Tau Ceti (CRL) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User

Tau Ceti
Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #34

Tau Ceti

Here is a shoot-'em-up all dressed up with fantastic graphics that are absolutely rivetting to play. What I mean is, I like it.

It goes like this. Colonists from Earth arrived on Tau Ceti in 2050 A.D. and lived there happily for nearly a hundred years until a vicious plague called Encke's Syndrome ravaged the planet and forced the survivors to flee.

Back on Earth, scientists were busy beavering away on Encke's and managed to come up with a cure.

The surrounding colonies on Alpha Centauri and Beta Hydri were cleared of the disease but Tau Ceti posed a more difficult problem.

The fleeing colonists did not deactivate Tau-Ceti III's defence systems in their haste to get away from the planet. So these robot systems ran amok on Tau Ceti after the colonists fled and killed a landing party from Earth who had been sent in to retake the planet.

A full scale invasion was considered too costly to mount and the defence systems on Tau Ceti were, in any case, capable of resisting this if they needed to

The only way Tau Ceti could be recolonised was to send in a single armed Ground Skimmer to shut down the Fusion Reactor in the planet's capital city, Centralis.

Cue you, your C64, and your copy of Tau Ceti.

Right from the opening screen you know you're playing a game that somebody, somewhere put a lot of effort into. The attention to detail is impressive, especially on the metallic looking view from the cockpit.

Type 'Launch' and the sliding doors open to release the Skimmer into Tau Ceti's inhospitable, desert terrain. First thing you notice are the buildings are all valuable assets and your employers, Gal-Corp, will have to find the construction of new dwellings out of next year's budget once the planet has been stabilised.

Equally impressive in the graphics department are the Skimmer's many controls. Your 'Equip' function allows you access to a building repair, refuelling and rearming facility - pretty useful this as those droids will give your Skimmer a battering.

The extent of damage to your ship is given to you when you request a status report. The information on your location and your ship appears in the window at just below your main cockpit view. An on-screen Pad allows you to make notes of anything of interest that you think may help you. New Pad selects a fresh page in the notepad.

Most impressive of all these controls is the map of the planet showing information about all the cities on Tau Ceti.

The Skimmer is highly armed with a single mounted laser operated by the joystick. A simple blast-as-you-pass type gun.

But there's other more sophisticated weaponry as well; like the Anti Missile Missiles (AMM's), Starlight Flares, Infra-red night sights, Scanners, Planetary compasses and a Command Computer.

You have so much at your disposal that it tends to give a false sense of security, a feeling that there is nothing you couldn't cope with. Which is definitely not the case because even though you have several computerised controls you will still need to think and react quickly if you are going to succeed.

Understanding how to use all your equipment is essential in Tau Ceti. Everything works and serves an important purpose.

The Skimmer can operate at ground level as well as flying, under joystick control, across the planet. When in ground mode you are in direct contact with the Skimmer's computer via a terminal.

As you travel the planet, you will notice some impressive graphics. A far off star disappears slowly beyond the horizon as Tau Ceti spins through one of her hour-long cycles.

A shooting star or possibly an interplanetary vessel drifts by slowly. The objective is to get inside the Main Central Reactor on Centralis. You will need to assemble cooling system with rods you have found by searching the various buildings of the Tau Cetan cities.

Actually getting inside the buildings takes a bit of doing as well.

You have to watch for their characteristic flickering air lock and then fly in slowly.

Once inside, you're automatically returned to ground mode and you can begin to explore the building. Typing Look will show you a view of the interior and any useful items that are to be found there.

It is important to be able to identify the various buildings. Some of these are Jump Pad terminals - Tau Ceti's futuristic underground system.

You can use this for hyperspacing to other cities. It's a little dangerous, though, as native "Sand Hoppers" tend to congregate around the exits to Jump Terminals causing collisions.

Some of the other distinctive-looking buildings are Civilian Supply Centres, Military Supply Centres, Fortresses, Control Towers, Substation Reactors, and your main target, the Main Central Reactor itself.

The robots are massive building-like structures themselves - deadly Hunters Mark I, II and III's.

I actually enjoyed the combat with the Hunters. Although you are advised by Gal-Corp not to damage the buildings nobody said anything about the droids. If you like a good shoot-'em-up, you can be as happy as Larry, skimming the planet and blasting them, like a Blade Runner (Sorry to bring that up, CRL).

I enjoyed the storyline of Tau Ceti. It was refreshingly original but the same cannot be said of the game design. It borrows heavily on lots of games that have gone before. It's got a bit of Elite, a bit of Quake Minus One (Well, rather a lot of Quake Minus One, really) and all the controls and scanners that have been used in dozens of games.

That said, it's a lot more playable than any of those games for my money and, unlike Elite and Quake, you don't need to set aside a fortnight for an average game.

CRL have totally redeemed themselves with Tau Ceti. After the chronic Blade Runner and awful Space Doubt it is difficult to understand how the same company can have such wide extremes of quality in their game catalogue.

Now back to blasting Hunters...

Eugene Lacey

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