Elite, Legend's Complex and Impossible Mission, you start the game with a map of the major cities on Tau Ceti. Apparently it's another bad case of revolting robots.

You've got to go in there and blow away all the robots and restore order out of chaos by shutting down the reactor. To do this you have to visit each city in turn, skimming along the ground. You have to dock with the reactor substations and pick up cooling rods. These have to then be assembled and then you enter the main reactor building.

Meanwhile you have to fight off various hostile forces using lasers, missiles, anti missiles and flares. The flares come in handy at night especially if your infra red night vision has been put out of action. You must also try to avoid shooting "innocent" buildings. You start off docked with your main supply ship, to which you must return for all but the most minor repairs and supplies. At this stage commands are entered to your computer as words.

There are 20 of these commands, which basically help you move around the planet and assemble your fuel rods. Entering "launch" will put you into flight mode which gives an out of the cockpit view in any direction of the planet's surface. Your instruments tell you how much ordinance you've got left and give a scan of objects in your vicinity, there is also a little window for the computer to give you cheerful messages like "your laser is mangled".

Tactics seem to be the usual mix of aggression tinged with caution. It's tough to work out what's shooting at you when you've zipped into the middle of town at high speed, but on the other hand, it's against the clock. Sorting out the reactor rods is not easy either.

A well thought out game with a strong overall theme linking up the series of essentially straight forward shoot-'em-up scenarios. Only one difficulty level, so to start off with, you hardly get out of the airlock.

Graphics: 5/5
Sound: 3/5
Playability: 4/5
Value For Money: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 23, Feb 1986   page(s) 40


Many attempts have been made to combine fast arcade action with complex adventure type quests but none more successfully than this one from CRL.

With a well set sci-fi scenario and a seemingly simple task, to shut down the Fusion reactor in the capital city of Centralis on Tau Ceti, you are set down in one of the cities at the controls of a skimmer. This machine literally bristles with equipment and armaments, a laser, eight heat seeking missiles, anti missile missiles, flares, scanners, compass, shields, night stands and a computer (guaranteed debugged!).

The first plays are used simply getting to know how to use all this equipment and then you have the joy of using adventure style commands to communicate with your camcorder, recognising the various buildings, artifacts and enemy craft, and using the map (very impressive) and teleport system to get around.

The arcade sequences alone would have made a good game, but the additional strategy and thought required puts this game in the same league as Elite.

I know these games don't appeal to everyone, but for those who like a real challenge in the best of computer gaming this is a must.

This is surely a first for ZXC, another rare six star program.

Graphics: 5/5
Addictiveness: 5/5
Overall: 6/6

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 36, Apr 1987   page(s) 90

Tau Ceti (The Special Edition)
128/+2 only

Owners of the 128 and +2 have waited in vain for the torrent of games that were going to take advantage of all that extra memory. Games for the 128 only have been few and far between and "enhanced" versions of 48K games have often been disappointing, applying cosmetic graphic touches but not really exploiting the memory increase.

With Tau Ceti, a game that seemed to cram an enormous amount into 48K, the potential was obviously there to produce an upgraded version appropriate to the wide open spaces of the 128's memory. It's pleasing to report that CRL have done a good job in upgrading the original with a bigger gameplay area on the planet surface, improved graphics, more atmospheric pictures of building interiors and a lot more information available at sites like the library and time vault.

For those unfamiliar with the 48K version, Tau Ceti is a sophisticated shoot-em-up of great complexity calling for a degree of strategy along with some determined zapping. The plot centres on Gal Corps efforts to recolonise Tau Ceti III. You as pilot of a "skimmer" spacecraft must shut down the fusion reactor in the capital city Centralis. Pitted against you are all manner of robot controlled defence systems.

The action takes place on and above the planet surface. If you can successfully dock with a building you can gain access to valuable information; flying your craft through an airlock to reach a docking bay requires a steady hand on the joystick.

Tau Ceti requires dedication to be enjoyed to the full, but the shoot-em-up element supplies enough instant gratification to pull you into the game proper. If you like games that you can become thoroughly absorbed in, Tau Ceti fits the bill and if you are a new Spectrum 128 owner it's a must. Whether the enhancements make it worthwhile buying a 128 version if you already have the 48K game is debatable and depends mainly on how enthralled you were by the original. Tau Ceti, The Special Edition, more than justifies its £9.95 price tag and gives a foretaste of what this virtually unexplored machine may be able to do when pushed to its limits.

Overall: Great

Award: ZX Computing Globella

Transcript by Chris Bourne

All information in this page is provided by ZXSR instead of ZXDB