Occasionally you come across a game of such magnitude that it totally overshadows everything else that comes in for that month. Tau Ceti is a game like that.
Some time ago, Gamer ran a feature on the Spectrum version of the game. The Amstrad version of the game has been widely updated and expanded.
For those readers who missed the feature, here is a brief resume of the game...
You have landed on Tau Ceti III, a planet that was colonised and then wiped out when a plague eliminated most of the inhabitants. The survivors evacuated, leaving the planet to its robots and maintenance systems.
Years passed and a cure was found for the plague, but by this time contact with Tau Ceti II was lost due to a meteorite collision.
The next expedition to Tau Ceti II was wiped out by the robots who, by this time, had run amok - malfunctioning due to the meteor impact.
The only way to re-colonise the planet is to send in a single armed skimmer to knock out the central reactor supplying power to the planet - you are flying that skimmer.
The screen display has instruments and status information along the right hand side, with the 3D display of the outside.
You are armed with a laser, some missiles, and some anti-missile-missiles.
In operation, there are two modes: flying mode and landed mode. In landed mode you communicate with your on-board computer with typed commands, to look at the map, refuel, rearm, sort out the cooling rods, etc.
In flight mode, the controls are direct, firing missiles, guns status, infra-red etc, and can be very Elite-like (switching views, missile lock-ons, etc). Certain buildings are belligerent, and others hold supplies or cooling rods. Docking is achieved by flying slowly through the airlocks on the buildings.
The planet has about 30 cities on it; travel between these is via the teleport pads. Find one of these and you can travel from place to place on the planet. The map option on the computer shows you where the connections are.
The instructions are a bit sparse - but you soon learn though it took me three contacts before I worked out what a land mine looked like! Though navigation is dealt with in some detail, and the gaps are soon filled in by experience.
This game is extremely complex; you really have to play it to appreciate it, and play it for a long time. It can take a while to get into the game, but it is well worth it - a game worth buying.