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?
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.
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